Tuesday, July 24, 2012

FTA Broad Peak 2012 - Summit Bid recap

Our team has had a few days to recover from the tremendous effort of putting on a summit bid in demanding conditions on an 8000m peak. The altitude, cold and snow fall combined with wind to make it a rather Scottish "full-on" attempt and through great work as a team and good decision making they have returned safe and sound to base camp.

It is now clear that the conditions will not make it possible for a second bid in the near future so the Broad Peak team will begin to head back to Skardu by way of Gondogro La and Hushe while Matt and Al will recalibrate for an attempt on K2 in the next two weeks.

FTA Broad Peak 2012 team in BC © brad jackson

Spantik up Next
After reaching Skardu Brad will then take over the leadership of our Spantik trip to begin on August 1 and at least one of our Broad Peak members will join him.  This will be our 5th trip to Spantik in the last 7 years and we'll hope that Brad and his team are able to repeat the great success which we had last year on Spantik!

High Camp on Spantik © Chris Szymiec
Autumn Nepal/India and Winter Ecuador & Argentina line-up
Ben will be take a few weeks or well earned rest and then head off to lead a trip to Kilimanjaro. Ben  will be be leading trips to Aconcagua starting in December and ending in February while Chris & Samira Szymiec will be leading our confirmed autumn lineup of Khumbu Peaks & Passes, Ama Dablam & Island Peak climbs and Everest BC treks.  As well we have a confirmed trip with spaces to Stok Kangri and Kang Yatse for September.

 In the months ahead we have Cotopaxi, Tharpu Chuli and much more ahead so email us at "info@fieldtouring.com" for more info or check out the trips at the main site www.fieldtouringalpine.com
Ama Dablam base camp © stu remensnyder

2013 Pakistan: Broad Peak, Gasherbrums, K2, Spantik, Snow Lake trek and  K2 BC trek
We are already taking applications for next summer and hop you can join us for our 11th straight season on the 8000m peaks of the Karakoram and 10th anniversary of our first 8000m summit!

Broad Peak summit ridge © stu remensnyder

Brad's Journal - Summit bid part 2
Once again Brad has all the details of the events on and off the mountain and hope you enjoy catching up!

Brad at C3 on Broad Peak
July 20th – Part 1 - Ernestas’s story
Ernestas from Lithuania was camped by himself at 7,300 m (Camp 3.5) on the morning of the 20th when avalanche struck at 4:50 am. Ernestas had woken up 10 minutes prior to the avalanche and started preparing his gear. The avalanche thrust Ernestas, still in his sleeping bag and inside this tent 150 m vertical down the hill. As the avalanche pushed him down hill, the tent opened and all his gear fell out and snow filled his tent. By extremely good fortune, the snow filling the tent actually helped stop his slide down the hill and Ernestas stopped 5m before a 20m serac. A further 5 m slide would have undoubtedly led to the death of Ernestas.

Once stopped, miraculously with no poles of his tent broken, visibility was poor with snow and fog. Ernestas got out of the sleeping bag and started checking for all his gear. He only found one boot, 10 m above the final position of his tent plus some additional gear. Ernestas’s right la Sportiva Olympus Mons boot was missing and his portable radio was completely flat.

Ernestas looked for his boot for 5 hours but to no avail. The decision had to made to descend as his right foot was freezing up. His trekking pole and ice axe, he left behind and he started to descend. The descent was made with one lboot and crampon on his left foot and just the inner boot on his right. At around 10:30 Ernestas met the Iranians at camp 3 and they gave him 2 cups of tea but they had no radio. The Iranians wanted to ascend the mountain the next day so stayed in the tent.

The descent continued, now with some additional gear that he had left at camp 3, a light axe, ski pole and incredibly a load of rubbish. On the way to camp 2, Ernestas met porters from the Chinese team. These guys had a radio and Ernestas was finally able to contact his camp. He asked for an extra boot
and crampon. They asked how the condition of his right foot was and incredibly, his toes had not yet frozen. Descent continued to camp 2 and unfortunately no one was at camp 2 (He must have just missed the departure of our group) Ernestas then encountered the Chinese team. They offered
Ernestas to stay with them at Camp 2 but he wanted to continue the descent. At camp 1, Ernestas met Arnie from our team and Ernestas offered to descend with Arnie but at that time Arnie wished to stay at camp 1 to melt water.

At 5,300 m Ernestas met Jordie, a Catalan with ATP who had carried up an extra La Sportiva boot up the mountain after being contacted by the Chinese radio. The boot was size 47 as opposed to Ernestas’s size 44 but beggars couldn’t be choosers. Jordie also gave Ernestas tea and an Energy gel. At that time, Farhat, a porter with the Catalan team, carried Ernestas’s backpack the rest of the way downhill.

At 6pm, Ernestas finally made base camp, an epic journey 90% of the way down the mountain with one boot and no frostbite. An incredibly lucky escape. Ernestas is of course now preparing to move camps and attempt K2.

July 20th – Part 2: FTA team descends
Oblivious to what Ernestas was undergoing, we woke up at camp 3, our aspirations to summit completely quashed by the continued snowfall. We prepared to strip the mountain and descend. To save room, Ben and I wore our down-suits so we had additional room to store tents and gear in our
Cilogear backpacks.
Grace and Robbo at C1 © brad jackson

Al, Sayed and Aziz stripped their camp and made their way down. The rest of us waited till the sun had partially poked its way through the clouds and snow and stripped down the 3 x 3 person tents. Being in down suits, meant that my hands were slightly less susceptible to the cold and was able to help dismantle the tents in 5-minute intervals till I had to stop and rewarm my hands through vigorous shaking and rubbing. Louis was ready first and headed down the hill and Darren and Grace helped dismantle the second of the 3 person tents. Arnie helped Taqui and Mahadi with the TNF VE-25.

I think it was around 9pm when we finally began our descent. The snow had settled in and visibility was very poor. I believe Al had to sit on the slope at various intervals till he could see the waypoint at the bottom of camp 3 and the rest of us were lucky that we had 50 m visibility to see the path of descent.

Our beards, moustaches and goggles iced over as the snow stuck to our clothes and packs. The continued snowfall also meant that we were often post holing. This meant our bodies would stop in the snow as we fall to our knees and thighs but the inertia of our packs kept going forward.

About an hour from camp 3 on the descent, I rapped of a steep snow slope and due to the heavy snowfall, ‘slurpeed’ side on into a crevasse. I managed to get myself in an incredibly awkward position as the tail end of the rope clipped through a wire gate biner hanging on the gear loop on my harness. I ended up lying sideways with my legs in the crevasse but my backpack pulling me down the other side. It took me over a half an hour to extract myself from the crevasse using my jumar, shoveling and the limit of my abdominal muscles. I could see Ben and Taqui occasionally through the snow and mist but they couldn’t really help. Ben later told me that he told Taqui that it looked like FTA lost an assistant and as such there would be more food available at base camp later that afternoon.

