K2 Climb 2016
Blog #44: It’s all over.
Day 45: Basecamp 5000m
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It is with deep personal regret that I write to confirm that the 2016 British K2 Expedition will be finishing our expedition and making no further summit attempts from immediate notice. We have called for our porters to come up to BC, and we will start clearing our equipment off the mountain and preparing for our departure.
As the eternal optimist, I’ve spent the last 44 days (or should that be 7 years) daydreaming of what it would be like to stand on the summit of K2 and everything that would come from that. I certainly haven’t been dreaming about writing a message like this. Up until this point, it’s been like having that ticket for last night’s lottery draw in your back pocket, that you haven’t checked yet. Up until you check it, there is still every possibility that you’ve won the jackpot and you dream about what you’d do with the millions. Well we’ve finally checked our ticket, and we haven’t got one number. Not even a bonus ball. No jackpot for us on K2 this year.
The Avalanche which destroyed C3 (7300m) on the 22nd July has caused such ripple effects throughout all teams that unfortunately our position to continue our expedition has become untenable. A reported $200,000 worth of oxygen (mainly belonging to the 3 largest teams on the mountain) was lost in the avalanche, as well as much personal gear (mainly of the Sherpas), and fixing rope for the final summit push. As a result of this, the main teams (7 Summits, K&P and Madison) immediately decided to call off their expeditions and call porters in order to exit BC. A number of smaller teams who whilst they may not have lost kit, but were treating this current summit window as their only chance, have also called it a day. Whilst we lost kit in the avalanche, we have enough spares and reserves to continue our expedition. Most importantly, we have plenty of desire to continue.
This morning in BC, there was a meeting hosted by the British Team, which included Vanessa O’Brien’s Team, the Hungarians and Nick Rice. Initially all members (I use that term to refer to ‘Western climbers’) were keen to remain with our team, the Brits especially so. Unfortunately the exodus of the other main teams, along with their Sherpas (many of whom are close friends or even relations of our Sherpas) has created an atmosphere of finality in BC, and try as we might, we couldn’t persuade our Sherpas to remain.
Obviously emotions are high here in BC at the moment, especially amongst those of us who were keen to stay and have another go. I am very conscious not to write anything inflammatory about anyone who up until this point has worked hard, with passion and a desire to summit, however I’m sure you can read between the lines to understand our frustration and disappointment that we are having to call off our expedition against the wishes of our 4 members due to certain individuals refusing to go back on the hill.
Whilst as a team of experienced mountaineers, we are keen to head back up the mountain, in order to push as high as we possibly (and safely) can (even if the summit is unattainable), we are also conscious that to do so without any integral experience of the upper slopes of the mountain and the route, would invite unnecessary risk. Whilst mountaineering (and K2 especially) is a risky pursuit, we are conscious of our friends and family, who want to see us back home in one piece. No summit is worth even the tip of a little finger.
All day today we’ve had meetings and brainstorming sessions trying to find any opportunity to mount another attempt at the summit. We’ve tried hiring Sherpas from other teams, rallying Pakistani HAPs and even considering an Alpine style ascent. Unfortunately all options have been refused or shut down for various reasons (including risk) and half an hour ago we reluctantly called for 60 porters to come to BC so that we can start making the long journey back towards civilisation.
It will take us around 10 days to get back to the UK, and without the excitement of forward progress (up the hill), my blogs may become less regular. Whilst there is a certain amount of relief that we’ve finally made a decision (regardless of whether it’s our preferred decision), and obviously I can’t wait to see my family, I am disappointed about the outcome of the expedition. No summit is ever guaranteed on an expedition, but to have the opportunity snatched away from you (even due to unforeseen and unavoidable reasons) without ever giving it a ‘real go’, is a huge shame. I was feeling strong when i reached C3 on Saturday, and had every intention on staying and continuing (especially considering the mountain had ‘shed its load’ on those slopes). I have huge respect for the Sherpas I was climbing with on the day, and there was no question of me questioning their decision to descend (I certainly wasn’t going to stay there alone) – however I (and many others) do think that there was a degree of ‘group think’, and the decisions of some affected the thought process of others. I had plenty more to give, and I think that the mountain would have allowed me my efforts. As I write this, I look up at the mountain, thinking that today, at this time, according to our schedule, we would have been summiting (bar any other issues further up). The summit is looking serene and calm, with hardly a breath of wind. The weather is looking equally calm for tomorrow as well.
K2 may have the moniker of the ‘Savage Mountain’, but that implies some sort of ‘intention to damage’ from the hill itself. Not at all – it is a benign being, it doesn’t punish, it doesn’t reward. It is we humans who put ourselves in harms way by chasing our dreams on its slopes. It is our (collective) decisions which are the building blocks and complete cause of any triumph or tragedy, or in this case travesty which occurs on this mountain.
