We left Concordia at 6:30 a.m. and hiked a top the moraine-covered glacier with our train of porters and two German trekkers. Our first stop was Broad Peak's base camp, where we dropped some gear and chatted with some of the assembled teams.
The gang from Field Touring and ATP's international team were happy for the distraction (in stark contrast to some well dressed teams from Europe who seemed to have graduated from an egomaniacs academy: Their sneers, swagger and stylized coifs spoke volumes about their self importance). Perhaps their attitude comes from sitting in base camp for the last week, waiting for better weather. Seems as if some teams have placed tents at Camp 2, while most still haven't strapped on their crampons.
While Tao oversaw the storage of our Broad Peak equipment, I raced onwards to K2. In the few minutes it took him to sip a cup of tea, someone stole our stash of snow anchors. Noticing them missing, he searched and found them hidden between two tents. Of course, everyone claimed innocence. But the message was clear: Broad Peak's base camp is not the nicest place in the Karakorum this year.
In stark contrast is K2's base camp. I reached it seconds ahead of our quickest porters and selected a nice little spot just below the Norwegian team. Within hours of setting up our camp, we met members of nearly every other expedition. Here, the teams seem self-assured and seem genuinely happy to have someone new to talk to and climb with. Assembled on this last stretch of moraine-covered glacier are teams from Poland and Bulgaria, Norway, Ireland, the US, Japan, and the Czech Republic. As the season evolves we expect some old friends from Germany, Kazakhstan and Georgia (as in Soviet Georgia) to spice things up.
July 8th is Tao's birthday. I gave him a piton that I found. It was obviously hard used on K2, scarred as it was pounded into a crack, rusted as it sat there through many a winter, and mangled as it was hacked free by some climber years ago. It may not seem like much, but to us climbers such things are treasured mementos.
We spent his birthday organizing food and gear, hanging with the Norwegians and developing a plan of action.
According to the forecasts, we can expect a small high-pressure system to arrive on Sunday and extend through Monday. Tuesday shows an increase in precipitation and Wednesday calls for the winds to increase. So on Saturday afternoon, we will head over to Broad Peak base camp, collect our gear and establish a temporary camp at the base of the route. On Sunday, perhaps at 3 a.m. we will pack up all the gear and head for Camp 2, at approx. 21,000 feet. On Monday, if we are feeling good, we will climb as high as we can above C2, returning there for a second night. We expect to return to our base camp, in poor weather on Tuesday.
The purpose of this excursion is to get our gear up the mountain and to get our bodies acclimatized. If we pull this off, we will then be ready for a summit bid at the first sign of favorable weather.
All of this might sound fast, and it is, but we are feeling great and both adjust quickly to higher altitudes. It is certainly no less aggressive a schedule then I used on both Lhotse and Shisha Pangma, to great success. In fact on Lhotse, I tagged 23,000 feet, then went all the way down to Kathmandu (3,500 feet), before returning to BC two weeks later and going straight to the summit. On Shisha Pangma, I was about three weeks removed from the US when I summited, having only once touched 20,400 feet before heading for the summit.
But then again, the weather will determine all. As I write this an afternoon snow shower is blanketing the tents. There is something sinister about the Karakorum weather, as soon as you voice an optimistic plan, the clouds darken the sun and snow begins to fall.
Originally published July 8, 2005, 4:20 PM EDT