Sunday, September 14, 2008

Nanga Parbat: Rupal Face : Final Thoughts

Rupal Face : Final Thoughts

Disappointment and frustration sum up the way I am feeling.

It sounds crazy but in only 16 climbing days out of the 34 total days we spent at Nanga Parbat we logged 14,200m of scree, snow, ice and rock climbing - and as Dave puts it "we only almost made 6000m". Crazy was all that could be said once we had done the math. We tried is all that can be said about our attempt. Perhaps one of the biggest reasons for alpine climbing is the feeling of smallness and insignificance one gets compared to the mountain and the forces of nature - especially those experienced on a mountain the scale of Nanga Parbat. Nanga is huge.

What could we have done differently is a question that all teams that fail have to ask themselves. I am still thinking of things that for sure I will do differently next year. But the real answer is we were just plain unlucky with the weather. We were on target to be done acclimatizing by the 1st - 5th of September if we had just had 3 more days of good weather in August. Only 4 perfect days in 5 weeks is hard to be successful with. We made the most of marginal days, most of the time working from early in the morning (4:30am starts) and finishing in the afternoon in snowstorms. We just got unlucky.

1. AUG 4th - Trip up Glacier to find way to Messner - 400m
2. AUG 7th - Trip to Korean ABC from 2nd Basecamp and return - 600m
3. AUG 8th - Trip to C1 (4700m) and return - 1200m
4. AUG 9th - Trip to C1 and return - 1200m
5. AUG 13th - Trip to C1 and stay - 1200m
6. AUG 14th - Trip to 5150m and return to C1 - 450m
7. AUG 17th - Trip to C1 and stay - 1200m
8. AUG 18th - Trip to 5300m and return C1 - 600m
9. AUG 19th- Trip to 5450m and return to C1 - 750m
10. AUG 20th - Trip to 5500m and return to C1 - 800m
11. AUG 24th - Trip to C1 and stay - 1200m
12. AUG 25th - Trip to Snowcave at 5650m and stay - 950m
13. AUG 26th - Trip to 5700m (C2, Snowcave) and stay - 50m
14. SEPT 2nd - Trip to C1 and stay - 1200m
15. SEPT 3rd - Trip to C2 and return to C1 - 1000m
16. Sept 6th - Trip to C1 and return Basecamp - 1200m

My first impressions of the wall were that of a train wreck, so many thousands of pounds of ice hanging over your head for so long - how could Anderson and House justify it were my initial thoughts. Tomaz was lucky to live, was all I could think. Sitting and watching the wall I started to to get a sense (as much is really possible with seracs) of the rhythms, the distances, the intricacies and the scale. It was just plain ugly to me for the first few days, then everything changed when we got a clear view of it all and the route we thought might go from studying photos and talking it over with Tomaz in Slovenia last winter. Looking at it in person we thought the wall was actually climbable by another new route.

I got inspired - the Rupal Face central pillar area got under my skin, as I am sure it does any body's that sits under it and stares at it long enough.

Once again, thank you so much to CAMP-USA, SCARPA North America, Marmot, CiloGear, Brian at Ames Adventure Outfitters for all the miscellaneous support, Scott at KNS Reps for the support with Jetboil Products, and all of the other individuals that make these types of trips possible - especially Ingemar from Sweden.

K2 - Remembering Friends

Sitting in an Internet cafe in Islamabad reading on Explorersweb the recap of the tragedy on K2 this season it took me four attempts to get through the whole article, with a few laps around the market to absorb the news between paragraphs. Shock is the only way to describe my mental state. We were sheltered at Nanga Parbat, we used the Slovenian phone to update the blog - by reading a hand written blog entry to a voice mail then later to be transcribed by someone I am greatly indebted to - and to keep in touch with family but only once a week. There was no time or money to recount the story and casualties.

Sitting in the Internet cafe and strolling through the market I was instantly drawn back to a day after a prolonged snowstorm on K2 in 2005 when Billy and Meherban and I sat on a rock outcropping to take a break from trail breaking up to C1 on the Abruzzi. Laughing and sharing food, Meherban made jokes about the team he was working for and shared plans about future climbs he would like - especially Nanga. Later in the season his team refused him payment for certain days claiming he made carries those days out of friendship and not employment. I went to bat for him and he received his due pay.

Rolf was so kind in 2005 - as was his whole team, especially Cecile. Bad weather days in base camp were never so fun as in there heated tent watching movies on a laptop and eating popcorn with 10 of us craning for a view of the screen. They invited me to Norway to ice climb, I eventually made it but did not see any of the team - a huge regret now.

Hugues and I last year at K2 would sit together and chat for hours in French for what he would call "my daily French lesson".He talked about an upcoming sailing holiday and his house in Chamonix - both of which sounded much better than the Baltoro at the time. He offered up his weather forecast in return for the rope we and the Czech team had fixed to the shoulder. I will remember him as a kind and intelligent man.

Gerard I never met, but via email and the phone I sent and described the Cesen to the shoulder from my photos from last summer. I sent him photos from the Bottleneck and traverse from when I went through them in 2000. He said had he summitted he would repay me with a bottle of my favorite Scotch. A bottle I will buy and drink in memory of him.

Too many other events from the summer: Karl, Pavle, the generosity of Tomaz and what can only be described as the whirlwind visit from Messner. Recover, train harder, find money again, focus and return are the only options for dealing the the loss and failure.

Pumori - The next trip: October 2008

The first week of October I will be back in Nepal, guiding on Pumori until the end of November. This week I am traveling but will update each previous Nanga Blog with corresponding photos.