Down the other side of the slope, the heavy snowfall continued and I pausedto rest to get a ‘Bumper Bar’ and water into me. The snow then kind of consolidated and I caught up to Arnie just above Camp 2. Robbo and Grace were at camp 2 and very gratefully they packed up a tent and additional gear to take down the hill. Ben and I used every available strap on our Cilogear packs to strap as much as possible to our packs. Thank god, the weather remained overcast at this stage as we were obviously still in down suits and would have died if the sun came out.

The descent to camp 1 was not too draining and we had a further rest stop at Camp 1. On the way we saw the Chinese team and I asked why they were ascending when there had been so much snow. They were committed, so wished them luck and safe passage. Ben, Darren, Grace and I had a collective pause at camp 1 and psyched ourselves for the last descent from Camp 1 to Base camp. Due to the incredible danger of rock fall, we left in stages. Robbo first, Grace second, me in third and Ben bringing up the rear. Arnie was at a different pace to the rest of us and we accepted that he would be coming several hours later.

With big packs and massive crampon balling, arm rapping was less of an option and we all turned around more to rappel. I caught up with Grace at a rock band after some momentary confusion as to why she had stopped. A piton had fallen out and Grace was rightfully concerned about rapping from
the remaining anchor. I made a temporary ice axe belay and watched in alarm as the fixed rope sawed back and forth across sharp rock as she descended.

Ben then caught up with me and grabbed the hammer of my pack and hammered in the loose piton. Despite my previous alarm, all I wanted to do was get down the mountain and I rapped down as fast as possible. The rest of the way to crampon point, was a bit of a daze as the weight of my pack pressed further into my shoulders and my legs became heavier and heavier.

At crampon point, the Catalan team and porters were waiting and this was the first I heard of Ernestas’s epic journey from Camp 3.5. I waited for Ben to drop down and we dumped the group gear (tents etc) into waiting duffle bags. The crossing of the glacier was the last straw and we easily decided that the FTA porters could come across in a couple of days to pick up the tents. We had
dome enough.

The glacier crossing was long and arduous. Ben and I had both run out of water at this stage and had no hesitation in filling up our water bottles from the glacier streams sans any filtration. Once again, I was soo thankful that the weather was overcast, so while I was very hot in my down suit, I wasn’t dying.

I guess I got to base camp around 5pm, a very long and epic day. I immediately stripped out of my down suit, changed into lighter gear and made my way into the dining tent. I immediately sucked down 10 cups of Tang and water followed by soup. I was very glad to be ‘home’.

We saw Ernestas at 6pm and he informed us that Arnie was staying at camp 1. At 9pm, listening to music, I heard Arnie come into camp. Everyone was back at base camp and now all that lay ahead of us was resting, packing and preparing for the trek back to Skardu.
FTA team displaying post high altitude summit bid syndrome symptoms

Sunday, July 22, 2012

FTA Broad Peak 2012 - First Summit Bid Over

 Our team is back in base camp after a good effort to make for the summit of Broad Peak. They did everything they could over the last 5 weeks to be in position for a possible summit bid and it was simply not to be. Numerous team have tried for the summit over the last few weeks and none have succeeded in reaching even the col at 7850 this year.

Ben, Brad and crew moved up to be in position for the potential window we saw for the 19-21 of July which represented the main teams last realistic chance and they were met with too much snowfall to continue. They held on a day in C3 with hopes the weather might turn and were met with more snow which cemented the decision to descend.
Arni climbing above C2 on the summit push

Matt and Al still have K2 ahead of them and a few others may yet decide to try for Broad Peak again in the next few days bit for the majority of the crew they will have to content themselves with having reached to just over 7000m on the 12th highest peak on the planet and returned safely.

Below you can read Brad Jackson's daily journal for the 17th - 19th with the 20th & 21st tom come tomorrow.

July 17th - Summit Push

The summit push is on. Matt, Grace and Arnie, got up in the first wave for a 2am breakfast. Ben, Louis, Hamza and myself sleep in a bit and hit the dining tent at 4am. A superb morning with lingering cloud on K2 signifying little wind in the area, we crossed the glacier for hopefully the last time.  As usual, crossing the glacier sleepy-eyed, I was walking with two-left feet and I saw Ben, Tacqui and Mahadi trot merrily off in the distance. Unfortunately no-one fell into the river, so once again I was denied amusement at the critical bamboo pole crossing.

Grace and Robbo at BC © brad jackson
Hamza and Louis climbed steadily to camp 1 and Ben and I hung back and took our time climbing to conserve energy for the marathon task ahead. The waterfall rock band had almost doubled in length upon our arrival as the snow had melted back and the rock climb crux became more difficult and sustained. After the fourth attempt though, this was not as difficult as the first attempts.  Our packs were not too heavy, we were carrying our down suits and additional gear for the summit push including goggles and high altitude mittens.  For some reason I had Sarah Blasko’s ‘ Amazing things’ on repeat in my head on the way up to Camp 1. I’ve had worst songs stuck in my head.

After 4 hours, we snuck into camp 1. The weather was fickle and I couldn’t quite anticipate which clothes to wear to Camp 2.  I stripped of a layer but regretted my decision as it clouded over and a breeze took hold. The Patagonia r1 Hoody went back on at a small horizontal snow patch next to a rock gendarme about half an hour climb from camp 1.

Acclimatized and not carrying too heavier a load, Ben and I chatted merrily. We discussed bold ideas of an Indian-Pakistani peace initiative and other ideas to solve the world’s problems.  I popped into Camp 2 around 2pm and had a brief chat to Grace at the lower tent before making my way to our tent at the upper end of Camp 2.
Climbing to C2 © brad jackson

Much to Ben’s disgust, we obviously had ‘squatters’ in our tent since our last stay. We have prime suspects but cant don’t have any direct evidence to name and shame. They had drunk all my coffee, left rubbish in the tent as well as a creepy slime (I shudder to think what it was) in the vestibule.  Rant over, we settled in for the afternoon and made a concerted effort to eat and drink as much as possible for the days ahead.

Trusty ramen noodles were promptly prepared as our mid afternoon snack and Freeze dried ‘Mountain Chili’ for was had for dinner.  After checking with Stu and his weather report, I hollered to the rest of the team, that we would head to camp 3 at 8am the next morning. We didn’t want to leave too early to avoid having to start the day too cold and then have to change clothes for the midday sun.

July 18th - Camp 2 to Camp 3

I had an absolutely wonderful sleep at Camp 2. Clich├ęd snug as a bug in a rug. Packs were heavier this morning as we packed our down suits (or 2 pieces for Louis and Grace) in addition to our sleeping gear, stoves, fuel and food for 4 days up the hill. A steep rise to the gendarmes had the lungs straining and the weather ominously went from clear skies to overcast. Our wind adversary greeted us again shortly after departure and at the halfway point to camp 3, I switched to balaclava, goggles and OR Alti gloves to close of all avenues of heat loss to wind chill.

