K2 Climb 2016
Blog #16: “It honestly feels like my brain is in a vice…”
26/06/16: Day 16 – Basecamp to Advanced Base Camp return, 5300m.
Please note that the team are currently having problems with the expedition laptop and expedition email address, and cannot send or receive emails. If you are a family member and need to contact one of the team, please use the text number, or contact Stu or Neil at Adventure peaks to relay a message.
Last night was no better than the night before. When I lie down, it honestly feels like my brain is in a vice. Twice during the night I got up to take paracetamol – which helped for a time, but the pain came back a couple of hours later. It’s not due to dehydration, as I’m drinking lots and my pee is clear.
This morning we had an early breakfast as we we’re heading up to dump some kit at Advanced Base Camp (ABC). Most of the route is across the glacier, so we wanted to get an early start in order hit the ice whilst it was still frozen.
We had a hearty breakfast of pancakes and maple syrup and just as we were getting ready to leave and the others were talking about having a quick number 2 before departure (no need to carry any extra weight), I let out a small fart. Unfortunately it wasn’t just a fart. Even though my bowels have been really healthy during this trip, I knew immediately that this wasn’t good. With a frantic waddle to the toilet tent (via Paul to get some wet wipes) and my tent to get a clean pair of underwear, I was able to ‘complete the movement’, clean up and change my under crackers… what a start to the day. There I was thinking that I was immune to what had been affecting all of the others during the walk in from Askole. Cleaned up and reset ready for the walk to ABC, the motto of the day became ‘don’t trust a fart!’.
The route to ABC took us up along the BC moraine, and then out onto the ice of the glacier. As this section is relatively flat, there are very few crevasses, and they are certainly not big enough to worry about having to be roped up. After about 44km of very gentle incline, we reached a steep rise in the valley floor, which turned the flat ice into a jumble and maze of huge ice structures. Fortunately the route was marked with bamboo canes, which made it easier to follow, and it wasn’t long until we were putting on our crampons to help us make our way safely through the icefall.
It took us just over 2 hours to reach ABC, which considering my headache and guts was considerably harder work than it should have been. ABC is a little bit of a misnomer as we are unlikely to stay there, but use it as a cache for our kit for the mountains. A more appropriate name would be Deposit Camp – and it wasn’t long until I had to make a deposit of my own there.
We put up a couple of tents and then stashed things like spare sleeping bags, food and other kit that we would only need on the mountain. The way back was tiring due to the heat on the glacier, as well as the slushiness of the snow underfoot. You had to pick your route carefully, and aim for more solid snow underfoot, otherwise you could find yourself sinking up to your knees in the soft snow. All in all, we were up and down within about 5 hours. It is certainly significantly further than the start of the Cesen where you could be on the route within an hour from BC. Hopefully over the next few weeks, as we go up and down the mountain more times, the trail will be easier, and we’ll be travelling faster as we get more used to the altitude.
The rest of the day was relatively relaxed (despite my numerous trips to the loo). We had some visitors in the shape of two diplomats from two different High Commissions/Embassies from Islamabad. I won’t specifically mention their names or nationalities (although both are represented by my step-mother!), for their own security. We had met one of them in Islamabad when we’d arrived, and he had said that he was doing the K2 BC trek – so it was great to see a friendly face, and welcome them to our humble camp (he was particularly impressed by the Ops Tent.
Di spent most of the afternoon trying to sort out the expedition computer. The expedition laptop is the only formal method of the team sending or receiving emails (fortunately I have my own means) – and after much deliberation (and blaming of the dodgy Chinese generator that we have), we realised that the problem was with a faulty laptop charging cable. This means that currently we have no means of charging the laptop and therefore sending/receiving emails to the expedition email address (again, separate from mine). This is a real embuggerance, not just because the other team members can’t get their emails, but we can’t do things like get our weather reports, which is vital for deciding on when to plan our trips up and down the mountain. We do still have the expedition Satphone, as a last resort, and can share weather reports with other teams – fortunately there is that sense of partnership here in BC.
In the afternoon, we had a rare moment of both warmth in BC, and visibility of the mountain, and along with the prayer flags that the Sherps had strung up between the tents, we thought that it would be the perfect opportunity for a team photo. I had had some expedition t-shirts made in the UK before we left, and these were handed out. All of the boys had blue t-shirts and Di had a pink one (before anyone accuses me of being deliberately gender-stereotypical – I had asked Di what colour she wanted, and she asked for pink!). The expedition logo (designed by the brilliant Jess at IDG) is circular with an image of the mountain on top of the Union Flag (due to this being the first formal British organised and led expedition to K2 for 12 years). Although JB is very much an honorary Brit for this trip, I had had one of the t-shirts printed with a maple leaf rather than a Union Flag for him. The Sherps and the HAPs certainly weren’t fussy about wearing a Union Flag on their chests and back, and we’re delighted with a smart new t-shirt. We all lined up underneath the prayer flags, with the mountain behind, and with Zulfi (our cook) in charge of various phones and cameras, eventually managed to get a couple of passable photos.
Tomorrow we are planning on heading up to Camp 1 (6000m). It would just be a quick trip, climb up, dump some stuff and then descend the same day. We’ve decided that to give us the best chance of getting as far as possible whilst everything is still frozen (and therefore easier underfoot), we’ll be leaving BC at 0200. Of course with this plan, it left me with a big decision to make, whether I wanted to join the others in the early start and long day, or still try and rest and recover. I’m still feeling very feverish, and headachy (especially if I’m not doing anything – such as lying down). As the sun went down and the camp started to get cold, I went downhill very quickly. However many layers I was wearing, I couldn’t warm up, and the thought of dinner at 1800 was making my stomach turn.
Resigning myself to the fact that I wouldn’t be joining the others on their trip to Camp 1 tomorrow, it was a bit of a sense of relief, but it didn’t do much to help my symptoms. In the end I went and sat in the cook tent, rather than the dining tent during supper. Despite it being at least 15C (due to the stove heating the tent) in there, and wearing a down jacket, I still couldn’t get warm, and was achy and shiverish. The boys did their best to look after me – however all I wanted was cold water to drink (you soon get bored of all drinks in BC having to be made from boiling water). In the end, they cooled down some green tea for me, I had a fresh mango, which was delicious and some desert, which was a sort of semolina, but incredibly sweet. As it was cold, it actually went down quite well, and I think that I probably ate as much as the rest of the team put together. What’s so nice is the HAPs/Kitchen team’s concern for my welfare, and doing everything they could to help me out.
After a final trip to the loo (still no change – waiting for the course of Cipro antibiotic to kick in), it was into my tent. 1900 felt ridiculously early to be going to bed, but as cold as I was, and this time with two hot water bottles it was a welcome relief, and I fell asleep almost immediately.
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.
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