K2 Expedition 2018
Day 7: Paiju (3400m) to Khobutse (3800m)
The route out of Paiju takes you away from the last trees that we’ll see for some time, along the north side of the valley to the start (or should that be end) of the Baltoro Glacier. When one thinks of a Glacier, you normally picture a brilliant white river of ice, punctuated by yawning crevasses and jagged seracs.
The Baltoro however is very different, in that the vast majority of the ice is hidden underneath morraine, which ranges from house sized boulders to fine sand. The natural erosion and deposition actions here layers billions of tonnes of rock onto the surface of the glacier, all of which is slowly, almost imperceptibly moving down the valley. Of course this very action is what is creating these valleys here.
Climbing onto the terminal morraine on the north side of the valley, you then need to cross to the south side. There is a feint path, a line of least resistance, which leads through and over the glacier. Most of the time it is relatively easy to follow, especially when you can see porters in front of you. Occasionally you need pay attention, especially where the trail becomes less obvious, and several options present themselves.
Having experienced ‘getting lost’ on the route before, it’s certainly not something that I want to repeat. Not because there is any particular jeopardy, but more because you end up having to do twice as much work to get back on trail.
Fortunately Tomo and I managed to keep on the right line for the vast majority of the route, and thus minimised any more work than was absolutely necessary. We were moving fast, and weren’t taking any breaks, which meant we reached Liligo (3700m), our ‘lunch stop’, after only about 2 hours 45 minutes. The last of the group reached the same point after 6 hours 30mins. Again, I reiterate that it’s not a race, and as long as you get somewhere safely, it doesn’t really matter how long it takes.
To be fair, some of the team have be suffering from the inevitable stomach issues, which really takes it out of you. Fortunately I’m yet to be affected, and long may that continue! I reckon for most, it’s more about the significant change in diet and different personal stomach tolerances, as we’ve all been eating the same food and drinking from the same water sources.
Continuing up from Liligo to Khobutse (3800m) wasn’t particularly far, and only took another 1 hour 15 (for me and Tomo). We did need to affect an impromptu river crossing, and it was lucky that both of us had sandals with us, and we just took off our shoes, socks (and in my case trousers) to wade through. Some of the others unfortunately didn’t have any alternative footwear with them, and they had to wade through in their boots/shoes – which means that they’ll have a job drying them out this evening.
Khobutse is rather a gritty camp compared with Paiju. No trees, or obvious greenery, just a few man-made rock terraces built on the side of the valley, overlooking the glacier. Arriving in the rain, we quickly put up the mess tent and sheltered inside until it abates, before putting up the rest of the tents. As we get higher up the glacier, the temperature is becoming more and more at the mercy of the sun (or lack there of) and wind. Overcast with wind, and it’s absolutely freezing; moments later, the wind drops and the sun comes out, and you strip down to a tshirt. I suspect that the down jacket is going to become a more regular item of clothing from here on up.
As I finish writing this, the later evening sun has come out, to make a last ditch attempt to illuminate the incredible environment that surrounds us. On the opposite (north) side of the glacier are the incredible granite peaks of the Trango group, Main Cathedral and Lobsang Spire. They rise over 2000m above us, with sheer rock dominating most of their faces. The fact that they are only lightly dusted white with snow is not an indication of little precipitation, but of their sheer steepness. You can’t help but be awed by your surroundings here – peaks that might constitute a lifetimes climbing ambition are abound in every direction. This is why I think that the Baltoro trek (regardless of any climbing target) is the most amazing and inspirational in the world.
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