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

2008 K2 and Broad Peak Expedition

Dispatch Sixty-four: August 2nd, 2008

Day Sixty-four: SUMMIT PUSH– Climbers Stranded on Summit

This morning, after a cold night in Camp III, Jelle and I woke up and got ready to head the rest of the way down to base camp. We were both severely dehydrated and exhausted and it took us quite awhile to get ready. We started down from Camp III, stopping every two rope lengths to rest. It took us around two hours to get from Camp III to Camp II. We stopped in Camp II for a few hours to melt snow for water, rest and rehydrate. I turned on my satellite phone to make a call, and received a disturbing SMS from my mom, saying that a big chunk of ice had fallen off the serac above the bottleneck, and cut the fixed lines, stranding the climbers above the bottleneck. I called to get more details, and found that they were still stranded, meaning that they had spent the night above 8200 meters. Statistically, their chances of survival were quite bad after a night at that altitude, and we could expect to see a significant amount of severe frostbite. Jelle and I continued down to base camp; the route was extremely deteriorated and as I continued to descend, a piton popped out of the rock and I went swinging below the route. The mountain seems to have become quite dangerous from top to bottom, and I couldn’t wait to get off of it. Jelle and I arrived at the bottom of the route around 6:00pm. Hoselito (Serbian) was at the base to meet us, and told us of the tragedy that was unfolding high on K2. He set the death toll at nine. The climbers were still stranded above the bottleneck, aside from Pemba and Cass (Norit team) who had managed to down climb the bottleneck without fixed lines. The Italian, Marco, and Irish, Gerard, had apparently made a bivouac, and then in the morning, had headed the opposite direction from each other. Marco made it back down to Camp IV with severe frostbite on his hands and feet. Gerard had been sighted heading toward the Chinese side of the summit. Hugues’ porter, Baig had apparently fallen to his death. There was no news regarding Hugues, aside from the fact that he had summited earlier than Wilco (he was using supplemental oxygen). I used this fact to hold out hope that he was still alive despite having spent the night at 8,200 meters. Also, there wasn’t any news about Karim, Hugues’ other high altitude porter. Just as the sun was about to set, someone spotted an orange dot moving around 500 meters over from the Cesan route and 200 meters below the shoulder. They got on the radio and told Pemba, who was in Camp IV to head down to Camp III to meet the injured climber, who they were pretty sure was Wilco. We all went to bed not knowing the fate of the climber. Also, I said goodbye to Peter tonight, who was heading down tomorrow to Skardu. This was his fifth attempt on K2 and he was no stranger to the loss of team mates on this deadly mountain. His advice was quite helpful to me and I wish him all the best.


In Photos:

Left: The route back to Base Camp on the Cesan

Right: View down the Cesan Route