A long journey to Askole

Flooding makes for long travel as trek to K2 continues

July 04, 2005|By Chris Warner | Chris Warner,Special to Baltimoresun.com

Askole, Pakistan -- We finished repacking all of our gear into porter-sized loads at 1:30 a.m. today.

Figuring it was silly to try to sleep for two hours, we grabbed a last shower and left Skardu at 2:40 a.m.

The trip was magical: with a sky full of stars, a sliver of moon, the shapes of giant peaks towering above us and the roar of the Indus River below. As dawn caught up with us, we were weaving along a dirt road, winding our way up small hills into lushy vegetated, expertly irrigated farming villages. And between these green oases, were stretches of stark desert, walls of unclimbed granite and cobbled river basins, where the road was an ever shifting and sometimes completely washed out intruder.

At dawn we rebuilt the road for the first time, tossing ever smaller boulders into a narrow but rushing river. Hours later, we faced the main brunt of the mighty Braldu River. With a flick of its liquid wrist, it had washed away a section of rock that had somehow clung to a vertical wall of poorly-bonded gravel.

Here we abandoned our pair of jeeps. With the help of our sirdar, cook, cook boy, a porter and the two drivers we shuttled about 40 loads to the next stretch of driveable road.

Three jeeps appeared. They were actually trapped between two land slides, earning a pretty penny by shuttling groups like us to the next wash out.

By the end of our journey, taking 11 hours to go 60 miles, we shuttled between 3 sets of cars, moved a total of 4800 pounds worth of gear, and rebuilt three sections of road. Not bad for a group of climbers and base camp staff that missed a night's sleep.

We are now in Askole, the last village en route to K2. Porters are gathering, hoping to be chosen to carry our gear. They are eager to hike about 65 miles with us, gaining close to 7,000 feet in elevation, carrying 50 pounds of our gear, plus their own, for a grand sum of $65. They will make about $7.30 a day for the next nine days of back breaking, ankle twisting work, in temperatures ranging from 95 degrees down to the teens.

I will send more news form the trail. Tao and I couldn't be any more excited to have this journey actually underway.

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