Monday, June 30, 2008

FTA Team Rocks Up to Base Camp

After one of the most stunning treks in the world, and nearly 90km as the crow flies, the 2008 Gasherbrum 2 team has arrived at our 5200M base camp.

Everyone is in great health thanks to a good acclimatization schedule on the way in and excellent food prepared by little Karim and the rest of the cook staff. The weather has been a bit unsettled in the afternoons with scattered flurries. The mornings however offer the most stunning of views.

Clare is celebrating her birthday today so we have our cook staff baking her a cake and serving a feast of mammoth proportions. We really have it good up here. Everyone is settled into their own comfy tent and the unpacking for the next 26 days has begun. Its a gear junkies paradise up here.

After arriving today I ran out 250 meters of rope up and over some glacial formations for a skills review and gear testing session tomorrow in the AM We will rest in the afternoon and enshalla, head up to camp 1 at about 5800M the following day. We will then return to base camp for a rest. The base ice fall is very heavily crevased this year but it all looks very manageable, and interesting!

The team is strong and we are all stoked to get on the mountain.

Climb on!


Saturday, June 28, 2008

30 cm of snow at camp 1, 5950m

The majority of the teams at camp 1 have returned to base camp today. The weather forecast calls for snow for at least the next three days. Although the route up the Banana Ridge to camp 2 is fixed, the heavy snow and warm temps are forcing many climbers down. We will wait for safer conditions before establishing our camp 2. That said, the route up to camp 2 looks Sweet, I can't wait to get up there!

We have been receiving custom weather forecast from Michelle Dibona back in France. Each and every one has been absolutely correct. Thank Michelle, you are a greatly valued member of our team.

We made a large load carry up to camp 1 yesterday and spent the night shaking off the tents and hoping for a clear morning. 30 cm of snow and counting greeted us so myself, Andy, Fred, JR, Francois, Surech, Taqui & Asgar left our camp 2 gear stashed and descended to base camp in just over 3 hours. Mark & Naucho stayed at base for some additional rest.

We will all wait out the storm and get ready for our next push up the hill.

Stay tuned...


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Camp 1 set. 45°C in the shade...

...the only problem: there is no shade!

At 4am on June 26, the 2 HAPs Taqui & Asgar.

The yellow rope: Chris, Andy, JR, & Francois.

The red rope, Naucho, Mark, Fred & Surech all set out into the icefall for our first push to camp 1 on Gasherbrum 2.

In the darkness and cold of the early morning, the ice fall proved to be quite straight forward with only a couple of off vertical sections. No fixed ropes were needed and the travel onto the upper plateau at the base of the Gasherbrum amphitheater was excellent. That is until the sun came out. Despite the most amazing of scenery, the temps quickly went from 5°c to 30°c, and this was at 7am! Nothing more than a massive solar oven walled with some of the tallest peaks on earth.

Taqui & Asgar reached Camp 1 about 2 hours before me and the yellow rope team. We dropped our loads and began to descend at about noon. The red rope had decided to stop about 200 vertical meters below and were resting while Naucho was setting an advanced basecamp and depositing his 25kg load! Crazy guy.

Andy, JR & Francois took off back to basecamp and I waited around and descend with the red team. We all stumbled into base at about 5pm. The heat was nuclear and the icefall was much more challenging with the added dimensions of slushy ice and rushing torrents of melt water.

Today we rest and prepare to set out at 2am tomorrow for our first sleep at camp 1. The weather is amazing so we may decide to spend a couple nights up high and try to establish camp 2 before coming all of the way down to base camp to recover.

All is well and the base camp staff have really gone out of their way to make this trip a great experience. The food is amazing and after nearly 2 weeks, we haven't had the same meal twice!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Weather breaks. Lets move!

Everyone on the Field Touring Alpine G2 team is packed and ready to move tomorrow morning at 3:30am. That is if the weather holds. We are all rested and anxious to establish camp 2 at 6400m on the Banana Ridge of Gasherbrum 2

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Welcome to Concordia!

The long trek up the Baltoro Glacier is nearly behind us. The whole team is feelling great and we are now looking forward to a rest day at 4600m at Concordia.

The views are amazing. K2, Broad Peak, Chogolisa, Gasherbrum 4. We are all awe struck by the stunning beauty of this place.

Despite a possible porter revolt, we will stay here to acclimitze for a full day. Then it's a long days walk to our new home for the next month, Gasherbrum 2 base camp. We will be sending our climbing gear up to base camp tomorrow with the porters who have threatened to strike and despite their attempts at bribery, we will stay here to ensure we all aren't wiped out by the time we reach the start of the climb. Just part of the game up here.

I knew things were going too smoothly.

Photo: Suresh, Mark, François & Jene-René looking at the summit of K2.


Sunday, June 15, 2008

...and then there were three.

