from Ben Kane in Islamabad
July 28, 2010
Myself, Rob, Jo, Mike and Ian hiked out from Broad Peak Base Camp on the 20th of July. We were joined by our talented cook and guide Deedar and seven strong porters, heading for Skardu by way of the Gondogoro La, a snowy high pass of about 5600m. This route breaks away at Concordia, heading south towards Chogolisa, passing the Gasherbrums along the way.
After hiking for 8hrs on snow, ice and moraine we came to Ali Camp, nestled in a rocky outcrop overlooking a huge glacial basin. We took a few hours rest and enjoyed Deedar's spicy meal of chili yak and chapatis, complimented by warming chai.
We woke at 2am to the sound of snow on the tent, but to our relief it was rather warm once we got moving. Walking by headlamp at night never ceases to inspire me, a totally different world, with the sound of the snow crunching under our feet, spindrift blowing in your eyes. As the dawn approached we caught sight of the pass ahead of us, a steep passage between even steeper slopes. We were joined by 2 members of the Gondogoro Rescue team - there to ensure the fixed ropes are in place and secure.
Our views were limited upon reaching the top of the pass, low lying cloud but with the morning sun breaking through in places offered us a glimmer of hope for the remaining 8hrs of hiking still ahead of us. The far side of the pass is much steeper and we made good use of the fixed ropes. As we approached the snow line down the valley Rob and I stopped, hearing a mighty avalanche on the other side of the valley. This continued for nearly 2 minutes, and at last came spewing down out of the mist. Knowing we were on safe ground, we stood there and took in an amazing sight. This was by far the largest avalanche I have ever witnessed.
At the bottom the valley we huddled in a small stone hut, where we enjoyed a hot breakfast of eggs, paratha (fried chapatis) and more warming chai. This set us in good stead, as the next 8 hours consisted of hopping, skipping and jumping our way across a maze of glaciers and down a winding valley.
Cresting a ridge, we finally caught a glimpse of Saicho, the beautiful oasis-like camp where we to spend a much anticipated night in the richer, moisture-filled filled air. Coming down into Saicho your senses are bombarded, the sound of the streams cascading and the birds chirping, the smell of juniper and rhododendron flowering and the sight of so much green...plants living and thriving, unlike the bleakness of the Godwin-Austin glacier, where our home has been for the past month.
The next morning we had an early start arrived at Hushe in time for breakfast and ready to jump into the jeeps for our drive to Skardu. During the 5hr drive we were able to reflect on our time on Broad Peak, and prepare to head back into our 'real' lives back home. Each expedition is a holistic experience, taxing mentally, physically and emotionally and we take so much away from these times.
All the best to our remaining team on K2, and thank you to everyone involved in our 2010 Field Touring Alpine Broad Peak K2 Expedition.
Pic is overlooking Saicho.