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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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Skardu to Askole

Posted on June 6, 2006 07:00 AM U.S. Mountain Daylight Time

Boy and their toys, so the saying goes - not that I agree with it, you understand. However as we gathered in the K2 Hotel parking lot, we saw a literal fleet of supped up 4-wheel drive jeeps. 4 to a jeep, this fleet of 6 was to be our transportation today for 80 miles to the start of trek to base camp.

The road started smooth as we followed the Braldu River north. Soon it became rougher and then it was competing with the “worst road in Colorado” with serious rocks, holes, dips and climbs. Another day in the blender!

While the countryside was rough and interesting, once again, the people captured my mind. For the first time we saw many women walking without veils along the road. They sometimes had their children with them but often were with other women. Almost every village had a middle school and one had a school for girls.

It became almost a game that when we approached a village, the children ran to the side of road and yelled out "Hello, one pen?"; Kids used to ask for money or candy but visitors have done a nice job of telling them no so now they ask for pens. In hindsight I wish I had brought 100 pens, they would have been gone in a second.

At one point on the road, it became very rough so our jeep slowed to a crawl. The kids ran to the side of the jeep and asked for pens. I almost never carry a pen but this year, I have a pair of trekking pants with a special pocket for a pen – and I had one!

I made eye contact with one screaming kid and just as I was handing him my pen, a bigger kid pushed him aside and reached for it. I pulled it back, made a long arm stretch and – success! – I passed the pen to my original receiver. We zoomed away with everyone laughing and he had a huge smile on his face!

We stopped for lunch at a random building along the road and had an excellent meal of potatoes, spinach, peas and goat – yes goat – we might as well get used to it! I finished quickly and went outside to see about 20 kids sitting on a stone wall. I took out my video camera and started filming – an instant hit! They loved seeing their moving faces smiling and laughing on the small screen. I asked them their names one by one but had no idea what they said. It really did not matter we all were having a great time. An elder came up and I asked him his name – Assai Bakum. He held the hand of his son, with the same name, as we spoke. His English was good and he told me all the children went to school. A nice man.

After six hours, we arrived at Askole. We were met by hundreds of men all vying for the several hundred porter jobs we needed. We are the largest expedition in Pakistan this year so we are quite popular and it seems that word had spread. We thanked our jeep drivers, gave them a tip for getting us here alive, and found that the FTA crew had already set up our tents.

So almost everyone is here now except for Kurt and Carl who are lagging due to their lost bags. We hope they will catch up with us in a few days. Everyone is n good health other than the odd stomach problem. And everyone is ready to start the trek.

As the sun was going down, I glanced up to see my first big Pakistani mountain – a majestic peak covered in snow and shrowded in cloud. I stared at it for a while as my mind drifted to the reason we are all here – to climb a mountain. Let's get on with it!

Climb on!

Alan