Log of the trek to K2

1. Along the Braldu River: Tongol to Piaju  

2. The Baltoro Glacier.  3. The Retreat

15th August 2001:

This was the second day we had trundled along to Islamabad Airport to catch the plane to Skardu only to be turned away because Nanga Parbat was in cloud and the pilots refused to fly. Yesterday we had even got our boarding passes and moved through the barrier only to be turned back.

We could not afford to wait another day so it was off in the bus along the Karakorum Highway to Chilias then the next day to Skardu. It was a long haul but a better way to see the country. Mid afternoon we met the mighty Indus. A huge mass of dark gray swirling water. Then it was just bumping along till we reached the hotel at Chilias at midnight. It was a tiring journey, the suspension on the bus was very hard and we felt every bump. Dave, one of the trekkers, was feeling crook and we had to stop for him to throw up. It must have been worse for him.

 Indus

16th August 2001:

We were up at 0545 for another bumpy day in the bus. It was through impressive country along the Indus. It was a very dry and parched landscape.

We arrived in Skardu at about 1600 and went to the K2 hotel. It is in a lovely spot with gardens and lawns lookingout over the river and surrounding mountains. I was able to phone home from here and we all tried on the crampons we would need for the Gondogoro La. We also had a talk from the head of the trekking company who had summited K2.

Most of the group went into town but I stayed to charge my batteries for the video. It was pleasant just to relax in the grounds, admire the view and have a pipe.

 K2Hotel

17th August 2001:

Today we all piled into three Jeeps for the trip to Tongol which was to be the start of the walk. We sped down the Indus to a bridge then crossed to sandy wastelands and then on to the town of Shigar where we stopped for a rest and a look round. It was an interesting village with irrigation canals and a mosque being rebuilt.

We continued up the river till we came to the first of four wash aways for the day. Here we had to leave our three jeeps and walk across. As the jeeps could not follow we had to get another lift the other side and there was only one jeep available. It was standing room only for us in the back which was uncovered. There were 12 trekkers plus some of the staff. It was a squashed but exciting 

 ShigarMosque
Soon the valley narrowed and the track took us high above the swirling Braldu River. Some of the “s? bends were so sharp the driver had to do a 3 point turn to get us round. The reversing sections of these turns had us rolling backwards towards the precipice with the drivers mate running behind us with a large rock which he rammed under the rear wheels for a brake. The brakes only seemed to slow us down. On one steep section we stalled and as we rolled backwards towards the river the driver clutch started the engine. If it hadn't started I hate to think where we would have ended up. The tyres were smooth but we got away with only one puncture.

We stopped in an apricot grove for lunch. It was good to stretch our legs and have a feed but we were soon all standing in the back of that jeep again for the last leg to Tongol

 JeepLoaded

We got there about 1700. The camp was already up and Joe's luggage had arrived. He had been separated from it before Lahore. It was a pleasant spot with grass and trees. It is always nice to get to the start of a trek knowing all the harrowing stuff is over and all that lay ahead was to walk, take photos eat and sleep.

My sleep that night was interrupted by a stirring in the bowels, not of the Earth. The toilet was about 150m across the camp and it was pitch dark so I set off with my torch. Unfortunately half way across the bulb blew. By this time I was quite anxious to go, but the thought of floundering around in the dark in these rather crude toilets was not encouraging so I headed back to the tent.

 JeepTurn
This was not so easy without my lamp and by the time I found our tent my bowel was screaming for release. I barged in waking Nigel, with whom I was sharing, and started rummaging around for my spare bulb. It was not to be found, but seeing my distress Nigel lent me his torch. This was an act of great charity as it could meet several fates in the Bogs of the Braldu, all of which would have made it a less attractive to touch. I hurried off again and came back with a smile on my face and a clean torch in my hand. 

18th August 2001:

It was a long mornings walk to Korophon. First we passed through the only village we were to see, Askole. We had been walking about an hour along the dry dusty Braldu valley so it was good to see the green of Askole. It was a fairly large village and was teeming with children walking beside the irrigation canals. We were invited to the “King? of Askole's house to eat hard boiled eggs, and have a cup of tea. Apparently the “King? controls the coming and goings in the valley via the "toll bridge" and we were well advised to be polite to him. All the eggs were eaten.

We continued up the valley in the heat. It was fairly level walking and very pleasant. Most of us were walking in running shoes. After a few hours the snout of the Biafo Glacier came in sight. It was covered in rubble but was easy to cross and by 1400 we were at our camp site having lunch.

