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Text Box: Xpedition 8000

2008 K2 and Broad Peak Expedition

Dispatch Sixty-seven: August 5th, 2008

Day Sixty-seven: Gloomy Day in K2 Base Camp; Gilkey Memorial

Today, after a rainy night in base camp, I headed down to the empty mess tent to enjoy a quiet breakfast. I quickly got working on starting my now very tired generator, and plugged in all my dead electronics; after receiving countless emails and phone calls from the media, and making very difficult calls to the loved ones of the deceased, my 17.2Amp lead acid battery wasn’t quite cutting it. I logged into my email and was again barraged with requests for interviews from the media. I took a break from the computer, and headed down to Gilkey Memorial to put up the plates we had made to memorialize Hugues, Karim, Gerard, and Baig. It was ironic, as the last time I had gone was with a happy healthy Hugues. I am, however, happy that he in the end, achieved his goal. This was his third year in a row on K2, and finally he had made the summit and lived his dream. It is a shame that triumph and tragedy seem to come hand in hand on K2. After the memorial, I headed back to base camp. I still have my fingers crossed for the Italians, as they are still waiting for the helicopter evacuation from ABC on the Abruzzi Route. The helicopter was due in at 11:00am, but looking at the far from ideal weather and visibility outside, it isn’t looking good. If it does come, both Marco and Roberto will fly out together (Marco is the one with the extremely severe frostbite on his feet). Base camp now seems to be like a cage that everyone wants to escape. The Koreans are hiring a few helicopters to take them out rather than walking. The Americans, Dutch, Serbian (Hoselito), and Norwegians are all waiting on porters to arrive so that they can head down. Very few people are considering staying and trying again. The Singaporeans, who arrived in base camp in mid-July, rather than in June, like the rest of us, are reflecting within, and deciding whether to give K2 another try. Mike Farris, one of the Americans, is also considering staying in base camp, and seeing whether the conditions on the mountain improve. And finally, there is an American Ski Team who just arrived here from Broad Peak, and may still give it a shot. Base camp itself, however is deteriorating at this point. Every evening, we hear cascades of rocks falling down the slopes around us; huge pieces of ice are crashing down in the ice fall, and avalanches roar down the slopes of all the peaks around us daily. The routes up K2 mirror this decay, as rivers flow down where once consolidated snow was, and rock fall danger is exponentially higher as there is less snow and ice on the mountain. Those who remain and attempt to climb K2 will earn both my respect and disbelief, as she has proven herself to be quite deadly this year. These people must either just be insane or have a death wish. Either way, their optimism in a time of widespread grief is admirable. The afternoon crept on, and I decided, despite the dreary weather to pack up Hugues’ belongings. It actually seemed quite fitting, as nice weather wouldn’t have been appropriate for such a grim undertaking. It almost seems as thought the mountain is weeping for the recently deceased (rain in base camp; 16,000ft isn’t exactly typical). After the tedious task of cataloging everything I had packed was finished, I nervously ate dinner and got to my satellite phone so I could be on time for my interview with NPR. I initially was going to avoid the media, as in most cases with tragedies, it gets you into trouble. But I decided to refrain from speaking about any specifics regarding the deceased (names and events) and try and use the media venue to get the word out that blame needn't be assigned in this case; Only bad luck could be blamed for the timing of the serac fall and the fact that that day, and only that day, people were above the traverse in a position where they would be trapped if the ropes were cut. It was as fate would have it. 

 

 

In Photos:

Left: Hugues in 2007 placing a piece of his gear at the Puja ceremony for good luck

Right: Gilkey Memorial