K2 Expedition #3 -The Daily Moraine 20156 July 2105
Finally arrived at home base
It has almost been a week since we were last in touch from Payu camp and now, almost 100km and a lot of rain and a bit of sunshine later, we have arrived at out temporary home: K2 base camp, which is beautifully situated surrounded by K2, Broad Peak, Chogolisa in the distance and many more stunning 7,000m-peaks that are not even significant enough to have a name. But let me start from where I last left you, which was at our second camp of our trek.
Our rest day at Payu ended up being a very busy day for Dr Dick, who treated around 80 porters, some of whom had serious ailments, such as a mild wrist fracture, while others came to his makeshift clinic for trivial problems, such as insomnia. “This is a very interesting trip for me,” he said. “I am learning a lot about different illnesses, however, I had to turn some people away as the queue of patients seemed endless.”
The following day, we started at the crack of dawn at 5am to beat the heat and give our porters, whose number had now been reduced to 450, enough time to get to the next camp at Urdukas, which ended up being a 30-km-hike. After having taken down our tents and packed our bags, we sat down for breakfast while our trekking guide Baig was struggling to organise the porters and their loads. “I have to be very watchful as some of the porters tried to sneak off with half the load, which would be a disaster,” he explained while making sure that every porter was picking up his 25kg. All of us agreed that we would not want to swop with Baig as he seemed to have one of the more difficult jobs on this expedition.
The walk to Urdukas started off in overcast weather, however, we finally found out that we did not only buy our umbrellas for protection against the sun. When we arrived at our camp after about 5 hours, the skies opened and we were caught up in the rain and freezing cold. The fast walkers among us had been perched underneath a rock for an hour until the porters, who were struggling with the muddy trails, arrived with our tents. “It’s unbelievable that the rest of Pakistan is suffering a heatwave that has already killed a few hundred people,” said Rene, who had just had a news update from his wife back in Holland. Pakistan usually sees excruciating heat at this time of year and the fact that the Muslim world is currently holding Ramadan, which does not allow them to drink or eat during daytime, must make bearing the heat a lot harder. Our liaison officer Atif has also opted to follow Ramadan and is refraining from eating and drinking during the day.
About two hours later we were all happy to be inside our sleeping bags while our diligent kitchen team was preparing dinner for us in the pouring rain, which seemed to be settling in. “If the rain continues tomorrow morning we’ll have to stay here as the porters would struggle too much on the muddy trails,” Russell informed us over dinner mentioning that if the rain stopped we would have the usual schedule of getting up at 5am and leaving at 6am.The rain was pounding against our tents all night but all of a sudden the banging stopped giving the impression that the rain had subsided. Valdis was misled by the snow cover that was absorbing the sound of the precipitation on our tent walls, which by now had become snow, and started packing his bags at the crack of dawn. “I thought it had stopped and we would continue our trek,” he said.
And so we stayed at the crowded camp at Urdukas for an extra day, which was mostly spent inside the tents to keep out of the snow and rain. When at about 2pm the precipitation stopped and the clouds lifted off the surrounding peaks, we were all in awe of the spectacular panorama opening up in front of us. “This is what I came here for,” Dr Dick called out marvelling at one of the Trango Towers towering above us. “These peaks are a lot more dramatic than what I have seen in the Nepal Himalaya,” Valdis commented on the view. And so we were all quivering in anticipation for what would be in stock for us on our next leg to Goro 2 camp, where we would spend our first night on the glacier.
On the glacier
The walk to the camp, which lies at about 4,300m, was rather pleasant as the sun was out and the trail across the moraine was less arduous than the previous leg to Urdukas. Once we arrived, we all joined forces to set up our tents in the snow and like most days, the rest of the afternoon was spent in our tents of two reading, blogging or just marvelling at the surrounding giants with Gasherbrum IV dominating the view. Russell spent the afternoon displaying his skills as a vet as he was treating some horses, who had minor wounds that needed cleaning.
On Friday we finally arrived at Concordia – the place where the Baltoro, the Godwin Austin and the Abruzzi glaciers meet – and we were all overwhelmed by our first proper glimpse of K2 and Broad Peak. “When I first came to Broad Peak in 2010 I was impressed by how big it was,” said Sergey, our Russian. “At most base camps the mountains are much further away, but here it just spreads out in front of you,” he continued trying to make out route up the West ridge.
If you look closely you can see K2's sholder on the right side of the right rock spire
After a cold night at Concordia, the whole team including the remaining 400 odd porters embarked on the last stretch to K2 base camp, which at 5,000m will be our temporary home for the next six weeks. “I can’t believe we are finally here,” said David obviously in awe of the perfectly shaped pyramid of K2. Apart from our team and some early arrivals of Garret Madison’s team, we found one other team camped at base camp. “I have just been to say hello to three Swiss climbers, who are also intending to climb the Cessen Route,” said Russell. “I have met them before and I think we can work well together,” he continued saying that the Swiss had been up to about 6,000m but had encountered a lot of snow on the route. “So, they are very happy to team up and work together on the route.”
Monday and Tuesday were spent getting the camp into shape and making sure that all our tents are pitched on rock rather than ice. The mess tent has been extended and equipped with solar-powered lighting and a Chinese lampoon; the Sherpas resurrected the collapsed toilet tent and rearranged the kitchen tent; the huge amounts of food were stacked up nicely in the storage tent and the barrels and bags are beautifully lined up in a row. “We will need a couple of days to get all our stuff sorted, find our ropes and ice screws and just make sure that everything is organised – which for me is important for a successful expedition,” Russell said.
While we are getting ready to embark on the first rotation on Broad Peak and K2 I will use the time to introduce our climbing members, Sherpas and kitchen staff to you – which will come in the next Newsletter.
Billi Bierling, K2 BC