 TongolCamp
It was a good campsite but there was a cold wind blowing down the glacier from Snow Lake, explored by Erik Shipton many years ago. It was here I discovered that washing was optional. I asked the leader, Pip for washing water, she asked me what I wanted to wash for. The truth was that I didn't but I just thought it was the done thing. I decided to remain dirty, at least for a while. Washing on a trek is always a chore and usually uncomfortable in a blasting icy wind so this was a bonus for this trip.  bridge

19th August 2001:

We were up at 0530 for the walk to Bradumal. Once the sun was up it got really hot but the walking was quite easy.

I had been feeling a bit uneasy about the crossing of the Dumordo River since reading Sorrel Wilby's account of the crossing but it turned out to be a non event. There was a good low level track that had been blasted out of the rock so we did not have to scale the cliff from the high level track. We had a good view of this cliff and it looked horrendous. The path went upstream for about 1Km to a good bridge and we were soon across and heading back to the Braldu

 drumordobridge

The rest of the walk was uneventful except for a short section where we had to scale a small cliff above the river. The porters helped us up but once up there was a bit of a traverse that looked a bit dodgy to me. However there was no time to think about it as a porter grabbed my hand and scuttled across with me in tow running across the near vertical cliff face. It was with some relief that I found myself on the flat again.

We got to camp about 1500. It was a pleasant spot by the river, deep in the gorge with craggy wind eroded towers all around.

 cliff

20th August 2001:

It was another hot day but we only had to walk to Piaju near the snout of the Baltoro Glacier, and that was only about three and a half hours walk away.

At one point we had to cross a glacial stream that was running high with melt water. It is always a slow business with a large group but there was no hurry and we sat and admired the view and I managed to get some good video of the crossing. However, it did my feet no good and a blister that had been happily expanding between my toes burst.

 creek crossing

We were in camp at about 1030 so it was like having a rest day. I patched up my feet, did some washing and relaxed and took in the views over the snout of the glacier.

That evening we had the end of trek party. I don't really know why we had it in the early stages of the trek but it was enjoyable even without any alcohol. I took extensive video of the whole thing with Pip carrying the lantern around to provide light. Sadly ,and to my lasting shame, I had the camera set in “still? mode so I ended up with just one still and no video. I went to bed happy as I was not aware of this till we got back to the hotel in Islamabad and had a look at the tapes.

 snout
21st August 2001:

Today was a rest day which as usual means a strenuous climb and today we went up to Piaju Peak base camp. It was a very steep climb over loose scree and it was good for acclimatization. There were good views from the high point along the Baltoro Glacier which just looked like a dark steam of rubble. The descent was fast and fun. Long strides in the loose sandy scree took us cascading down with long slides like skiing. We were back at camp for lunch.

It was a pleasant afternoon in the sun, relaxing and reading. There was also a game of cricket but I just watched being no match for the Pakistanis. My tent mate, Nigel, was feeling a bit knackered after the days climb. I did not realize at the time how bad he was feeling. These rest days really take it out of you.

 The Baltoro Glacier

Piaju to Concordia

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22nd August 2001:

Todays walk took us onto the Baltoro Glacier itself and across to the camp on the southern side called Khuburtse. Sadly Nigel was to leave us today as yesterdays activity seemed to have a bad affect on his pulse. I was sad to see him go as he was a good tent mate and good to walk with, although he was much faster than me. At least I now had a tent to myself.

The walk took us to the snout of the glacier then we had to climb it. All around looked like a pile of rubble with ice showing through in places . It was quite steep at first and following the faint trail was difficult. Soon a light rain started to fall and up went the umbrellas and everyone sang “Singing in the Rain? whilst I videoed them as the umbrellas spun.

 snout close

We had lunch at Lilligo in the faltering rain and walked on to the camp in the afternoon. From Khuburtse there were incredible views of the mountain groups lining the southern edge of the Baltoro, the Cathedral group, Trango Towers and Lobsang Spire.It was a pleasant camp site with melt water flowing along a small stream from the ice above.

There were areas where you had to watch your footing. The danger was not falling but treading in someones turd. Chris was feeling unwell and not enjoying himself and seemed determined to go back tomorrow.

 lilligo

23rd August 2001:

Chris headed off down at this point.

It was a fairly easy mornings walk to Urdarkus in poor weather. The cloud was clinging around the peaks and the lighting was rather sombre. It was still an interesting walk which crossed two small icy side glaciers.

