K2 Expedition #4 -The Daily Moraine 20156 July 2105
Auspicious Day for Climbing
In the Buddhist calendar July started with an auspicious day for climbing. On Wednesday morning, our Sherpas organised their traditional Puja (Buddhist blessing) ceremony in our dining tent and all Sherpas, our Pakistani guides and cooks as well as most of our members joined the ritual, we all know so well from Nepal. It was good to see that our young Sherpas, some of which are the sons of the Sherpas who had been working for Himalayan Experience for years, are still following this ancient tradition. “We would not want to climb without this blessing,” said Urken Sherpa, who together with Tenzing was leading the Buddhist ceremony that went on for about 45 minutes. When the traditional chanting, rice throwing and blessing of climbing gear was over, Russell also invited our Pakistani guides to do their Muslim prayers, which they happily did. It was a very solemn atmosphere and it was good to see the fusion of the two religions with everyone respecting the others. Shortly after, some of our Sherpas and Pakistani guides as well as our guide Shinji went off to start fixing the rope towards Camp 1 on K2 while others went down to Broad Peak base camp to set up a store tent and deposit some rope, snow stakes and tents to be taken up the following day.
Thursday started very early for most of us as we were setting off at the crack of dawn towards our respective Camp 1s on K2 and Broad Peak. Sergey from Russia, Herbert from Germany, Bo from the USA, Rochelle and Woody (our guide) from New Zealand, Simba from Japan, David from the UK as well as our Sherpas Urken, Nima, Pasang, Chungba, Tenzing, our two Pakistani guides Pasbona and Nazir went off to K2; while Rene from the Netherlands, Nick from Canada and myself (Billi from Germany) as well our Sherpas Tashi, Nawang, Sonam and Phurba as well as our Pakistani guides Nabi and Iqubal went over to Broad Peak. With the full moon and the early sunrise we did not even need our head torches when we left our comfortable dining tent at 4.30am. “It was amazing to see that the team going to our Advanced Base Camp at Broad Peak was taking as long to reach it as the other team going to crampon point on K2,” said Russell when everyone had come back at lunchtime. “It shows that having a shared base camp for both mountains actually works.”
Climbing on K2
Everyone seemed to have had a great day on the mountain as the weather gods were extremely kind to us. “It’s hard to imagine a better day on the hill. It was my first time on K2 and I could just concentrate on the beauty of the climb as everything else was perfect,” said Bo while he was doing his stretching exercises in the dining tent. Rochelle was also surprised about what she had found on the route. “I had expected it to be much harder and the first stretch to Camp 1 seemed very doable. However, I am sure there will be more difficult sections to come,” she said seemingly pleased with her first experience on K2. “It felt like real climbing and the views were stunning,” Sergey agreed with everyone’s enthusiasm.
The Sherpas had fixed a total of 800m of rope towards K2’s Camp 1, however, Russell is currently contemplating skipping Camp 1 in the future. “The platform just big enough to swing a cat, so most of us just climbed past it,” said Woody explaining that the one tent set up by the Swiss team was almost teetering towards the abyss. “I don’t think you could fit more than two tents on it,” he continued. After having had a quick snack in perfect sunshine on the tiny platform of Camp 1 of the Cessen Route, the team made their way back down and was back in time for lunch, which was a joint effort between our Pakistani cooks and Lacchu and Gyanu, our cooks from Nepal.
Just below C1 on K2
Baltoro from C1
While the K2 team was climbing up with Broad Peak in the background, the Broad Peak team was doing exactly the same on their mountain in the same perfect conditions. Nick, Rene and I were closely following the rope-fixing Sherpas, who were doing an amazing job given that some of the sections were covered in sugary snow, which made placing a snow stake rather difficult. “Fortunately we could use some rocky sections, which has made the anchors almost bomb-proof,” said Tashi, who like all of our young climbing Sherpas had learnt his technical skills at the Khumbu climbing school in Nepal.
Broad Peak from K2
It took us about 4 ½ hours to reach Camp 1, which included the time we were waiting for the Sherpas to fix the 1,200m of rope. “This is almost sunbathing weather,” said Nick peeling off his warm jacket and taking a gulp of his drink, which was very much needed in the sweltering heat. Similar to K2, the climb to Camp 1 on Broad Peak was relentlessly steep and we were all equally pleased with ourselves once we had reached Camp 1 at 5,650m gazing at K2, which was gradually being engulfed in clouds. We could hear the radio conversations of our teammates over at the second tallest mountain in the world and found out that they must have reached their highest point (5,900m) at about the same time as we had. “It is very interesting to see that the way to Camp 1 must be very similar on both mountains given the fact that the teams took similar time to get there,” Russell observed.
Arm-wrapping our way back down to crampon point, we were back at our deposit tent pretty quickly, however, the lunchtime heat was excruciating and made the snow very soft. “I don’t think I want to do this again in the heat of the early afternoon,” said Nick looking at Rene, who was pouring out sweat. Our last challenge before lunch was walking back up the 200 metres across the moraine to reach base camp, which seemed a lot further than in the morning. However, just as the K2 team we were rewarded with a Pakistani-Nepali lunch, which tasted particularly good after our great outing.
Now, you may wonder what happened to Naoki from Japan, Valdis from Lithuania, Brook from the USA and Alec from Alaska as they have not been mentioned so far. Well, they opted to go up to K2’s Camp 1 on Friday as we had to split the K2 group in twos. So, while I am writing this they are on their way up to Camp 1 and even though they are also basking in sunshine like the teams on the previous day, they are faced with strong wind. “It’s certainly windy but the route is quite sheltered by the rock, so they should not be bothered too much by the gales,” Woody said during breakfast sitting in our flapping dining tent.
For the rest of us Friday is a rest day and we are already excited about our next rotation on both mountains, which will probably involve a couple of nights at the higher camps.
I will keep you posted.
Billi Bierling, K2 Base Camp