June 14, 2010
Our entire team is in country and safe and sound. At this time they are all on the move towards skardu or already relaxing in the ancient fort city and regions capital.
Due to different arrival dates, weather and road conditions we have some members still arrving by road and by air to reach Skardu and we hope by the 15th that everyone will have arrived. At this time Ian, Luis, Garth Nickie and Katrina are in Islamabad hoping to catch the flight in the morning directly to Skardu and Chris and Rob are nearing Skardu by road.
Flights have been cancelled on a regular basis lately and in order to facilitate the expedition Rob, Ben and Chris took one for the team and have made the extreme “Balti Express” heading straight from Islamabad to Chilas, grabbing a fresh driver and continuing on unabated to Skardu. In good conditions this is about 23 hours but with a few landslide crossings we expect a few extra hours may be added. They will arrvive between 9 and 11 pm local time tonight and be happy for a late meal.
The remainder of the team has been congregating by road and flight and are enjoying the quiet if rainy ambience of Skardu and the Concordia Hotel. All reports suggest that the food at the hotel this year is as good as it has ever been so members are putting on every extra ounce they can before they begin the traditional Karakoram high altitude diet program!
In the morning a large contingent will begin the trek to BC and begin to transport the substantial amount of gear, food, gas, supplies and people needed to get the work on the hill under way. then as soon as the Islamabad crew is able to fly up then the second wave will chase them up the Baltoro. If the flights do go on the 15th then the second crew will actually catch them in Paiju and join them for the rest of the trek. Fingers crossed!
Fabrizio and I have been on the phone about 4 times a day keeping up with the latest and also helping educate him on the latest Hollywood gossip, world cup scores and important news. They have internet access but it is across town and large quantities of tea (and the prospect of 100km of walking on a glacier) tend to diminish motivation to get off a comfy lounge chair!
He has been keeping up with local news and it sounds like there is more snow in the Karakoram than at any time he can remember. Urdukas which was bone dry in 2003 apparently is heavily laden with snow and the Gondogoro La pass was slowing teams down who had tried to go by Hushe instead of Askole. As such there is little early season snow melt and the road to Askole is not slowed much by the rivers but has been seeing midday rock fall so teams have been getting early starts from Skardu.
We have a long season ahead of us and are looking forward to getting into the mountains so we’ll hope the weather gods smile on our team and let the planes fly!
more news as we have it!
Fabrzio has dropped a note as well from Skardu with even more on life in limbo!
There are luckily very few climbers heading to Skardu this season, if there were more nobody would ever arrive. The Road has proved problematic and flights have been cancelled significantly over the past couple of weeks meaning priority is given to delayed passengers. Regardless of our longstanding reservations with PIA and the very large efforts of Imran and the whole ATP staff we have started to trickle in slowly.
Today 5 members flew to Gilgit and are now driving over to join us, a few are scheduled to fly tomorrow, Chris and a couple of guides in training are coming by road from Islamabad, and should be here tomorrow night. Fortunately it means we should only be one day off the back departing for Askoli, no big deal.
Skardu remains overcast and not as hot as usual, and means that the 5 members here with me will continue a bit of sightseeing and alot more tea drinking in the garden of the Concordia Hotel with views of the river - terribly civilized really.
High school graduation pranks and future desert crossing expeditions keep us occupied during meals- I was told the shocking news that Brangelina broke up last year as well - perhaps too much time in base camps and not enough time glued to TMZ.
I will keep you posted on our departure for Askoli and base camp.
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