Climbing to C3 © brad jackson

I was wildly optimistic at our intended arrival time at camp 3, hoping to arrive before 2pm but the biting wind; heavy packs and thin air had me arriving around 3pm. I was really pleased to see Robbo shrug of his earlier difficulties in climbing and make a strong climb to 3, easily cutting half an hour of my time. Grace too, arrived strongly ahead of me and Hamza followed closely in my footsteps.

Al likes to leave camp early in the mornings and set off to Camp 3 in his down suit. It was a good choice as he escaped any midday heat and arrived at camp ahead of all us with the HAP’s of Tacqui, Mahadi Sayed and Aziz. An extremely welcome sight on arrival at camp 3 was to see 4 tents setup. No lung breaking preparing of tent platforms and threading tent poles this time around.
Brad at C3 © brad jackson

On arrival at Camp 3 (~7,000m), it was snowing combined with a strong gusty wind. Our plan to set up my Nemo Tenshi as a fifth tent was abandoned. This meant that we had to squeeze 4 people into one of the 3 person tents.  So it was a very cozy Ben, Hamza, Matt and I that squeezed into a Marmot Thor 3P. Louis, Ben and Darren were our neighbors to one side and Tacqui, Arnie and Mahadi on the other side. Al, Sayed and Aziz were on a platform about 50 m up hill. Upon arrival at camp 3, almost everyone donned their down suits and it was a down-fest in the tent as down suitswere funneled into down sleeping bags. During the night, everyone apologized for their constant wriggling and fidgeting in the tight quarters but realistically we had so much down padding between us that we hardly felt a thing.

Ominously the snow continued to fall during the night, sounding like sand on the tent walls. Sharing a stove amongst 4 people, we melted snow, prepared ramen and munched on our sacks. Sardine packed in a tent can be dispiriting but with Zen like Hamza and stoic Matt, we settled in well.  As eyelids lowered for the evening, we collectively willed the snow to stop.

July 19th - Waiting at Camp 3

Ben on the radio at 6am to Al stirred me from a terrible sleep. Not even sure if I could use the word sleep but I did remember some dreaming, so I guess I got some rest. It had snowed intermittently all night and Ben and Al agreed that it best we hold off our push to camp 4 until it stopped snowing.

I was shocked when Hamza then informed us that he had vomited during the night and continued to have a headache that morning. It was with a heavy heart, that Ben recommended that due to Hamza having a combination of AMS symptoms, that he should descend. I had named Hamza the ‘Khan Tengri King’ due to his ascent of that mountain in 2010 and was quietly confident that he would climb very high on Broad Peak. I was quite devastated that he would be descending. 
Robbo and Grace descending from C3 © brad jackson

Matt also decided to descend. For the past 2 days he had been suffering some unspecified ailment that had been affecting his climbing performance. Matt had been arriving at camp later than his expectations and this did not bode well for his summit attempt.  Matt made the brave and wise decision to descend to repair and recuperate for his attempt on K2.

In the space of an hour, our 4-person cell had become a spacey 2-person berth.  The snow continued to fall. Louis popped his head into our tent at 9am and he and I optimistically agreed that snow would stop soon and the afternoon sun would consolidate the snow into a wonderful solid pathway to the summit.  Ben called Al again and we held our decision for the summit push to 6pm. We were basing our decision on a weather forecast that had predicted a shot at the summit on the 19th and 20th but the outside reality was completely at odds with the forecast. The Swedish climber Fredrick has earlier dubbed his German weather forecaster the evilincarnation of Herman Goebbels due to the inaccuracy of his forecasts and I was starting to think falling the same lines of our weather forecaster as the snow continued to fall into midday.

More 2-minute noodles were prepared for lunch and copious snowdrift into the vestibule meant collecting snow for water was a task easily done from within my sleeping bag.  As the afternoon dragged on and the sound of very dry snow continued to abrade against the tent, my optimism faded. Ben kept talking about food, the best sandwiches he’d had and the sumptuous Italian buffets he had dined upon. This can be very frustrating when one’s present food options consist of 2-minute noodles, happy cow cheese and some unloved freeze-dried food.

6pm rolled around and our worst fears were confirmed. In a continued theme, snow still fell. Now he snow turned from annoyance to danger. The slopes above our tents were forming the foundations of an avalanche, which was to have dire consequences for one person the following day. We cancelled our previously suggested midnight departure for a summit push and mentally re-arranged ourselves to pack up and head back to base camp the next morning. Once again as night fell and temperatures dropped snow continued to fall but strangely even with just 2 people in our tent, the night seemed warmer and I just used my sleeping bag more as a blanket rather than as a cocoon as per the previous night.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

FTA Broad Peak 2012 - Summit bid on hold in C3

Brad and Ben called in earlier to get the latest weather and to report that they had been holed up in  C3 today with constant snow fall that has left perhaps 20-30cm of new snow on the hill. While much of it has been blown off by the constant wind there is the concern for avalanche potential which is much higher now.

The plan for the moment is to arise in the morning and see if they have clear weather and the potential to still move up for a bid on the 21st but they will have to assess carefully whether they think sufficient snow has been deposited to make it unwise to cross the avalanche prone slopes between C3 and the col.

climbing from C2 to C3 © stu remensnyder
Already over on Gasherbrum 1 a team has been avalanched in the Japanese couloir and we are glad to know that all 5 climbers are safe and well after surviving the slide of some 500-1000ft. This certainly adds to the caution of our team and in the end the mountain will be there still for another year and 4 of our members still have additional time so we may yet see another bid after this one.

During the day today Hamza and Matt descended as they were not feeling strong and well at C3 and Matt has stopped at C2 to keep his options open but Hamza has made his way down to base camp and with time running short it is unlikely he will have a chance to go for the top again. 

Send your best thoughts for clear weather and we'll have more news tomorrow!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

FTA Broad Peak 2012 - Summit push Update: in C3

Brad called in a short time ago to lest us know the entire team was in camp 3 at 7000m and doing well after a windy and snowy day. Safely ensconced in their airy abode at camp three tonight they are making preparations for pushing the route through to the high camp tomorrow. After the sun has warmed them up tomorrow they will pack up most of the tents and move them higher on the hill to shorten up the summit day. 

View from C3 in 2003 over to K2 © stu remensnyder

In some years when the conditions are good the team will make for the top from nearer to 7100m but in other years when necessary we establish a higher camp nearer to 7400m where there are a few flattish spots. Moving the camp up makes it much easier to reach the col and have time for a run all the way to the true summit if the winds and clouds allow. 

Anchors above C2 with K2 behind © stu remensnyder
The weather is predicted to allow for a summit bid though the winds may be as high as 30-40kmph so it will be a challenging summit bid for sure.

