Friday, July 18, 2008

No Evacuations, All well on G2

Great news! No one neees to be evacuated.

We will be clearing the hill tomorrow and heading back to Concordia on the 21st of July.

The mountain will always be there.

BIG SCARE- everyone safe at Camp 2


First thing this morning I awoke to a frantic display of base camp mayhem. People running around. Word of frozen climbers, huge storms and no communication were abuzz. As we prepared med. kits, oxygen bottles & stretchers, A small team of international climbers, including myself were trying to piece together a rescue plan for an unknown number of victims stranded somewhere between 7300m and 8000m.

In the next few moments, some more distilled news started to filter down from the high camps. There were two victims, one with frozen feet and one with frozen hands. Also, news of an Argentinean climber that was in trouble. My god, Naucho. My dear friend and one of the coolest guys I've met.

No word from JR & Francois or our dedicated high altitude porter Asgar either. Everything was set for our big rescue when JR's voice crackled over the radio. "Um, Chris, we had a big surprise last night, a big storm. We are finished, nearly at camp 2."

I immediately asked about the status of Naucho and the rest of the team. "Naucho has very cold feet but they do not seem to be frost bitten, he is ok, everyone is fine and will sleep at camp 2 this evening"

I am so so relieved. Not to be melodramatic but this morning really tore me apart. I know that these things are part of life in the mountains but it is impossible to get used to it. It is the price some of us pay to visit the most amazing places on earth. Some come home, some stay here forever.

Right now, 2 men. One with frozen feet and one with frozen hands are being helped down to a heli-pad that has been prepared at 5900m camp 1. If the weather stays stable, 2 Llama choppers will arrive this afternoon for evacuation to Skardu.

Once again, all FTA members are fine and I will make sure everyone makes it safely back to base camp.


Thursday, July 17, 2008

French Team, Asgar Naucho @ Camp 4!

Well, they're going for it. Francois, JR & Asgar climbed to camp 4 at 7400m today and met up with Naucho. They all plan to head for the summit at 6am tomorrow, July 18th. All is looking well and if the weather holds for another 24 hours they should be standing atop Gasherbrum 2 8035m sometime tomorrow afternoon.

There is a lot of snow up high and the winds are blowing but they are all determined.

Everyone at baseamp in cheering them on and we are anxiously awaiting the next radio contact.


Monday, July 14, 2008

Summit Aborted! 50cm snow, high winds

I had to make the really tough decision to call off pretty much our only summit chance last night at 10:30 pm. 10 cm of snow had fallen and the winds had started to blow. I went around to the team members' tents and broke the news. Surprisingly, everyone supported my decision to see what the morning would bring. Well, 50 cm of snow, a total white out and blow-you-over winds. The north face team turned back at 7400m due to avy danger. Their bid to ski from the summit of Gasherbrum 2 is pretty much off. Its been great climbing with such a great group of people and we look forward to a rockin' dance party back at base camp. I digress...

At about 10am this morning I had to make another tough call. Wait out the a storm at 7000m, that arrived early and is supposed to last 5 days or get off the mountain before the team gets trapped and can't descend the extremely avalanche prone slopes. (3 additional days of sun are needed to help consolidate the snow and make it relatively safe) I must say I'm not the happiest of campers right now but I stand by my decision.

Here we all sit safe and sound at camp 2. Everyone but Jean-Rene and Francois will descend to base camp tomorrow morning. The two French climbers feel differently about the weather and route conditions and along with Asgar, may make another attempt from camp 2. Naucho remained at camp 3 and may also descend tomorrow or head up to camp 4, weather permitting.

It saddens me, and all of the members to be going down after working so hard to to get so close to our goal. In the end however, it is always safety first and my first responsibility it to bring everyone home.

Chris from G2 camp 2.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Leaving at 11pm for the top!

After an amazing climb up to camp 3 at 7000m, the team is all set to push for the summit this evening.

