K2 and Broad Peak in 2006
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I always wanted to visit the Himalayas in Pakistan. The mountains are legendary: Gasherbrum I,Gasherbrum II, Nanga Parbat, Broad Peak and, of course, K2. The view from the confluence of three glaciers at Concordia is live postcard few get to see in person. In the summer of 2006, along with a team managed by Field Touring Alpine (FTA), I attempted Broad Peak (26,401') and planned to make a good effort on K2 (28,250').

I reached 21,000' on Broad or Camp 2 before abandoning the climb due to weakness that resulted from a severe bug I contracted on the trek in. The Karakorum ranges was magnificent and I was very lucky to have unbelievable weather for the month I spent there.

I sent frequent dispatches using a system that includes a digital camera, PDA and sat phone.

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Red Blood Cells at Camp 2

Posted on June 22, 2006 01:24 AM U.S. Mountain Daylight Time

We awoke this Thursday morning to the highest winds yet on the climb. With seven of us at Camp 2 and Wilco plus three HAPs at Camp 3; the winds plus cold temps called for a change of plans.

Remember what this climb high-sleep low game is all about. Our bodies use red blood cells to carry oxygen to our muscles. The harder we work the more oxygen we need yet at these altitudes the availability of oxygen is less than at sea level - maybe 30% less here at 20,000' So the game is to trick our bodies into creating more of the cells by spending time at higher altitudes.

The best approach is to climb high - maybe 300m - then return to a lower altitude to sleep. By repeating this routine the body will generate more red blood cells to carry the oxygen. At this stage all the climbers are into the program. Some people acclimatize more easily than others yet still need some degree of the program. Wilco is a great example as he slept at C2 one night returned to BC for a few days then climbed to C3 ready for a summit bid. But all this climbing stuff is complicated!

First you need good weather, fixed lines for safety, then you need food and finally most climbers need some help from other climbers. All this did not come together as Wilco has hoped - especially the brutal cold and harsh winds so he has returned to BC for a rest and more food. The BC area is getting crowded with us, Austrians, Australians, Argentines and a Spanish team. The cooperation between teams has been excellent thus far. Meanwhile what do we do at 20,000'? Well a lot of nothing. Rest is important but some amount of activity is critical to keeping the red blood cell machine going. I'll be taking a few hundred meter climb towards C3 this afternoon. But mostly we read, talk or listen to music on our iPods.

I have the Shuffle which does not have a hards disc and work fine at this altitude. Speaking of technology. I understand some are having problem listening to the audio dispatches. Keep trying since I think the server may get overloaded once a notification goes out and everyone tries to listen at once. This is a different service from my main site and I do not have any influence over their bandwidth. Keep trying you will get in.

Otherwise the rest of the system is working very well - I think! I cannot actually see the site since it takes a time build the pages and I am using my PDA. Also the sat phone runs at 9600 baud. Remember the Internet in 1997 over dial-up? Finally I have a few videos to get on the site once I return to BC. So everyone continues to climb high and sleep low. All the lost baggage has finally arrived at BC. Most everyone has worked through various stomach problems while others are now dealing with altitude headaches and the general fatigue that comes with these climbs. Remember that this climb is as much mental as physical so keep sending positive energy this way.

The weather continues to look good through the weekend so hopefully the lines can be fixed above C3 and climbers can get some time in at C2. Then we start looking at summit dates. As I once was told that if you must forecast, forecast often so today's summit forecast is June 27th. Or maybe the 26 or maybe the 28 or ... Climb On! Alan