Col at 7850 en route to the summit © stu remensnyder

 We'll have updates every day and we hope you enjoy following along!

Monday, July 16, 2012

FTA Broad Peak 2012 - Summit push is on!

Our team is all on the hill today headed to C2 and hoping to have a chance to summit in the next 4-6 days. They will push to C3 tomorrow if the weather holds and establish C4 the next day. We see a weather window right now opening up either the 19th or 20th and they hope to be in position. Stay tuned for all the action!

Camp 4 in 2003 at 7400m © stu remensnyder

Brad's Journal
Brad continues to share the daily details and you can enjoy catching up on the events at Broad Peak below. Enjoy!

July 13th - Rest Day

A day of low activity as we licked our wounds from our excursion to camp 3.  Matt and Darren got an impromptu base camp haircut and we received various visitors from other camps.

July 14th - Rest Day

Hypothermia and frostbite was the subject of an almost 2 hour discussion as we talked about our proposed summit push and ways to mitigate our chances of cold injuries. Louis gave us a fascinating story of being the subject of a hypothermia case study in the Quebec winter and Matt discussed getting very very cold in the wilds of Scotland.  After discussing the weather with Stu and then with team members we have put off for now departing base camp until the 17th (Al and Darren on the 16th) for a proposed 20th July summit attempt.

Now a very special culinary event happened in the evening as a Dzo (Kind of like a yak) arrived at camp and was promptly slaughtered. Until now, our sole protein source has been goat, which admittedly had been met with mixed reviews by various members. Personally, I had only really liked the accompanying sauce and not the meat itself.

The night’s entertainment was a British movie entitled ‘ The Last 7’ which I think was an adaptation of a theatre play. I left about halfway through the movie which seems was a wise move. 1 out of 5 ‘Adzes’ from the FTA base camp review committee.

July 15th - Rest Day

A very idle day as we all tried to minimize energy output and continued to drink and eat as much as our new found protein source as possible. We had a bit of a TV session in the dining tent in the morning, watching an episode of ‘Real Time with Bill Maher’ followed by ’30 Rock and then some “Robin Williams Live”

That afternoon, the weather deteriorated again, and we had intermittent gusts and snow showers. I took this prime opportunity to take a shower…well when I say a shower, 20 liters of hot water was prepared and I was given an empty fruit tin to which pour water over myself. I had visions of shaving my beard and luxuriating in cascading warm water, but gusts of snow flurries up my nether regions meant the shower was short lived and my beard may be now thus defined as Arkansas-lite.

After yesterday’s disappointing movie, we switched to standard Hollywood Rom-com and watched ‘ Forgetting Sarah Marshall’ which received 3 out of 5 ‘Adzes’

July 16th - Rest day

Hearing Al’s voice at 0530 am, I unzipped my tent door and waved goodbye to Al, Darren, Sayed and Aziz as they braved light snow and made there way, for possibly the last time across the glacier up to Camp 1. Al and Darren had decided that it suits them best to make their way up to Camp 2 over 2 days, to conserve energy on their summit push.

Matt Grace, Ben, Arnie, Zeshan, Hamza and I had another meat-fuelled bonanza of a breakfast. (Louis was felling a bit poorly in the morning but recovered by the afternoon) The weather was still inclement and we hung put in the dining tent and generally bull-shitted. We started discussing our departure over the Gondogoro La pass, perhaps finding it easier to discuss our departure than our summit push. A member of the Chinese team across and we discussed climbing together but they are having problems with logistics and their HAP’s, so we shall see.

The rest of the day was spent organizing last minute items for the summit push and munching on as much crackers and cheese as possible.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

FTA Broad Peak 2012 - Summit Bid Brewing!

Ben called in a few hours ago to let us know that the team all down resting at base camp and looking forward to the summit push ahead of them.

The team will begin moving up on to the hill over the next 2-3 days and assemble at the highest camps with hopes for a summit bid on the 19th, 20th or 21st. With some work still to do to put in the route to C4 at near 7400m and with winds expected to diminish from 19 to 22 July our team hopes to be in a good position for any small windows that open up. Already several teams have made bids and been turned back by deep snows and it will take a concerted effort by our team to have a good chance for the top.

We'll be updating the site daily during the push with audio dispatches and written dispatches so stay tuned!

Brad's Blog
In the mean time please enjoy Brad's daily logs from the last push up the hill during which they established camp three at just about 7000m:

descent from c3 © brad jackson

July 9th - Base camp to Camp 2
We got up early, keen for an early start up to Camp 2 but were thwarted by some snow flurries and strong winds. We ate our brekky and then hung out till the flurries finished. We set up once again across the glacier and had magnificent views of K2 and surrounding mountains. The climb to camp 1
seemed different with the snow and melt cycles changing the nature of the ice up to camp 1. We moved quickly as we are now really acclimatized and were moving upwards on a big breakfast.

A quick stop at Camp 1 and Al Hancock moving fast had caught up to at this time. Al was staying at Camp 1 as the rest of us moved to Camp 2 to meet Grace and Matt who had climbed up the day before. We shuffled on to Camp 2 with the snow and ice in reasonable good condition and not too much feet sliding backwards in the couloir sections. I was surprised to see Tacqui, Mahadi and a HAP from the Taiwanese team about an hour out from Camp 2.

That day they had been tasked with pushing the tents and fixing the ropes to Camp 3. In a stilted conversation sliding past each other on the fixed lines, Tacqui explained that the weather approaching Camp 3 had been no good and that the tents were cached at about 6,700 m. This was disappointing
news but of course understandable. But it was only once they were long past did I stop to think and wonder why they didn’t stay at Camp 2 and wait for the following day instead of retreating all the way to base camp.
Robbo coming into C2
Anyways, I got to camp 2 around midday and once again I was amused how difficult the last 20-30 meters to my tent proved to be. I, once again was sharing a tent with Ben. It was only once Ben arrived at Camp 2 that I realized it was his birthday. I wished the young lad ‘Happy Birthday’. He then confessed that he had been dropping hints all the way to Camp 1 on ‘how old he was feeling’ etc. As a birthday treat, I promised to cook diner, which in reality just meant melting snow. We then settled into the small 2 person tent and waited for Arnie and Robbo to arrive before we could really relax. While waiting, I saw the arrival of the ‘Chinese team’, which consisted of a Chinese couple and supporting Sherpas and HAP’s. From Ben’s version of conversation with them, they had already climbed Everest Lhotse, Shishapangma, Cho Oyu and Makalu and were now on the way to try G1, G2 and Broad Peak. The Chinese entourage quickly settled into camp with Robbo and Arnie quick behind them

July 10th - Rest day at Camp 2
Snow fell steadily that evening and quashed our hopes of pushing to camp 3 that day. We poked our heads out at 05:30 am and saw enough snow drift to realize that holding off a day for the snow to consolidate would be our most energy conserving option. Unfortunately Grace had basically run out of food, so made the choice to descend back to base camp for rest and resupply. Al radioed in from Camp 1 and misconstrued our future intentions and also hightailed it back to Base camp. The rest of us (Louis, Hamza, Ben, Arnie, Robbo and myself) hung in at camp 2 and tried to figure out what to do for the rest of the day. I was engrossed in Mantel’s ‘Wolf Hall’, so ended up flicking through that on my iPhone as I kept abreast of Cromwell’s rise to the head of King Henry VIII’s court.