We left camp 2 at 7am and arrived at 3 between 3-4.5 hours later. The climb up the icy face was pretty much 50° the whole way; never letting up for a second. Taqui arrived first, then me, followed closely By Andy. JR & Francis rolled in about an hour later with Suresh & Fred 30 minutes after that. Naucho shortly after with his huge pack.

The going was pretty slow but we are all feeling like we can make a good shot at the summit this evening. This is pretty much our go/no go day. After so much preparation and hard work, our window comes down to just one day. Not much fun waiting at 7000 meters but the views are so amazing we can't help but be exited.

Chris at Gasherbrum 2, camp 3.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Snowstorm stalls summit push

As I write this post, the sun is baking us at camp 2. This morning however, a small blizzard halted all progress. The slopes above camp 2 are prone to avalanche so I made the call to stay put and see what happens.

Luckily, the storm was small with only about 5cm of snow accumulation and the sun was out at 9am helping everything settle down. We witnessed a couple of small avalanches just to the right of the climbing route which helped make the decision feel all the better.

Hopefully this evening we get a good freeze and we set off tomorrow at 5am for camp 3. Our weather forecast shows great weather for the next 3 days. This is a really big mountain and it is proving to be quite the challenge to get up.

Stay tuned

Chris at G2 camp 2

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Summit Push starts July 10

Well, it seems that weather, health and route conditions have all come together in our favor. Tomorrow morning at 4am the summit push for Gasherbrum 2 begins.

July 10 we navigate the ever changing icefall up to camp 1 and sleep there for the night. July 11, up the Banana Ridge to camp 2 with some additional height gain up to camp 3 later in the day. July 12 up to just under 7000 meters and sleep at camp 3. July 13 up to camp 4 at 7400 meters to brew up and try to get a little sleep before leaving for the summit on July 14th at am. The trip to the summit should take us about 12 hours and hopefully less than that to descend back to camp 3. At least an 18 hour day above 7000 meters!

On summit day, Taqui will be in the lead with Asgar sweeping team members from the rear. I will be floating between lead and tail and keeping tabs on everything as we go up and above 8000 meters.

I will do my best to send some images from up high in the days to come.

These next few days are the culmination of months of preparation. We have to do it right and do it smart. Safety, fun then summit; in that order.

Climb on
Chris from g2 base camp.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

All back to Base Camp, 'ready' for summit push

Everyone is back at base camp after our small acclimatization sortie up to 6700 meters. The climb from camp 1 up to camp 2 is really interesting. It starts with a 50° snow slope for about 60M, then a little traverse around a hanging glacier. About 125 vertical meters of rambling ice and snow later, the classic Banana Ridge starts. About 15 pitches of 55° to 75° ice/snow in a wonderful position. For anyone who's been to Ama Dablam, this is just like camp 3 to summit! Unreal!!!

Don't be fooled though, the top of the ridge isn't camp 2. Yet another false summit awaits and another grueling 75 vertical meter slog brings you right into camp 2 at 6500m. A tip for future G2 & G1 climbers: leave early and arrive at all camps before the sun hits, wear white clothing and bring a big hat or umbrella. Trust me.

Sadly, Mark has made the decision not to continue up the mountain. He has made this choice on his own due to a number of factors and I must say that I have a deep respect for his wisdom and lack of ego. After so much preperation and sacrifice, Mark has realized that his priorities don't lie at the top of an 8000m mountain. We all praise him for that.

The rest of the team is currently recharging and gearing up for the big push. Everyone is in excellent health and all that we need now is a 4-5 day window of good weather. Naucho is powering up the hill and has established his camp 2 right next to ours. He is currently resting at base with the rest of us.

We have been getting mixed weather data but in general the trend is leaning towards -20°c and high winds at 7000 meters by Thursday or Friday. This just happens to be the aproximate height of our camp 3 and with conditions like that, no one goes anywhere, very dangerous indeed.

Everyone is mindful of the realities of climbing the highest mountains on earth. Gasherbrum 2 will grant us permission to summit when she is ready. Until then we will wait and enjoy good times and great friends at base camp.

Peace out