Thursday, July 15, 2010

K2/BP 2010 - Summit push update July 15 #2 - all well in C3!

July 15, 2010
from stu in the usa office

All well in c3!

Fabrizio has now left a dispatch with an update from C2 than includes the update that he has been in contact with the group at C3 and everyone is doing great up there. We’ll expect more news at the end of day (local time) on the 16th when our team will check in again!

Here is Fabrizio's audio dispatch – enjoy!

check each day for Field Touring Alpine Audio Dispatches

Reflections on a Summit Bid

In preparation for the team's summit bid I am reading over my own dispatches and journal from 2003 from my second summit bid which came with next to no time left before the end of our permit. We had a smaller group that season and just one HAP (Taqui!) and hauled nearly all of our own loads. The level of infrastructure we now have barely resembles that inaugural trip for FTA but does little to change the fact that a summit day on Broad Peak is a serious and demanding affair and will take all our climbers can muster to reach the top! I hope my note puts you all in the climber’s boots!
“When we last left off Fred had just come down from the Rocky summit after a fine bid for the true summit. He arrived exhausted and content at C4 as Walter and I were arriving from C3. Fred was spent and ready to head down after a good sleep. Walter and I made about melting water for a soon to be undercooked supper at 7500m and learned what lessons we could from Fred. We decided to leave even earlier than Fred had in hopes that this would give us the extra two hours we would need to reach the true summit.

After a truly horrible and restless night in the lumpy and icy C4 tent, kicking each other for space and trying our best to hydrate and force some food down, we roused ourselves, melted water for the summit push, managed to warm up and put on our boots, wiggled into our down suits, jammed our hands in to our large overmitts and left the relatively warm confines of the Millet tent’s frosted interior. The air at 7500m at 6am was brittle but mercifully calm and we left hopeful.

Broad Peak col © stu remensnyder

Walter and I each reached the col during the course of the day but neither of us had moved quickly enough to be left with time for the true summit. Walter contented himself with 7800m and fine views for his personal summit.

I had felt stronger than Walter early on and reached the col at 11am with time for a run at the rocky summit. Pushing on up the ridge alone for 3 and a half hours I reached the second ante summit at 2:30pm. In consult with Mike at BC we decided that I did not have the reserves of time and energy to proceed to the tantalizingly close rocky summit. A mere 50-100 vertical meters away but too far for safety.

Below the rocky summit - covered in zinc oxide and ready to come down © stu remensnyder

Alone on the narrow ridge, 500m above my nearest companion (and 3000m above the next) and already a bit past my turnaround time, I selected a small memento, took as many photos as I could, slowly turned around and began what I knew would be an arduous and exacting two day descent. The demands of working my way down the well-seasoned and ever slimmer feeling fixed lines across narrow corniced ridges and short rocky steps kept me well occupied and time passed quickly. Before long I had reached the col, then the slopes below and finally it was 7pm and the sun was setting on a small tent just before me. Walter popped his head out and handed me a hot chocolate. What a pleasure it was to be in the company of a friend once again!

Sun setting on C4 on Broad Peak in 2003 © stu remensnyder

Reflecting on my day I understood better the decisions made through the decades by mountaineers who after years of planning and many weeks of effort stopped short of their objectives by scant meters. In our team’s case many of us made challenging choices to turn away from our goal due to weather, cold, physical limits and time constraints. That we all returned from great and remote heights with our fingers toes and lives is testament to personal strength and prudence that will enable us to return again to the rare air of 8000m peaks.”

Our attempt came at the end of the expedition with essentially no days left and the day after our summit attempt was all we had left to return to be before the camp was broken down the following day. As it turned out a few other teams headed to K2 had “utilized” some of the fixed line below C2 and some had pulled out due to melt out so there was considerable downclimbing unroped with full loads that took great care. It is an essential part of climbing that you need to be able to come down what you go up and in a worst case climb down what you cannot rappel. I can still recall with great clarity a number of the steps I made that day on very hard black ice in crampons that had dulled a bit during the summit attempt - they are moments of pure focus and in the end part of what draws some of us to climbing.

View from near 7900m on Broad Peak back to BC! © stu remensnyder

A wonderful book of climbing fiction has a passage that does this idea some justice:
“ Their teeth were going to get sunburned they were loving it so much. Meanwhile I was gasping for air, and worrying about that summit banner … it was one of the greatest climbing days of my life.
How’s that, you ask? Well. … it’s hard to explain. But it’s something like this: when you get on a mountain wall with a few thousand feet of empty air below you, it catches your attention. Of course part of you says oh my God, it’s all over. Why did you ever do this? But another part of you sees that in order not to die you must pretend you are quite calm, and engaged in a semi-theoretical gymnastics exercise intended to move you higher. You pay attention to the exercise like no one has ever paid attention before.

Eventually you find yourself on a flat spot of some sort – three feet by five feet will do. You look around and realize that you did not died, that you are still alive. And at this point this fact becomes quite exhilarating. You really appreciate being alive. It’s a sort of power, or a privilege granted you, in any case it feels quite special, like a flash of higher consciousness. Just to be alive! And in retrospect, that paying attention when you were climbing –you remember that as a higher consciousness too.

You can get hooked on feelings like those: they are the ultimate altered state. Drugs can’t touch them I’m not saying this is a real healthy behaviour, you understand. I’m just saying that it happens."

From the book “One Step In The Clouds” (p312) in the story “Mother Goddess of the World by Kim Stanley Robinson

We also like to leave a clean hill and as we were the last 2 down we had a bit to gather including trash from out team and a few others. Walter had not felt great (a bit if GI kicking in) and I encouraged him to cruise back to BC leaving more for myself than I had bargained! In the end I had 2 backpacks strapped together (one upside down atop the other) and a third bag I roped up and literally kicked all the way down!

two backpacks and a handbag - not recommended for descent ;-) © stu remensnyder

My notes from 2003 remind me of one of my most enjoyable nights in the mountains:

“For Walter and I the climbing was not done and we descended on the morning of the 22nd both exhausted and with great care. Missing fixed lines and black ice under slushy snow added greatly to the objective dangers of descending. In clearing out C3, C2 and C1 I became encumbered with additional weight that left me descending from C1 in the dark.

A warm night, little water and low motivation led me to use the entire night in a trancelike descent to BC. I was blessed with a stream at 1am from which I drank greedily but the blessing turned into a nightmare when I rappelled into the waterfall just below it at 2am. My hands and arms soaking wet I finished off the evening rappelling into [and climbing out of!] the 10m abyss of the crevasse which no longer came accompanied with a snow bridge.

All in all it was a benign and fun epic that left me trudging into BC at 5am with gentle morning light illuminating the valley. I had but time for hot tea and breakfast before packing up and departing with the rest of the team at 8am. No rest for the weary.”

early morning view of K2© stu remensnyder

We’ll hope our crew is able to keep their speed up working as a team, return to C3 or lower the same day and then share the loads coming down. With our 5 HAPs we surely have more shoulders to help out this year!

Think of our crew leaving their cramped but warm tents for the crisp open space of Broad Peak’s last 700-1000 meters!

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