July 11th - Camp 2 to Camp 3
A clear night meant our push to Camp 3 was on. The Chinese team was also helping with fixing rope to Camp 3 so we basically waited until the sun hit our tents before departing with the Chinese team. It was good to be moving on new terrain as we started the 45-degree slope to the ‘gendarmes’ above camp 2. Our little convoy of 7 FTA members and 5 ‘Chinese team’ made a good path in the somewhat consolidated snow. Through some of the more dicey sections, the HAP’s fixed some nice quality 7 mm rope and we made our way steadily to the cache point. As the day progressed, the weather deteriorated and we were buffeted with gusts. We had initially inwardly scoffed at the Chinese team donned in down suits at the start of the day but as the day progressed, I at least became jealous of their ‘Himex’ down suits as our team was just in shells and mid-layer insulating layers.

After picking up the cached 3 x 3 person tents we came across an undulating snowfield riddled with parallel crevasses. Some co-ordination on the fixed lines was required to make sure lower climbers did not pull the higher climbers into the crevasses. Prior to this point I had snapped at a 2 person ‘independent’ team who had had declared they were climbing the mountain without support and thus would not help with the fixed lines. As they came up behind me pulling on the fixed lines, I asked ‘what the deal was?’, but they just laughed and kept jugging on the lines. They are not our favorite team on the mountain.

As the sun dropped, the wind increased and we felt an increased need to get to Camp 3. Both our teams stalled at a rocky outcrop above the crevasses and the Pakistani HAP’s of the Chinese team asked Ben for help to fix rope. Ben gallantly took the lead and fed out rope and fixed while the rest of us waited. Once again, us clad in shells and fleeces etc looked on with green eyes at the down suit garbed Chinese team. After a numbing 30 minutes we got the go ahead to start ascending and we entered rocky terrain mixed with dinner plate ice. We had been on the go for 8 hours now and the sun was getting low in the sky. I was getting concerned that some of us would be getting cold injuries and was relieved that although I was cold, I was not yet dangerously cold.

Finally, we saw the camp spot as Louis and Ben milled around a flat spot. The day was far from over, as we had to dig out a platform for 3 x 3 person tents. Shoveling snow at 7,000 m was intense, Not my most graceful of efforts, but I found it easiest to sink to my knees and then shovel rather than the more normal standing stance, After about 10 shovels of snow, I was gasping for air and handed of the shovel to the other guys. From this cooperative effort we finally managed to get a space cleared and the mountain gods were smiling as the wind did dissipate as the sun set and we managed to get the tents up without too much further complication. We also kept all our fingers intact. I was very proud of Matt, Louis, Arnie, Darren, Hamza and Ben. We all worked very well together under very trying conditions

It was getting dark as we finally got onto our tents and I think it fair to say that we were all collectively trashed. My dinner consisted of a kit kat and some orange tang. Ben managed to get in some 2 minute noodles and then we prepared ourselves for the cold, battening down the hatches so to speak by ensuring our sleeping bags were snug around our heads and feet were well insulated. Unfortunately, I quickly lost feeling in my toes and spent the night working my feet to ensure they didn’t freeze completely.

July 12th - Descent from Camp 3 to Base Camp
The morning was quiet, too quiet and Ben and I wondered what our charges were up to in the adjacent tents. Had everyone survived the night at 7,000 m ? Basically everyone was being as soundless as possible to avoid having to get out of sleeping bags. It was very cold that morning and spindrift has crept into all our tents overnight and frost covered everything not horizontal. All we could see was white from the eye slits of our sleeping bags. I was worried about my toes but also pining for basecamp so as light entered out tent, I covered my head and kicked at the walls to clear the snow. I shouted out to Robbo to get up and received a painful groan in response. Everyone else,
thus knew that it was time to get out of camp 3.

Having left my pee bottle at Camp 2, I left the relative warm confines of the tent to free willy and saw the Chinese team trotting down the hill, their summit push aborted (due to high winds). I am sure I felt my fingers solidify as I painted snow yellow and once finished dashed back into the tent to warm up my digits. My attempts at cold weather bravery over, I snuggled back into my sleeping bag and waited for the sun to hit the tent.
Hamza on descent
Like cold-blooded reptiles, once the sun hit the tents, we collectively stirred and base camp really beckoned. We all had rudimentary breakfasts; mine was a kiwi bumper bar and a liter of water that I had slept with over night. Even in the morning sunlight, pulling down the tents was painful. Ben had the wisdom to wear mittens, but the rest of lacked the dexterous skills to thread poles and wore less warm gloves. Much huffing and puffing, rubbing of hands and selective profanities were said in getting down those bloody tents.

Louis and Matt had their tent packed up first and went downwards as Ben and I helped Hamza, Arnie and Robbo pack up their TNF VE-25. The fresh snow overnight meant that we were post holing down the hill but was nice to see the tents at Camp 2 quickly appear in view. Some funky rap-ping down the steeper sections amongst the gendarmes and we were back at Camp 2. We re-deposited our wet sleeping bags at camp 2, to hopefully dry out and I melted some snow and had another bumper bar.

The descent from Camp 2 to Camp 1 was shrouded in mist and intermittent snow. I almost ran into a Slovenian climber who was just acclimatizing above Camp 1. I hadn’t expected to see anyone on my descent. The tents at Camp 1 appeared through the shroud and seemed to coincide with a clearing in the weather. I waited at Cap 1 until I saw Ben and Arnie appear and then made my way downward. The path from Camp 1 in the afternoon is increasingly chopped up with mini waterfalls appearing beneath the snow. The rock band in the afternoon now is a waterfall and I hope to get a picture on our summit push of someone abseiling down that waterfall, although to take a pic there is an invite to a rock in the head.

I caught up with Robbo at crampon point and Mahadi was there with biscuits and tea, which was simply delightful. Spurred on by this additional energy, we walked through the glacier with ease, much better than last time. At the new bamboo bridge, I videotaped one of the Chinese climbers crossing, evilly hoping to get some footage of some climber dunkage not realizing that Matt had fallen of the bridge perhaps half an hour earlier.

We got back to base camp around 3-4ish and Atta was in attendance with some soup, rice and mixed fruit. I was craving fluids and skipped the rice and got stuck into the soup and fruit. Was really great to see Al and Grace again, but I soon sneaked of to my tent for a bit of a Nana nap before reappearing
again at dinner. Grace and Al regaled us up with all the base camp activities, including the Aga Khan activities on the 11th July and the comings and goings of all the new climber at base camp.
base camp barber

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

FTA Broad Peak 2012 - C3 established!

