The drive up the Karakoram Highway was really good when it was done. In all honesty it is not as bad as I make it out to be, just a bit hot and bumpy. We stayed in Besham with the guys heading into the Charakusa Valley, and had a super dinner of fried chicken, chips, subzi ( vegetable curry) and lentils and roti. Way too much food, we slept 3 hours and then finished off the last 18 hours of driving. We stopped many times for cool drinks and it is business as usual, everybody is friendly and nice, not one problem so far here. I have heard a few very interesting theories about US military actions of late, but that has been said with a smile and with no bad intentions.
I went to the briefing today - which has finally been changed from Islamabad to Skardu, which is a small godsend as we now dont have to waste two days in Islamabad. I am the leader of the 2011 Georgian K2 Expedition. Funny when you think that there are no Georgians on the permit - visa troubles kept them from coming. We, Blue Sky Trek and Tours, split the permit with Jasmine tours, so it was fun to sit in the office with Ghulam and Asghar today as they are good friends, and old friends of mine. The level of cooperation between some companies here is great as times are tough. Nice to see.
Being in Skardu is great, like Kathmandu a few weeks ago, seeing old friends and catching up.
There are so few people heading into the mountains that for people who come regularly it is nice, last night we had a great dinner in Ghulam's house and it all makes me think about less commercial times. I do hope that things pick up for next year, for my personal guiding and for all the agents sake.
For those that stay in the Concordia hotel regularly, Sher Ali has given up playing volleyball, said it was too much work. I know, for those of you who dont know him, WTF - big news here in Skardu.
So the monsoon officially arrived last night (yes there is such a thing) and honestly it was monsoonal. amazing storm, planes were diverted to Lahore and lightning was everywhere and the roads in Islamabad were almost instantly flooded. It was amazing. What is not amazing about this news is that flights to Skardu have not gone for two days and so we (all of the Blue Sky Tours clients heading into the mountains) will board a bus and drive the Karakoram Highway. Fun. Just kidding. This is something like my 20th time on the road in one direction or another, and what they say about doing it once is correct. ONCE, ok, perhaps twice to make sure you liked it, but 20 is bordering on a joke.
I love climbing and guiding in Pakistan because you earn your views here ( much like skiing and turns, they are better earned - however turns are way more fun!). Everybody at PIA, then Immigration, the taxi drivers waiting at the airport and the hotel staff have been as friendly and nice as ever, but if you read the editorial pages and the news about the resentment here it is a tad bit concerning.
Ok, time to go, oh yeah, did I mention the bus ride takes 30 hours, tonight to Besham and then tomorrow night Skardu!!!!
I am flying from Kathmandu to Islamabad today for what seems like a very quiet season in the Karakoram. Nice. From what I gather from the team listings on Explorersweb it might only be a handful of teams total in the Karakoram and those that are heading to K2 might be a little bit behind us as they are heading to either Broad Peak or the Gasherbrums first. Christian and Alex are on the SW face and will have a base camp a little closer to BP BC I think than where traditional bc is.
Dealing with a bunch of excess baggage from Kathmandu on PIA today, oh the joys of travel.
I went up to Annapurna BC on the south side last weekend, it was amazing and great to be out of the city - which was driving me crazy - just the honking of horns anywhere in Kathmandu is enough to drive one crazy. It was the start of the monsoon, and I experienced some really strong storms that lasted an hour or two, or all night. It was amazing to see the nice lodges and to be honest the lodge owners were very relaxed as the season was over and during the 5 days I spent on the trek I saw a total of 50 people max.The stairs into the Sanctuary were great training as well.
I am back in Kathmandu, it is good to eat yummy food and see some friends from other expeditions. I received a few emails to clarify the last few days on Makalu.
The most accurate reporting I have found is from www.explorersweb.com dated May 25th 2011:
(Newsdesk) Asian Trekking reports to ExplorersWeb that a Swiss 33-year old female member of the Makalu Spring Expedition 2011 was found dead after summit inside her tent at Camp 3 on May 22.
"The news seems confirmed by Fabrizio Zangrilli in a broken voice dispatch over satellite. On his website today, Martin Ramos issued a statement along with Jorge Egocheaga saying that Joëlle Brupbacher died on Makalu La at 7,400 m on May 22 at 11.30 pm.
Slovak Peter Hamor, Romanian Horia Colibasanu and the two Spaniards Jorge Egocheaga and Martin Ramos summited Makalu on Saturday, May 21, at 1 pm.
The climbers shared permit with Joëlle Brupbacher, Oscar Fernández, Peter Hámor, Gia Totladze, Kinga Baranowska, Oxana Morneva and Fabrizio Zangrilli.
In place were also a number of Slovenian climbers, American Steve House, and commercial expeditions Jagged Globe (and Kobler according to ExWeb's list of expeditions).
Martin Ramos says that after their summit he and Jorge met Joelle in the French corridor at 8,200 meters around 2.30 pm and advised her to turn around due to the late hour. She pushed on with her Sherpa Pasang and the climbers met up again in C4 about 10.30 pm that night.
Checking with Pasang that Joelle was OK, Martin and Jorge continued descent to BC the next morning. Joelle became unable to move in camp 3. Pasang was with her, along with Peter and Horia, radioing down the mountain for help.
Unacclimatized and unfamiliar with the route, Jorge's and Martin's cook Migma (a close friend to Jorge) climbed up with the bottle and left it between C2 and C3 (at about 7,200) until asked at 10 pm by Jorge to turn back .
Jorge then turned to Fabrizio, Steve House and Marco (Prezelj) who left for C3 after midnight and reached 7,100 meters at 6 am. Unfortunately, the climbers descended with Horia and Peter, after Joëlle had died of exhaustion in camp 3 at 11.30 pm. "
After this I rested one day, then Kinga and I started up for a summit push. It was equally a beautiful and horrific experience. Beautiful as we had the whole mountain to ourselves, as we headed up from base camp our friends departed base camp, we were alone. Makalu is a big mountain and we felt the energy of it. It was beautiful. It was horrific as I had agreed to bury Joelle in the camp 3 area. It was very sad for me as we had been on Makalu together the year before. It never get easy. Kinga and I continued onwards and upwards the next day to Camp 4 and awoke to a perfect night and headed towards the summit. After 350 meters I was too tired to continue. The winds had blown away all previous tracks and mid calf deep snow the rest of the way to the summit - over 450m vertical away - was just not safe for me anymore. We tried. Now it is time to think to the future.....more to come.
My thoughts are with Joelle's family and close friends.
Born in 1972, I live in the Roaring Fork Valley, Colorado and has been climbing for a very long time. I have been fortunate that climbing has taken me around the world, attempting and putting up new routes or speed ascents in the Himalaya, Alaska, Patagonia and Queen Maud Land, Antarctica. I have guided and or led expeditions to Everest, K2 (5 times) Makalu, Cho Oyu and the Gasherbrums, Nuptse South Face, Ama Dablam (5 times), Pumori and Cerro Torre.
Life, business and injury have kept me sidelined for the past year, but I am back at it with more passion than ever!