We were at the camp site for lunch but it was a wet afternoon and I spent most of it in the tent. When it stopped I ventured out for a bit of a walk up the hill behind the camp. I was greeted with a “ho ho ho? from the porter who had become known to us as the flower man as he always had a sprig of native shrubbery growing about his clothing.

 small glacier
He led me up the hill to a large boulder which he scampered up despite it still being wet and slippery. Communication was by means of grunts and hand signals but I gathered he wanted me to go up there as well. I got up to the lowest bit that would satisfy him that I was up . There was a good view of the Baltoro in the swirling mists and Trango Towers loomed as sinister shadows on the other side. I slithered off and waited for “Flower Man? to come down. As the rock was slippery he decided to take off his shoes, which were a sort of wellington boot, and hurl them down to me. Sadly he was not as good at hurling as he was at scampering, and while one of them arrived safely the other disappeared into a chasm under the boulder.  urdukas
We both peered into the depths but it was not visible and there was no way down. Jim, Judy and Jo arrived about this time but there was nothing they could do. Losing a shoe here is a serious matter, although flower man was still chuckling he looked a bit concerned. We said we would have a word with Rhamat to get him another shoe and went back to the camp.

24th August 2001:

We awoke to a dank morning with low cloud and light rain. This delayed our start as everyone was hoping the rain would clear so we didn't get going till about 0900.

We left the banks of the glacier and headed out across the rubble and ice, passed small icy canyons with creeks of ice melt flowing through them. I found the going quite tough as I had a cold developing and was starting to feel the effects of altitude. The low cloud obscured all the peaks but at least the rain had eased. By lunch time I felt on my last legs but the food got me going again. The lunch spot was uncomfortable on the rocky glacier but it was a spectacular site and the cloud was lifting a bit and the mist clearing.

 ice canyon

The afternoon was a steady plod along the middle of the Glacier to Goro 2 where we made our camp at 4500m. The cloud started to break and we had a view of the summit of Masherbrum but looking up toward Concordia there were just peaks ascending into the cloud.

25th August 2001:

It was only a half days walk to the camp at Concordia but I was feeling too stuffed to enjoy it. The altitude was making it's effect felt and on top of the cold I found it a real slog. I just wanted to get to the camp and rest. As we made our way up the Glacier, Broad Peak came into view and soon we were staring at K2 and Gasherbrum 4 was right in front of us. The weather was fine and it was a splendid place to be but I still felt that I would rather be at home. Once in camp I felt better mentally but the cold and cough was making it hard to move about. Tomorrow was to be a rest day which I badly needed.

 masherbrum

 

26th August 2001:

A rest day at Concordia. Weather was fine with brilliant views of the big peaks all around. My cold was no better and I felt bad but at least there was no walking to do. Others played high altitude cricket. Seeing I can't play even at low altitudes so I just watched and filmed. Tomorrow is proposed to set off for K2 base camp. I don't feel like I will be able to make it.

26th August 2001:

A rest day at Concordia. Weather was fine with brilliant views of the big peaks all around. My cold was no better and I felt bad but at least there was no walking to do. Others played high altitude cricket. Seeing I can't play even at low altitudes so I just watched and filmed. Tomorrow is proposed to set off for K2 base camp. I don't feel like I will be able to make it.

 g4

26th August 2001:

A rest day at Concordia. Weather was fine with brilliant views of the big peaks all around. My cold was no better and I felt bad but at least there was no walking to do. Others played high altitude cricket. Seeing I can't play even at low altitudes so I just watched and filmed. Tomorrow is proposed to set off for K2 base camp. I don't feel like I will be able to make it.

27th August 2001:

Not a good day for me. I made an attempt to leave with the group for K2 base camp but the first uphill I came to had me puffing, wheezing and coughing and making very slow progress.

Pip said I should go back to camp before they took all the tents down. I made it back and collapsed in my tent with light snow squalls blowing around. I just wanted to rest and found it an effort to eat the food the cook enthusiastically served me.I spent most of the day in my sleeping bag getting up occasionally to admire the surroundings. It was a lonely day but I was too sick to worry about that and enjoyed the solitude.

 cricket

28th August 2001:

I had a solid but cool nights sleep and woke feeling a bit better. The weather had cleared and there were magnificent views all around. I spent the day resting, taking photos and video, reading and listening to music. There was a good rock above my tent to sit an and admire my position.

Tomorrow was scheduled to head for the Gondogoro La but it seemed unlikely I would be fit enough for that.