Ben called in a bit out of breath just a short time ago from camp 3 at just over 7000m on Broad Peak with the good news that the route is fixed and tents set up.

They had a long a demanding day in difficult conditions that varied from deep snow to icy and rocky sections. Encumbered with tents and rope it made for a "full on" day and they are looking forward to a few well earned rest days after they return to base camp tomorrow.
Alex Txicon at C3 in 2003 showing well how one may feel at 7100m!
© stu remensnyder
We'll look forward to the images and full report of the push up to camp three when Brad gets back to his technocenter!

Monday, July 9, 2012

FTA Broad Peak 2012 - Snowy day in C2

Push to establish C3 at 7100m is on!

Our team is back on the hill after a good rest and hoping the weather will allow them to push the route through to camp three over the next few days. They had 4-5cm of snow today so will have to see what the morning brings. Taqui, Matt and Grace made a push towards C3 today but founds the going very deep so it may take a real team effort to make the trail!

At this time most of the team in in C2 with Al and Aziz in C1 and moving up to join the rest of the group tomorrow. Ben, Brad and crew will take additional rope and tents in the morning and hope to reach C3 and will call in to let us know how the day goes. Everyone is in good spirits and feeling well so now it is up to the weather gods!

(By the way today is FTA guide Ben Kane's birthday - not a bad way to spend it perched high on the slopes of a great mountain!  Happy Birthday Ben!)

The Base Camp Cancan  © brad jackson
Brad's Journal
Brad had continued to chronicle the daily events of the trip and the reports below will bring you up to speed on all things karakoram!

July 2nd - Another Rest day and push to Camp 1

Matt, Grace, Louis and Arnie went to Camp 1 while the rest of us had an additional rest day.

July 3rd - Climb from Base Camp to Camp 2

Ben, Hamza and I pushed to Camp 2 while Robbo and Al climbed to Camp 1 The crew that had camped at Camp 1 that day pushed to Camp 2.  I followed Robbo up to Camp 1. We got up a bit earlier that morning with breakfast at 03:30 am but still managed to depart at about 04:45 m and crampon point at 05:50. We were once again treated to a magnificent sunrise with clear views of K2.  We did manage to wind through the glacier without too much difficulty. It was a joy to climb with Robbo on a crystal clear morning and Darren had left some of his earlier difficulties behind.  Despite our steady pace, Fredrick from Sweden quickly passed us as did the French team, The French are guides from Chamonix and is a simple joy to watch their efficient movement up the mountains. 

Climbing the open slopes towards C1 © stu remensnyder

We got into Camp 1 at around 09:30 and I was struggling, once again I had made the mistake of not eating and drinking for over 3 hours and my body was struggling. At Camp 1 picked up my stashed gear and with a full load set off at a snail’s pace. I had been watching a lot of ‘The Wire’ recently and reminded myself of the quote “ as slow as a white guys in slippers’. After an hour slog, I finally sat down to some food and water and instantly felt re-energized and cursed my laziness at not eating earlier.  I continued my merry way up to Camp 2 with the French footsteps quickly fading. It was hot but I was solely dressed in a Patagonia full sleeve silk top and the sun’s rays simply bounced off me. As long as I didn’t rush ,I was in a comfy little body temperature homeostasis.

resting up at C1 en route to C2 © stu remensnyder

Rocking up to Camp 2, I saw Ben in a hive of activity. The platforms at 2 had not been prepared in the best manner possible and sauntered over to assist Ben in chipping ice and removing additional rocks to ensure a more horizontal environment for our Marmot Thor 2 p tents. This activity took our breaths away as we performed manual labour at 6,200 m. Once the tent was somewhat more stable, we chatted with our fellow high altitude campers and briefly watched the sunrise over the Karakorum.

That night for diner, I shared a with Ben a Beef Rotini.(freeze-dried of course) Ben,also was roped into melting snow while I collected the same, and I had a laugh as Ben inadvertently filled up my pee bottle with water. We then watched the sunlight slowly fade through our tent …but this time I was prepared for tent bound drudgery and had my sat phone and iPhone on hand to pass the time until entering the land of nod.

Tent perched at C2 © stu remensnyder

July 4th - Hang out at Camp 2

Today was just an acclimatization day. Al and Robbo left early in the cold hours of the morning at 5:00 and met us at Camp 2. We all spent our day wasting the day at Camp 2 on a milder day compared to the day previous.  Ben and I went on an arduous and epic journey up and down camp 2 without crampons to visit the rest of the team. Louis went on a voyage of discovery up to about 6,650m for a look at the route to Camp 3.  Trusty ramen noodles were for lunch courtesy of Ben. For dinner, I provided Spaghetti Marinara, which was sans Seafood anywhere in the list of ingredients.

Ben at C2 © brad jackson

July 5th

Descent from Camp 2 to Base Camp

A windy morning greeted us on the 5th and our previous night’s irrational exuberance of getting up at 6 am for a early departure dissipated as we snuggled up in our bags for an extra half hour of warmth.  The sun hit our tents and I boiled snow previous melted snow and added a sachet of instant coffee. This was our sustenance for the morning’s activities and payback for non-eating was later as I struggled to return back through the glacier to base camp.

Ben and I were the last to leave at around 9am and I popped down the ridge just below Camp 2 to take some pics and videos of Ben rapping down the ridge with K2 in the background.  The down climb was quick and uneventful and was once again was impressed at how quickly we get off this mountain. About 1:30 minutes from Camp 2 to crampon point.  The snow wasn’t balling up our crampons so the fixed line really dug into our jackets as we whizzed down the lines.
Ben descending from C2 © brad jackson

By the time I hit the glacier, I was trashed. Once again, I had the odd feeling of requiring an incredibly amount of effort to walk up a 5 m hill on the glacier despite my previous efforts.

At the end of the glacier, close to our base camp, our team has been stymied by a large river flow. I so wish I had caught it on video, but one of the Taiwanese teams’ HAP’s ended up throwing a sweater/jumper across the river to which we would hold on to the sleeve and then jump across.  A completely insecure device to which cross a river, but secure enough to give us confidence to leap. 6 of us sweater-leapt across the river and then climbed the last hill to the safe confines of our base camp.

Darren and Hamza with K2 behind © brad jackson

July 6th

Rest day and attend to climber’s frostbite

Al came down on the morning after his additional night at Camp 2 with Aziz. That morning Robbo helped me ‘landscape garden’ my tent as a sunken hollow had formed where my head should have laid.

