I'm kind of glad that my memory has failed me so good since the last time I was in Karakorum as it makes no sense at all to go off and spend about 2 mouths trying to climb one route that is a bout 1000 meters or if super lucky two routes. The game has changed quite a bite since last time around (1991) and I have to say I'm positively surprised over how smooth expeditions run these days. What really has made a good impression on me is the food. As I remember expedition-life it was all about NOT eating one single good meal until you touched down on home soil after weeks of chapatti, rice and dal. Then we have the technology revolution that is truly the most notable change from my previous experience. Now we carry light satellite phones and laptops. We can surf the net as we please and if someone wants he can look at his Facebook page or get confused by looking at a number of different weather sites. It’s quite unreal but very comfortable and cool.
It’s nice to be back after such a long absence, but the lack of climbing meters per day spent on the expedition is definitely a turn off. And adding to the frustration is the mandatory infections one seems to catch whatever precautions one take. Since arriving in BC I have had a constant infection preventing me from adding much value to the expedition and that’s not good for my moral and acclimatisation. Adding to the high-tech life at plus 5000 meters we are subscribing to an excellent medical service from www.ifremmont.com. They are available for us 24/7 to answer any medical questions we have and advise on treatment. We just call them on our sat phone and we have an expert on high altitude medicine on the other line. All the doctors at Ifremmont have expedition experience as well as all being qualified UIAGM Guides so they understand both the medical side of our situation as well as the climbing side. They also know what medication we are carrying so it’s simple for them to give us accurate advice.
Expedition is not so much about climbing as it is about timing, hard slogging and endless waiting for a window when you are not ill and the forecast looks good to go. Since I kind of suck at all of the key factors you need to be good at in order to succeed in this game, well apart from getting overly exited about every single unclimbed face I see, I struggle a bit with the motivation. I'm lucky that my partners are all more patient. To be honest it’s not a booth camp so I'd better get on with the slogging and try to get in position for some action as soon as I have recovered from my obnoxious infection.
My son's drawing, me and Bruce Normandn>
One thing that few mention in relation to going on an expedition is the sad fact that the single most annoying thing of it all is the constant need for a pee. I think a fair estimation is that you spend about one third of a day managing your pee strategy. This includes the notorious pee bottle. DONT MIX IT WITH YOUR DRINK BOTTLES. In order to acclimatise and stay away from altitude related illnesses you need to constantly hydrate. And the simple consequence of the endless hydration is endless peeing and there is no off button once you are all comfortable and warm in your sleeping bag. The pee alarm seems to be an uncontrollable factor. The other night I woke up kind of tired at 3.34 am with an urgent need for a pee. I crawl out of my sleeping bag and manage to find my frozen pee bottle but I didn’t notice that it was filled to one third, so finally when I can relax and let it flow I see to my horror that it will overfill if I don’t interrupt in about 3 seconds. What to do? I'm inside my tent and there is no escape so I have to try to stop the flow manually and empty the bottle outside my tent. In this wild fight against nature I manage to spill out half of the bottle while zipping up my tent.... It smelled like a public urinal at a train station so I was first up that morning and after a few hours cleaning, life was back to normal except for the endless need for a pee.
We arrived first at BC and life was quiet. When we dropped down to BC the other day BC was filled with new expeditions. Its quite funny looking at all people gathered in BC as the differences is huge. I can’t really understand how all these different types, styles, ambitions etc are going to find a common way to be on the same mountain. We got super alpinist Ueli Steck on a honey moon doing G2 with his wife, we got commercial expeditions going through there fixed ropes, we got Phillip Gatta who just did a 8b before leaving for his G1, G2 and Broad Peak attempts and then we have the odd small team going for alpine style attempts. I just hope all will be safe. Our team (not me) have done all the other expeditions a huge favour opening the trail to camp one so we hope to collect a trail fee in form of some beers or vodka but so far it looks dry in BC so I guess we have to settle for the great cake the Amical team gave us as thanks guys for opening the trail. I guess there will be about 150 people on the strip when all teams are in place so it will be a busy place.
I hope to be back with some more interesting news as time goes on and we progress up towards the start of our climb at 7000 meters. It will for sure be one hell of a battle just to get to the start of the actual climbing as the vertical as well as the horizontal distance is endlessly long and tiring. As for now, over and out from BC at 5050 meters in Norther Pakistan.