K2 Expedition 2018

Jake’s K2 Blog #11: Arrival at basecamp

Concordia to Basecamp

Apologies for the lack of comms over the past few days – we’ve had constant snowfall for the last 4 days, and it’s only just letting up today (although there is still the occasional flurry).

Having had the most incredible views of K2, Broad Peak and many other mountains the day we arrived at Concordia, those became a fleeting glimpse, as a low cloud and precipitation closed in upon us.

We had a rest day at Concordia the day after we arrived, as a chance for the trekkers to acclimatise. Mr Baig (our trekking guide) and 3 of the Sherpas went up to our Basecamp, with around 50 porter loads of equipment and supplies (much of it on mules).

The traditional K2 and Broad Peak Basecamps are around 4-5km apart, at the foot of their respective mountains. As we have a split team, with some for K2 and some for Broad Peak, we’ve decided to have a single Basecamp roughly halfway between the two traditional basecamps, so that we can share the amenities of a single basecamp.

This of course has its pros and cons… On the positive front, it means that as an extended team, we’re sticking together. On the flip side, it does mean that we have a half an hour walk to get to either main Basecamp (when we want to go and see the other teams). Whilst this doesn’t seem much, it certainly means that you need to make a concerted effort to visit, rather than just strolling over in your pyjamas for a cup of tea.

The first view of our Basecamp (joint K2 and Broad Peak

The first view of our Basecamp (joint K2 and Broad Peak)

Our rest day in Concordia was just that. With constant snow fall all day, we really just bounced between our own tents and the mess tent (with considerably more time spent in the former). I am certainly thankful that I downloaded lots of Amazon Prime and Netflix series and films onto my iPhone and iPad. Thus far this trip, I’ve finished the second series of Designated Survivor, a series of House of Cards and I’m now halfway through Altered Carbon. Hard work this expedition lark…!

The following day (Thursday 28th), we trekked from Concordia up to our Basecamp. We said goodbye to Dave and Debbie, two of our trekkers, who quite understandably decided not to go up to Basecamp, especially considering the heavy snowfall and very low visibility. Terry and John however did accompany us, with the aim of not only reaching K2 BC, but spending a night there.

The conditions were less than ideal, with us trudging though 12 inches of snow, with most of it on unconsolidated rock, which meant that you were never quite sure what was underneath, and there was plenty of slipping, sliding and the occasional unceremonious faceplant as a result. The progress was painfully slow, and the trek, which some of us probably could have done in 2.5 hours in good conditions, took us 4.5 hours. For a number of us (myself included) who were wearing trainers, it did mean that our feet were soaking very quickly, although thankfully, the low cloud cover and lack of wind meant that it wasn’t too cold.

Jake Enroute to Basecamp

Jake Enroute to Basecamp

Arriving in BC, we were very impressed with what the advanced party had achieved – various mess and dining tents put up, as well as 10 personal tents (for team members and the Sherpas). All of our expedition kit had safely arrived (which meant we could have our first proper change of clothes in 9 days!), and fortunately was under a tarp, so was dry.

As BC will be our home for the next 5 weeks, we’re now in individual tents – so poor Tomo and I have been separated. Having individual three man tents, we hardly know what to do with ourselves – it feels bigger than my first flat! That is until I brought my 3 kit bags inside – and suddenly it was back to minimal floorspace!

The next day, Friday the 29th, the snow continues to fall. We can hear regular avalanches on the mountains l around us – there is no danger to us, but they do sound rather ominous – a bit like living next to a noisy train line. Terry and John headed back this morning. There had been a plan for them to go and visit The Gilkey Memorial (more about that in future blogs), but with the conditions as they are, there was no point.

I think that both the boys were also quite keen to head back to Concordia, as that meant that they were on their way home. The conditions mean that they (and Dave and Debbie) will go back down the Baltoro the way they came up, rather than over the Gondogoro La Pass (5600m), which would certainly be the preferred, shorter and more interesting route out.

With their departure, it meant that we were now down to the core of the climbing teams – Dan as Leader, Me and Tomo for K2, and Dimitri, Bond and Sauori for Broad Peak, plus 3 Sherpas for each team.

By the sounds of things, K2 has been fixed beyond Camp 2 (6700m) by the Japanese (and possibly as far as C3 (7300m)), and Broad Peak has been fixed to Camp 3 (Top Camp, 7300m) predominantly by a German Team. The Germans are now ready for a summit push on Broad Peak, and have called for their porters to come to BC on the 14th July, meaning that they have only 2 weeks to get a decent weather window to make their summit push.

It seems that all teams (both on K2 and Broad Peak) have been frustrated by the bad weather over the last few days, and it looks like the current conditions will have kept teams off both mountains for 7-9 days.

Saturday 30th started with snow (big surprise!) but this eased off by mid morning. Even though we are ensconced in low cloud, the sun is incredibly powerful, and it’s actually quite warm. Today has been a major BC admin day. Properly fixing the mess and dining tents (which means building decent foundations of rock and gravel to great a hard base.

The key to a good mess tent is a solid (and flat) foundation! Levelling the floor in the tents, before putting a liner in it for insulation

The key to a good mess tent is a solid (and flat) foundation! Levelling the floor in the tents, before putting a liner in it for insulation

The moment you start doing any physical work outside, you have to take off your fleece or jacket – in fact, I spent a great deal of today without a shirt on at all, and in shorts – rather bizarre considering there is 18inches of snow everywhere! We’ve also put up the big Mountain Hardwear Dome tent – which we’ll be using as our ‘chill tent’. I used it on my last K2 trip, and it was the perfect ‘day tent’ for lazy BC days – it heats up like a greenhouse, and is a lovely place to relax and read a book – or, new for this season, listen to music on proper speakers!

I’ve also had a chance to wash myself (properly!) and my clothes. We’ve got a solar shower in a small shower tent, and whilst you’re limited to around 6 litres of water, if frugal, it’s more than enough for a decent soap and rinse. With a trim of my moustache (it was getting in the way of my food) and a liberal spritz of deodorant, I feel a new man – ready for a night out on the tiles!

The weather report indicates that the weather should improve for Monday the 2nd, and hopefully by then the current snow will have settled and they’ll be minimal avalanche risk. This should mean that we’ll be able to start getting on our respective mountains – which will be great. It seems to have taken so long to get to this point, that it’s almost easy to forget why we’re here in the first place. Apparently just sitting at the bottom of a mountain isn’t enough. Such is the rod that we’ve made for ourselves.

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