K2 Expedition 2017 #919 August 2017

Hi All

I am now back in London after leaving the K2 Base Camp. The tiring 3 and a half day walk down the 130km of rugged glacial moraine of the Baltoro Glacier always takes its toll on boots and energy, this summit does not give up easily. We were lucky to have clear but not too hot weather for the trek so everyone was rather thankful, but of course very pleased to be back to the trees and vegetation of Askole. Back to coke and luxuries like that and an impressive thunder and lightning show along with a suitably supporting rain storm. Of course everyone was ready for an early departure by jeep for Skardu well knowing that we would have to stop and unload everything from these jeeps, then carry everything across a narrow path about 200m above a direct and steep drop directly into the raging river below. This whole process went very smoothly and we were soon on our way, thankful that we did not have the same fate as a jeep a few days earlier had that fell off the road into the river, 4 people were never found again however 2 managed to get out of the river alive. Closer to Skardu we had to wait for another landslide that passed right through the middle of a small village, sweeping away houses but fortunately nobody was injured or killed. After a couple of hours we were on our way and made it back to Skardu by early evening, and a welcome bed and cold shower. Next day was busy unpacking loads and sorting gear to stay in Skardu and gear to be returned to Kathmandu and home, but after a long hot day everything was sorted and Adam, Rene and Semba had managed to change their flights back to Islamabad for the next day. The rest of us were not so fortunate and so had another 2 days of driving to look forward to. Driving beside these rivers on small ledges that serves as a road is impressionable with just the amount of water that is thundering down the gorge, it has grown somewhat from the small stream that forms beside our Base Camp. Another day in Islamabad attending the various Alpine Club debriefs and meeting for final paperwork with Liaison Office and then everyone departs their various ways on flights home, and another expedition is completed.

K2 peeking out of the cloud
K2 peeking out of the cloud

I need to make some comments about my previous newsletter, from comments it seems that maybe I presented some wrong ideas.

To start, can I say that the team that we had on K2 is one of the best that I have ever had, but that is not surprising considering the number of expeditions that we have been on together previously. Actually we were more like a group of friends. This is a very mature expedition team, so when we were looking at the weather, we were all looking at the information available, and looking at our situation on the hill and it was a joint discussion and decision on how to progress. We all agreed to the decision and acted accordingly. But there was much discussion on lessons learned, what we need to do differently to make a more solid and stronger team, and time required. It seems that everyone wants to come back again next year, stay on the same route as we know this very well and consider it safer than the normal route. Certainly by the time we were all back to Skardu it seemed that there was commitment from all members.

Secondly I made comment about those who can afford to stay and build a new expedition or can afford to leave early, but despite this, it does not matter how much money one has, this will not change the weather.

And of course I need to discuss my flippant comment that I would hang up my boots. Thanks for all of you who have sent supporting messages, they are all appreciated. It is nice to know that people appreciate my work, but you do not have to live in a tent, wake up early every morning, make life dependent decisions, then work a full day, and be on call 24/7 for half a year at a time, living on basic food, in a different culture which is often rather vague with objectives but full of bureaucracy. So far this year I have been at home for less than 16 days, I have spent over 100 nights in a tent, have done more than 25 international flights and effectively have had no days off from work. I used to be 25 once, and enjoyed this life, but now I am 65 and as much as one may want, the body just does not perform the same, and trying to keep up with those who are half my age is challenging and fun, but it takes its toll.

I did not intend to imply that I was leaving the industry - it is my way of life, maybe I intended to suggest that I might be spending less time at BC than I have in the past. There is plenty of exciting news to come with further development of Himex and our operations, and I need to spend more time in a real office rather than a tent office on the side of a mountain. Maybe the view will not be so great, but at least the air conditioning and temperature control might work a bit more reliably.
Thanks again for all the support.
Next week I will be back in Kathmandu to start our Manaslu trip with Richie Hunter as guide.

Regards Russ