We Brits leave with our heads held high, especially where many leave with their tails between their legs. We remained committed until the very end, but at the same time aren’t willing to take unnecessary risk for the sake of it. Whilst we may not return with a summit, we return with our pride.
The 2016 K2 season may be remembered for many things – statistically, whilst there may have been no summits, there were also no deaths or serious injuries. In our minds, of the 112 permits issued at the start of the season, today, there were only 5 or 6 people (4 of which are us), who still wanted to head back up, and we leave because we have to, not because we want to.
I’ve now spent over 4 months of my life on the Baltoro Glacier. It is one of the most uncomfortable and harsh, yet utterly spectacular environments to have spent time on. I can’t recommend this place more to others – if you get the opportunity to come to Pakistan and the Karakoram, then please do. K2 is majestic and it has been an honour to climb on it, not once but twice. Goodbye my friend, you may not have ever noticed little old me, but I will never forget you. I think that it’s unlikely that I’ll be back. Thank you for the journey and the experience.
I take this opportunity to thank my team mates, Di, Paul and Pete – we gave it a good go, perhaps not our all, but we did it with good humour (most of the time!) and we had a desire to keep going long after others threw in the towel.
A huge thank you to all my sponsors for your belief and support – IDG, Patron Capital Partners, Bremont, The Thomson Frasier Group, Cotswold Barristers, Paul V and the Organisation you represent, Arqiva, The Royal Gloucestershire Hussars Association, Wessex RFCA, the individuals who contributed (you know who you are), and Mountain Hardwear and Snow and Rock for all the kit you provided.
To all my friends who’ve sent messages of support throughout the expedition – your messages have given me strength and heart. An extra special shout out to Matt and Ben at IDG who’ve been keeping the blog and social media updated and to Vicks Nicholson of Walking With The Wounded (amongst the many hats she wears) who has been a huge support and great friend throughout.
A big thank you to everyone who has contributed to the fundraising for Walking With The Wounded. I’m not sure what the last total was, but I look forward to continuing the fundraising for this fantastic charity, so that they can continue doing the amazing work that they do in support of wounded ex-service people transitioning into work in the civilian world. It’s a travesty that they have to exist, but thank goodness that they do.
The biggest thank you is to all my family, especially my wife Saskia and our daughter Ottalie. To have whole heartedly supported my dream in this endeavour can’t have been easy, especially given the amount I’m away from home anyway. I am blessed to have you both, and can’t wait for our next addition (arriving in around 3 months). Sometimes I think that I’ve had it easy out here, only having to worry about not getting bored in BC or falling off a mountain – you’ve had to deal with a demanding full time job and a demanding 2 year old at the same time. You’ve never complained, you’ve always been full of support for my mad endeavour, and my reason for coming home is 2 fold (or should that be 3 fold now!). Well girls, I can finally say that I’m coming home, and I can’t wait.
Jake Meyer 2016 K2 Expedition fundraising in support of Walking With The Wounded
Please note, that Jake’s comments are his alone (as are his spelling and grammar mistakes and poor jokes), and do not represent the views of any of the Sponsors, Expedition affiliates or Expedition Team Members. All praise/complaints to Jake on his safe return.
More K2 blogs:
Although the summit attempt is over, there is still a challenge ahead: getting everything and everyone safely off the mountain…
The Savage Mountain maintains its reputation, as Jake and the team’s worst fears are confirmed as they reach Camp 3.
In wild and windy conditions, Jake bravely leaves Camp 2 and battles his way up the mountain.
Jake’s summit attempt begins, and he is joined by an enjoyable partner – clear skies and warm sunshine!
Just before he left to make his summit attempt, we put to Jake some questions that had been sent in for him via Twitter, Facebook and the K2 2016 newsletter.
Day 40: Basecamp 5000m… but not for long!
Clear blue skies and an encouraging weather forecast mean that Jake and the team are making their final preparations for their attempt to reach the summit of K2!
Day 38 & 39: Basecamp 5000m
With the day of the summit attempt just round the corner, the team enjoy some birthday cake before the final dramatic push begins!
Day 36 & 37: Basecamp 5000m
As the team wait out some bad weather in basecamp, Jake ruminates on just how dependent on the weather gods a successful summit attempt is…
Day 35: Basecamp 5000m
Jake has gone from the visceral thrill of climbing up to 7300m, to getting excited about KitKats and margerita-flavoured jelly shots…
Day 34 – Basecamp Rest Day, 5000m
The weather report says that summit winds are 75 knots today. However galling it was to have to come all the way back down the mountain, we definitely made the right decision.
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