All well at the toe of the Baltoro Glacier. The team arrived in Piaju 3400m, a large camp, earlier today and tommorow we rest and get ready for the big trek towards Concordia, K2 and the start of the next adventure, climbing Gasherbrum II. 8035 meters of fun for this excellent international group. I am looking at the Trango Towers as we speak. WOW!!!

Everyone is getting along famously and we have already become great friends, a crucial ingredient on these big trips.

All healthy and all happy, except for goat number one, ok, dinner's ready. Bye for now.


Friday, June 13, 2008

Team reaches Askole, almost..

All of the team has reached a spot about one hour from Askole by foot. Due to a number of reasons, including a road blockage, a driver revolt and another 2 washed out roads, we are now capmed in Thogol, a village with man curious children.

In fact, as I write this dispatch, I am surrounded by at least 10 little kids all trying to read these words aloud. Its so cute as well amazing how well they can read english.

Anyways I need to get back to work. All is well. Its always an adventure in the Karakorum.

Everyone sends their love back home.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

G2 2008 update: All is well in Skardu

Just a quick note from the lovely Indus Valley and the town of Skardu.

The majority of the team arrived via air this morning on what we all agreed was the most amazing flight of our lives. We has the most stunning of views of Nanga Parbat, Masherbrum and hundreds of the worlds highest peaks. We navigated through high passes with the summits brushing our wings. We all found it strange when the pilot announced "Ladies and gentelman, welcome to Skardu" before we had even landed. We took this as a sign that the danger had passed and the rest was smooth sailing. Unreal, gotta love Pakistan!!!

Mark arrives in Islamabad this evening and will be joining us on the 12th, inshalla (Urdu for: If God permits). The rest of the team members will be relaxing on my orders and getting ready for the very tough trek ahead.

Tomorrow i sort gear and drink three cups of tea with my old friends Taqui & Ashgar. Life is good and everyone is so glad to be in such a lovely place.

On a personal note: Lindsay-Bea I (Chris) miss' you oh so much. Fred says: "Mary, your would love the farbrics over here" and im sure everyone else is sending their love and best wishes back at the hotel.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Stuff of Legends

What an amazing place Pakistan is. Despite the searing 40C temps out yesterday, i managed to take a small taxi to our local expedition support office to meet with its owner Ashraf Aman. This unassuming man in his mid 70s was asleep on the couch when i arrived. He promptly jumped to his feet and gave me a warm greeting and a strong hug. I had met him last year but I had no idea who he actually was.

In 1977, with a joint Japanese Pakistani expedition he was the first Pakistani ever to stand atop the worlds 2nd highest peak, the mighty K2, still revered as the worlds most dangerous and difficult mountain. In addition to being awarded the Presidential Medal for Performance, he also made the second ascent of this killer mountain since it was first scaled in 1954 by a very skilled Italian team.

I sat awe struck as he told me how easy places like 'houses chimney' is now days, and the rock band before Camp 3. I felt like bowing down in his presence but that would have just been foolish. The bottle neck he said, is the place you DONT want to fall. Everything else is easy now. "We made the route for the rest of the world" said Mr. Aman. Oh and another thing, he didnt bother using supplementary oxygen on his ascent either. A quick look at the clothing he is wearing is a testament to the true scale of their endeavor.

Well enough about K2, for now we climb G2, slightly smaller, much tamer and a classic stepping stone to the legerdary giants like K2. I have met many expeditions here in Islamabad and it seems the flights to Skardu are running. Sadly, i awoke this morning to monsoon rains and a humidity like noting i've experienced. I forsee a 20 hour drive in our near future.

Naucho and i have already arrived and in a few short hours, Clare, Andrew, Fred and Surech will arrive and my work will begin. Tomorrow, the 10th of June, Jean Rene and Francois arrive followed by Mark on the 11th. What ever happens, we will be on the road or flight in the next 48 hours.

I send best wishes and big hugs to all on behalf of myself and all of the Field touring Alpine Gasherbrum 2 2008 expedition.

Wish us luck!


Friday, June 6, 2008

One Last Night in Kathmandu

Everything is all set and ready to go for the Field Touring
Alpine Gasherbrum 2 2008 expedition. I fly to Islamabad
tomorrow morning where i will commence the task of securing
permits, garbage deposits and local transport up the
Karakorum Highway to Skardu.

The rest of the team will be arriving between the 8th and
11th of June. We plan to fly shortly there after to Skardu
(weather permitting) at which time the monumental task of
packing for 50 days in the mountains will begin. Will will
stay in Skardu for a day or so and then load up our 70s era
Toyata Land Cruisers and head into the hills for one of the
worlds most revered treks to Gasherbrum 2 base camp.

I will dispatch as much as possible and keep all fans,
friends & families up to date on what promises to be a
fantastic adventure to the famed Karakorum giant, Gasherbrum