Text Box: Nicholas Rice
Extreme High Altitude Athlete
Text Box: Xpedition 8000

2008 K2 and Broad Peak Expedition

Dispatch Fifty-one: July 20th, 2008

Day Fifty-one: Hugues Makes Decision to Go Home; Heavy Snowfall

Today, after a late breakfast, Hugues made the final decision to go home. The weather continues to worsen today. Last night there was heavy snow with wind, and today, the snow is blowing horizontally. Hugues and I took refuge in the mess tent, as I worked on transferring data from my website off his computer and called Naiknam on the satellite phone to change his flight (as his visa expires on the 6th of August) and arrange for porters to carry his equipment down to Askole. He will depart from K2 Base camp on the 22nd and hopefully should arrive back in Skardu on the 25th. Also, the three French seem inclined to throw in the towel and head home as well (their flight back to France is August 3rd). K2 is looking like it might not allow any climbers to reach the summit this year. Teams at base camp are growing more pessimistic by the day, and all of our acclimatization is fading as we sit in base camp waiting out weeks of bad weather. Some of Wilco’s group went up to Camp III the other day, and when sleeping in Camp II, three of the five who went up were vomiting and had stomach problems. I question whether, even if a weather window opens after August 3rd, any of us will be fit enough and well enough acclimatized to get to the summit after sitting in stormy weather unable to train and maintain our acclimatization on the mountain. We must also worry about our high camp, as three days of heavy snow and then extremely high winds will certainly test the strength of our tents at Camp III. If the weather forecast remains the same for much longer, I may climb to Camp II, and take down my tent and other equipment, and accept the fact that, in some years, K2 has no summits at all (like 2005). Despite the fact that we had established our Camp III on the Cesan route before the 5th of July, readying ourselves for a summit push should a weather window open up in mid-July (which it normally does), we have been stuck waiting out bad weather in Base Camp for weeks now; only making trips to altitude in order to stay in shape. At this point, it seems the rational thing to do would in fact be to head down to Skardu, and head home. Morale at base camp gets worse by the day, and heavy snow makes the Cesan Route on K2, and the route up Broad Peak (which is already extremely dangerous thanks to rock fall) avalanche prone. It also makes breaking trail up to the col on Broad Peak an extremely challenging feat. That being said, I still have plans to make an attempt on Broad Peak, as after investing two months of my life here preparing my body for the perils of 8000 meters, it is quite difficult to go home without having made a proper summit bid at the very least. As Wilco holds onto the glimmer of hope that the drop in the curve for wind on the summit of K2 (on the 26th)symbolizes a summit window, our meteorologist has told us that there won’t be any summit windows until at least August 3rd for K2. All in all, unless the weather forecast changes drastically in the next few days, I think I may be throwing in the towel for K2 as well. The mountain after all, will still be here next year.


In Photos:

Left: Qudrat climbing above Camp II on the Cesan Route (K2)

Right: Tent in Camp III on the Cesan Route (K2) Photo Credit: Roeland Van Oss