At around 11am Ben received a phone call, nominally from the family of one the climbers on Broad Peak that he was in distress and needed a rescue team. A flurry of activity ensued as we tried to ascertain if the climber was actually in distress and needed rescue, complicated by the European language/Urdu/Balti/English interchange. .  We trained our eyes and telephoto lenses on the slopes of Broad Peak trying vainly to spot anyone in need of help.

Two climbers were spotted descending from Camp 1 and Ben and the HAP’s of Taqui. Mahade, Aziz and Sayeed formed a team to meet them at crampon point. They also took along some recently acquired bamboo lengths to use as an interim bridge to cross the swollen afternoon river in the glacier.

On meeting the climbers, Ben radioed ahead and we at base camp prepared to treat a case of frostbite.  Water was heated to 100deg F and a sterile place for treatment was made in our storage tent. Upon arrival, the afflicted climber removed his shoes and socks in Ben and my presence and I was personally ecstatic that he showed no major signs of frostbite. We treated the climber for frostbite injury as a precautionary measure. Probably best I not get too immersed in private medical details, but appears he was very prudent in his decision making and turned around on his summit attempt before serious medical issues arose.  His relative injury free escape from the mountain was of great relief to all of us at the FTA team.
Bridge and rescue team © brad jackson

July 7th - Rest Day

A day of errands and preparations. Our next trip up the hill will most likely be our last rotation before the summit push. Matt and Grace decided to go up earlier than the rest of us.  Such is the flexibility this trip allows and they were scurrying around getting ready.  They made the bold call to wake up at 1:30 am and depart at 2am to escape the daytime heat.

Ben and I strolled over to the adjacent camp and checked on the feet of the climber we had attended the day before. His feet were in great shape and we spent the rest of the morning discussing war stories and naming obscure mountains that we would like to climb. Was a fun morning followed by a fairly lackadaisical afternoon.  The evening’s entertainment was ‘Get him to the Greek’

July 8th - Additional Rest day

We’re getting antsy now, we have had our rest and recuperation and time to get back up the hill.  Last minute packing and milling about the mess tent as we idle time until our departure. Breakfast has been declared at 03:00, considered the best time between getting some sleep and escaping the sun on the slopes. Today we woke up considerably colder with a cloudless night, so we are hoping we will not get too cold on our early morning departure tomorrow morning.

The plan tomorrow is to sleep at 2 and then move up and establish camp 3 at 7,100 m before dropping back to base camp again. We are taking up an additional tent, emergency oxygen, food for 3 days and various other sundries. The weather forecast is for high winds from the 13-15th so we wish to have camp 3 prepared and safely back at base camp before the possibility of being blown away.

[note: see images below of C3 in good and bad conditions]
FTA 2003 member Fred Muylert at C3 on a warm day © stu remensnyder

Avalanche and wind destroyed tents at C3 in 2003 © stu remensnyder

Friday, July 6, 2012

FTA Broad Peak 2012 - C2 Established, C3 up next!

Our team has made great strides in the last 3-4 days having now established and occupied camp 2 at 6250m. They will take the next few days to rest up back at base camp and then make a push to establish and sleep in camp 3 at 7100m which will prepare them for  a summit bid.

The camps on Broad Peak © stu remensnyder

Ben called in to let us know everyone was well and that they were looking forward to an evening of movies and a long sand well deserved sleep after 2 night nigh on the hill. We expect a full report on the effort in the next 24 hours along with new images from Brad Jackson.

Brad's reports from the days leading up to the latest push and images are below..enjoy!

June 30th - Rest day at Base Camp and return of the remainder of the team.

Louis popped his head in around midday and then the rest of the team came in over the next 2 hours and those of us who were rested may have expressed an evil smirk as we witnessed members arrive in in various states of exhaustion from their return of tagging Camp 2.
K2 by moonlight © brad jackson

July 1st  - Rest day and Canada day

At breakfast, three of our members, in a in a bout of patriotic fever sang the first 2 words of their national anthem before losing interest and leaving the rest of us to eat our porridge and eggs in peace.

Ben and I did a grand tour of the Broad peak base camp and met for the first time a 4 member Taiwanese team and a returning Polish climber – Pavel. We had morning tea with the remainder of the French team and were impressed with the hospitality and friendliness. Those guys are Chamonix guides and not requiring fixed ropes but were still willing to help out..Merci beaucoup. Unfortunately it looks like FTA is providing the vast majority fixed rope and manpower on this mountain and Ben and I spent much of the day calculating rope requirements.

At lunch, Al and Mat returned from their foray to K2 base camp and reported some disarray as it appears that some of the climbers there are waiting for a ‘big team’ to fix lines on either the Cesen or Abruzzi routes. The rest of lunch was spent eating of course and organizing ourselves for our first night to sleep at Camp 2.

The basic outline of the next couple of days is as follows. Louis, Grace, Matt and Arnie will climb to Camp 1 and rest on the 2nd July. The remainder of the team to spend an additional rest day and then Al and Darren go to camp 1 and Ben, Hamza and myself to try and make camp 2. The days following hopefully will be spent sleeping at camps 1 and 2 and then making our way to base camp before forecast snow and winds appear on the mountain on the 5th/6th July.

This evening we watched ‘The Dictator’ on Zeeshan’s wonderful Sony laptop and Polish Pavel joined us in the tent for the evening’s entertainment. We were finished by 8pm in time for the first group to get some decent sleep before their 4am departure.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

FTA Broad Peak - C2 reached!

Our team has established camp one on a narrow ridge at approximately 5400m/18000ft and have made carries already to camp 2 at 6250m. In the next few days we hope the entire team will be in C2 and making loads to C3!
C1 on Broad Peak © Brad Jackson

Brad's Journal 
As trips wear on there is no doubt that themes become centered around the elemental aspects of life - waking up, finding or making water, moving from one place to another, drinking, eating, peeing and pooping, sleeping and so on. It is really one of the great joys of expeditions that the complexities of daily life are reduced and one is able to put full concentration into things we often do without much thought.

(Often the language becomes a bit more spicy as you will find below. I've taken the liberty of adjusting a few of the spicier terms as we have some families following along!)

One also gets very excited about simple things that are hard to imagine back home. How many of us get really excited by the fact that our tea water boiled quicker today than yesterday?

Enjoy Brad's elemental notes below!

June 28th - Base Camp to Camp 1

A call of nature at 3:30am was an effective alarm clock and I used the half hour before our 4am breakfast to once again sort my gear to take to Camp 1. This was a carry load and this time I took up sleeping bag, mattresses (Z-Lite and Nemo Zor), stove and food for a couple of days.

Al and Matt, took off first at about 4:45 am and I departed 15 minutes later as I piss farted around with additional gear. Once again I found myself weaving through the glacier making a couple of “Jacksonvariation’s’ on the route as I played footprint detective trying to follow the route. Each time through the glacier is different as the glacier melts away in the summer sun and former landmarks become distorted and unrecognizable.

