Friday, August 21, 2009

K2, Broad Peak & Latok II Rescue : Summer 2009 Wrap Up

Sorry That I was unable to update the blog this summer but I felt enough clients were blogging and the Field Touring website was posting updates almost daily that I could updating here.
I am in Skardu now trying to figure out how I am getting home as I missed my international flight during the rescue efforts on Latok II. I had to time to jot down some thoughts so here we go....
It certainly was a long summer, hard at times but very enjoyable at others - the majority of time in fact! The lowest points were obviously the 2nd day in K2 base camp when Michele Fiat fell to his death while attempting to ski down from below camp 2 with partner Frederick Erickson; the body recovery was difficult emotionally for everybody involved. Christina Castagna's death during our Broad Peak summit push was very hard for me - the image of her sharing warm tea with me at 4:00am at 7400m while all of us were freezing on the way up lingers and I finding it hard to come to terms with her death. The eight days flying around Latok II and attempting to climb up to Oscar Perez was emotionally and physically very fatiguing. It was extremely hard to end the rescue, all of our hearts said keep trying even when our minds said it was too dangerous with the change in weather and the prolonged time. I never met Oscar, nor Alvaro before I flew into Latok BC, but he was one of us, I understood without meeting him what motivated him, what drove him to the mountains. I was compelled to help because I would hope someday when I need help someone will try as hard as we did for me. I wish that circumstances played out better for us with the rescue, my thoughts are with the friends and families of Michele, Christina and Oscar.
I am very proud of the work I did on K2, 2 clients joined me to the shoulder while most others from the team managed to climb above C3 (7200m). Fixing rope and managing the movement of 10 people up and down K2 is a stressful and difficult task. I think we did very well as a team!
I managed to join and assist the Field Touring Broad Peak summit push, again most of the team members reached C3 (7100m), the high camp, and a few of us pushed above for a summit attempt. Unfortunately, neither K2 or Broad Peak were climbed to the summit this season, if it were possible, Field Touring would have placed members on both summits.
I would like to thank a few people. Chris Szymiec, my co-guide from Field Touring this summer (Leader of the Broad Peak Expedition) for his support and great friendship. He didn't get much recognition for his efforts on Latok II, but he put a lot of work into the effort as well. Stu Remmensnyder from the Field Touring USA office for incredible support, not only with daily weather updates and phone calls, but complete support when I said I wanted to join the rescue effort - these types of endeavors are far from single handed, they require huge financial and emotional support. Dave Ohlson from Ursus Films,, for the continued friendship - this is the third project we have worked on - and for filming from day one of the K2 trip through the Latok II efforts. Pena Guera, they must be the greatest climbing club in the world, I have never seen such an effort to rescue and support climbers ever - how do I become a member? Thanks you so much for doing everything you could during the rescue effort! Jordi C, Jordi T, Simone, Jonathan, and Dani for the effort and support during the rescue, they really embody the spirit of alpinism. Sebastian Alvaro - who gave up so much to stay in Skardu to coordinate the efforts of Pena Guera, the Spanish Embassy, the Pakistani Army's Fifth Air Squadron ("The Fearless Five") and us in Latok II base camp. Without the tireless efforts of Sebas a lot of what we attempted was not possible. The people that have received the least thanks are the HAPs that came with us to Latok II. Thanks boys, you guys worked so hard as usual, sorry for the 10 hour, 23 mile walk from BC down the Biafo to Askoli, without food on the last day of the rescue(at least we ate a whole goat at the end of it!), but we all had fun laughing about it, really it is only another hour!
Finally ATP (Adventure Tours Pakistan) and Exweb should be thanked for putting out the call for help and ATP it must be said worked so hard during the rescue efforts to provide everything they could. To all of the people that wrote into the Field Touring website with words of thanks and encouragement and to my personal email, thank you.  
Time to try and fly back to Colorado, go rock climbing in the sun, and prepare for the season in Nepal starting October, Pumori and Island Peak!