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

2008 K2 and Broad Peak Expedition

Dispatch Sixty-three: August 1st, 2008

Day Sixty-three: SUMMIT PUSH- Summit Day; Tragedy Begins

This morning, after a freezing night at Camp IV, I was awakened at 11:00pm as the Sherpas tried to organize the other high altitude porters to get the technical equipment distributed and start on fixing the route through the bottleneck. There were some problems from the beginning, as Shaheem Baig, one of the Serbian high altitude porters had become ill at Camp II and gone down, and there a number of others who were not feeling well in Camp IV. One of these, I believe, although he wouldn’t admit it, was Baig, one of Hugues’ high altitude porters, who in Camp 3.5 (7,800 meters) had a headache and an apparent problem, according to Karim, in vocalizing his symptoms of AMS. Hugues gave him an aspirin and diamox (acetazolamide) which apparently helped him feel better. His symptoms, in my opinion, resurfaced at Camp IV in the morning, as it took him around 30 minutes with the help of another to get his crampons on, and he also was having trouble with his headlamp. Hugues was extremely frustrated by the delay that this caused, as he was quite cold, and knew from the last few years that he needed an early start in order to secure the summit. Around two thirty, they finally left for the summit, as did the Dutch (slightly after), and the Serbians. I intended to start around 3:00am, however, after spilling the water that I was making all over my socks, I was forced to wait. I listened as the others began, the latest to depart were the Americans. After I dried my socks, I started off toward the bottleneck, but after around an hour, I realized that my hands weren’t about to warm up, and I wasn’t ready to lose any fingers for the summit of K2. I realized, since I was feeling quite strong, that I COULD summit K2 without oxygen, however if I wanted to keep my fingers and enjoy a normal adult life, I needed to turn around and not let my ambitions get the best of me. After arriving back in Camp IV, I went back to bed, and slept till around 7:00pm. When I woke up, I heard Eric, Chris, Fred, and Paul (Americans) come back from their aborted summit pushes. They told me that the Dutch were saying that they needed more rope. Apparently, the Sherpas and HAP’s (High Altitude Porters) had fixed the route before the bottleneck (which wasn’t necessary to fix) and had run out of rope before fixing the technical and exposed bottleneck. Upon discovering this, and reflecting on their physical condition, they wisely decided to turn back and possibly try again tomorrow, after the lines are secured and the route established. Around an hour later, the Italian saw someone fall in the bottleneck. We all began working on organizing a rescue for the fallen climber, who turned out to be one of the Serbians. Eric, the American doctor, was on the radio getting information, and around a half hour later, we heard that the climber had passed away. After hearing this information, I made the decision to head down, as I wasn’t willing to climb on a route that wasn’t properly fixed and was by nature dangerous, as there was a significant amount of snow weighing down the serac that hangs over the route, and had already killed someone. I watched as the line of climbers stopped and some went back to help and was somewhat shocked when I saw the line of climbers continue up the route towards the summit. Eric and Fred went up with water and a sleeping bag to help the injured/deceased climber and bring down the body. I began packing my things, which at this altitude, took around three hours. I started heading down around 3:00pm. The descent took longer than I expected; five hours from Camp IV to Camp III. I had intended to descend all the way to base camp, but seeing that it was almost 8:00pm, when I arrived in Camp III, I decided to stay and Jelle kindly offered to let me stay in his tent. I accepted the offer, and settled into Camp III for the night. Jelle had descended after attempting the summit because of frozen feet and the fact that there were so many problems with the fixed lines. He was quite hypoxic and had quite a bad cough as well. We went to sleep around 9:00pm, quite curious whether any of our team mates had summited.


In Photos:

Left: Jelle in Camp IV

Right: The Karakorum viewed from Camp IV (8000 meters) on K2