Briefly caught up with Al and Matt at "crampon point" but the fixed roped I was carrying to Camp 1 weighed me down and soon they were in the distance. I did though manage to get past the rock band with lips intact, playing it more careful this time on the verglas covered rock.

crampon point © stu remensnyder

‘Frederick from Sweden’ as he is found of saying, passed me by I and made a point of introducing myself. Next the four HAP’s passed by and I took some snaps as they trudged on up to Camp 1.

I got into Camp 1 at 10am, not a great time; I blamed that on the fixed rope I was carrying, or could just be I’m bloody slow. Matt and Al and the HAP’s had already established their respective tents and I was shunted into the ‘storage tent’ which was actually quite comfy as I padded the tent with the 7 packed tents and various other paraphernalia.

FTA HAP Taqui Mohammed at C1 © brad jackson

Once safely ensconced in tent it dawned on me the horror of what was I going to do for the next 21 hours. I for once was without electronic gadgetry having failed even to bring up my iPhone. So various packing and unpacking ensued and I got to play with my MSR Reactor for the first time. What a beast! I wasn’t prepared for the incredibly fast boiling time as I am normally used to waiting ‘ages’ for snow to melt and boil. I had 2 liters of water prepared in less than 10 minutes and my thoughts of an idle afternoon of melting snow was swiftly quashed as I had all the water I needed.
MSR Reactor at C1 © brad jackson

That afternoon was pretty sh**ty, with light wet snow covering the tent and every 5 minutes I had to kick the top of the tent to prevent heavy snow, collapsing the tent and blocking the light.  Around 5pm though, the clouds dramatically broke, sunlight poured through the ripstop nylon and with head popped out of tent, we were treated with dramatic views of the Karakorum from Camp1.

I am guilty of instigating a mass photo shoot as Al and Matt plus our Swedish/Lithuanian brethren were summoned on my behalf to get the hell out of their tents and have a look at the amazing view. Ernie and Frederick for some fun climbed the pillar at the end of camp 1 and we had fun taking their pics. I also got roped into helping Frederick film footage for his sponsored products and hearing him speak in Swedish of course reminded me of watching the original “Girl with a Dragon Tattoo’
Fredryk at C1 © brad jackson

With the sun quickly tucked behind the mountains opposite, the temperature plummeted and we scurried back into our tents. After eating a dehydrated “Hash Brown’ meal for lunch which tasted like rubber with a slight aftertaste, I approached with trepidation the Mountain Hut ‘ Chicken Teriyaki with Rice’ but it wasn’t too bad with actual hints of chicken teriyaki flavor amongst the rubber  taste.

June 29th - Carry to Camp 2 and drop back to base camp

Morning was cold and my water bottles had partially frozen over night. I had put off the discomfort and slight risk of sleeping with my water bottles but looks like will have to sleep with bottles from Camp 1 upwards.

We were in no rush to depart as we suspected that we would be waiting on the HAP’s to fix rope and our assumptions were justified.  Matt carried some rope, I carried a 2-person tent and Al some snow stakes as we left Camp 1 bound for Camp 2.
climbing to C2 © brad jackson

The cold conditions meant the snow was crisp underfoot and while the going was steep, we easily moved amongst well-defined steps. Trying to figure out what to wear was difficult as it was a cold morning, so when moving we were fine but while waiting for the rope to be fixed we quickly became quite frigid.

In fairness though conditions were quite benign with light cloud and low winds. Looking up towards the summit though we could see a maelstrom of strong winds and swirling clouds. As the sun rises behind the summit, the sun ray’s diffract through the summit clouds to give a really unusual light display, somewhat of a cross between a borealis and a rainbow. I haven’t seen this phenomenon anywhere else.

sun formations nearing C2 © brad jackson

As the sun rose, the snow became mushy underfoot and our clearly defined steps of the early morning disappeared. The last hour in particular to camp 2 became particularly difficult as steps gave way and I imagined I was climbing the flutings of Siula Grande (?) in ‘Touching the Void’ (Of course I’m exaggerating)

Al, Matt and I didn’t spend long at camp 2. Matt, a 3rd time veteran to Camp 2 was surprised to see no tents pitched at camp 2 as in previous expeditions he had encountered 10- 15 tents. A product of the denial of visas to Americans and UK citizens and various international austerity measures we speculated.

After caching the fixed rope, tent and stakes, we turned to face downhill. Going downhill is basically a very long arm rap session with 2 raps thrown in for good measure. Any new jacket is quickly cauterized with the nylon rope coiling around the lower arm and I blew out the finger on my Hestra leather glove from the continuous friction.

Arriving at Camp 1 we could see Ben, Robbo, Grace, Hamza and Louis milling around the precarious Camp 1 platform. We asked, ‘where was Arnie?’ and as if hearing his voice, we saw Arnies’s yellow helmet peeking over the edge. Arnie had some GI issues earlier that morning but in testament to his strength and endurance waited another hour for ‘issues’ to settle before making his way to Camp 1.

Even though we had only been apart 1 night, was really good to see the rest of the team and we swapped some idle banter and asked each other how we were. We picked up some stuff that we needed back at base camp that we had left at Camp 1 like headlamps, the illustrious pee bottles and our rubbish and continued on our merry way to base camp.

Ben had commented that one can get off the mountain really quickly and his words proved correct as Matt, Al and I dropped the 1200 m from Camp 2 to crampon point in approximately 2 hours.  Matt noticed that one of the pitons protecting the fixed rope above the rock had popped out and we did some Scottish/Australian jiggery on belting in the piton and equalizing the anchors. I watched the piton as Matt rapped of the rock band and I then followed with perhaps one of my most careful abseils, gingerly placing steps down the rocks.

By the time, we get to crampon point we were "knackered", "buggered" and "f**ked" in our respective parlance as the day’s activity finally took its toll. The 30-45 minute journey through the glacier took us an hour, as we had to find some alternate routes to cross the deep and rapid flowing ‘rivers’ now streaming through the glacier after a full day of sun.  We finally got back to base camp at 15:30 hours, yes just an 8 hour day but we were collectively spent.  Atta served us some wonderful noodle soup and a gargantuan amount of rice and noodles but we were more thirsty than hungry and simply drank up a storm with some token efforts at eating the rice and noodles.

Despite being spent, none of us slept that well and it seemed we spent the hours till dinner listening to music and generally just lying on our backs.  I went into the tent to get a drink and saw 3 members of the French team having a drink. We introduced ourselves and had a collective moan about the snow conditions on the mountain. I suggested they come around in 2 days time and our respective teams put our heads together on how we will climb the mountain.

Chatted with Ben at the designated 6pm radio call and let him know of the loose piton and the perils of crossing the glacier mid afternoon.  Al, Matt and I quickly wolfed down our dinner at 7pm and had an early night. We were all pleased with our day’s efforts and our fatigue from the days climb appeared to have dissipated. We are keen to start our next foray onto Broad Peak.