Eventually some of my fellow trekkers began to return from their trip toward K2 with the news that Jim was suffering with a bad case of altitude sickness. He was eventually guided in looking weak, wobbly and pale.

It looked like there would be two of us heading back down the Baltoro. It turned out he was suffering from a cerebral edema and needed to get lower and I was in no state to go higher, although I still harbored hopes that the morning would find me fit and well.

 k2

The Retreat

Jim and I return down the Baltoro

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29th August 2001:

The group split this morning with everyone but Jim and me going up to Ali camp on their way to the Gondogoro La. We had a cook and some porters and Aslem the guide so we were well catered for. The only thing that we were missing were spoons. Not a great loss and we managed ok but thought enviously about the main group with spoons to spare.

I was really looking forward to the adventure of the pass but I was just not fit enough and even heading down was hard going. Jim seemed to be going better than me and I trailed along at the back of our small group. The Baltoro is not a flat glacier and there were many hillocks to climb, each one knocking the stuffing our of me.

We passed Goro 2 and kept going to Goro 1 which was a similar camp on the rubble of the glacier.

 ice gully

30th August 2001:

Another seemingly long slog over glacial rubble. We had lunch below our outward camp at Udurkus then carried on down to Kherbutse where we made camp.

It was very different being there with such a small group. The excitement, noise and numbers of the outward trek had gone and it was very peaceful. We were happy to be sleeping off the glacier and although I was still finding it tough I was beginning to enjoy it again.

 glacial rubble

31st August 2001:

Feeling better today and was able to enjoy the walk although I still regretted not being able to go over the pass. These treks always have the possibility that not everything will go as planned.

We walked on down to Paiju. As we were getting lower it was getting warmer again but the afternoon clouded in and we had a few showers and welcome cool.

The camp was packed this time and we had to camp in a windy spot on the edge of the camp. There were the usual festivities among those groups going up so we wandered over after eating and compared notes with other trekkers. By this point I was glad we were heading down even though my cold was abating.

 small camp

1st September 2001:

Another long hot haul back down the Braldu Valley. As we had set out quite early the creek that we had to de-boot to cross on the way up was still low enough to hop across, as its upper reaches would still have been frozen. The main river was also lower and we did not need to climb the small cliff to get round the block up. Lunch was a perfect shady spot among the only trees to be seen.The afternoons walk was not so long but we were glad to get to the Drumodo River and Jola camp. We actually had a wash here and did some washing.
 lunch shade

2nd September 2001:

This was to be our last days walking and it was just a long slog in the heat. We started early to avoid the worst of it but we were soon toiling in the oppressive heat. It was refreshing to see the green of Askole again after all the hard rock and ice. The final haul from here to the end of the trek at Tongol seemed to go on for ever but we got in about 1430. About an hour later we were into the land cruiser for the drive out.There was only one washout this time, the other three had been repaired, and this involved crossing a raging torrent on two split logs. The next jeep took us to the nights camp at about 1730.We camped in a school ground and had the best feed for a week as there was food on the jeep. We had chicken and a delicious melon which we ate on the school porch and watched the moon rise over the surrounding hills.
 askole

3rd September 2001:

It was a long drive in the jeep, on which I accidentally left my trekking pole, back to Skardu and then to the K2 Motel where we met up with the rest of the group. We then had the tipping ceremony and said goodbye to the staff. Next we drove of to our nights accommodation which was in the form of a dilapidated theme park called Shangrila. The showers were cold but at least we could get clean. Whilst I was showering the wind blew the window in which smashed on the floor. Good to be back in civilization!
 last camp

4th September 2001:

Awoke to a rainy day which meant the flight back to Islamabad was cancelled and it was back into the dreaded bouncing bus for two days. The road was washed away at one point which caused our driver some anxiety as he studied the road for about half an hour before driving across to the the cheers of all on the bus.There were some good views of Nanga Parbat on the way to Chilias where we stayed in the Indus View Hotel again. There was warm water here but no power so it was showers by candle light. Had a jolly evening with some of the local beverage.
 washaway

5th September 2001:

We were up at 0500 for the gruelling bus trip back to Rawalpindi. We were in a better bus with better suspension so it was not too bad except for the doubtful choice of music being played by some of my fellow trekkers. I plugged into my own music but it was swamped by the bus's PA system.

We had our final dinner by the pool in the hotel. These are always a happy occasions, tinged with sadness that it is all over.

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