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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.

Click here for the dispatch home and videos

« BP Climbers leave safely, K2 avalanches plus new pictures and videos | Dispatch Home | K2 – is it Over? »

Click here for the dispatch home and videos

The guys are climbing K2!

Posted on July 22, 2006 11:44 AM U.S. Mountain Daylight Time

A team of four: Wilco, Mick, Ger and Ryan are all above Camp 1 with a target date of Monday for a summit. I thought I would add a few comments on these climbers plus the weather situation.

First on the conditions. Several sites are reporting that the recent snow storms have destroyed their tents. It is excellent that the picture of Camp 1 on Wilco’s site show a Eureka tent standing strong.

I made some comments before on these tents but let me elaborate. When I was at Camp 2 on Broad, I awoke one morning to howling winds. But it was very confusing. The wind sounded like it was above me not on the surface since my Eureka 5th Season EXO tent simply was not moving. I am not exaggerating – it was not moving at all. No shake, no shimmy it was like a BMW flying down the autobahn at 200kmp! Perfectly smooth.

The kind folks at Eureka had told us they had redesigned this tent for high altitude use by beefing up the poles, making it low profile and reinforcing the seams at critical spots. Obviously it worked. Of course there are always trade-offs and it is a little tight with two people plus the headroom is low given the low profile but these are very acceptable trade-offs in return for having your tent there when you return to a high camp after a huge storm!

So well done Eureka, well done!

Let’s look at our K2 climbers:

By now many people know Wilco as out Dutch adventurer. He lives in the Netherlands and has his own Adventure/Consulting company. He works with corporate clients on leadership and team building programs involving the outdoors. Wilco was one of two on the team with K2 experience – an almost deadly one where he was evacuated by helicopter due to a serious injury from falling rock on his first K2 climb. He summited Everest without oxygen in 2004 – and proposed to his long-time girlfriend from the summit!

All that aside, he is an incredibly nice person. A story, if I might. Wilco was always generous in his praise and support for his teammates. But not to the point of codling. Anyway, the night before I left, I was lingering in the dinning tent after dinner. I knew this was my last meal with the team and I was somewhat melancholy. All of a sudden Wilco stood up in his strong and confident Dutch manner and announced “It is time for a surprise. And with that he swiftly walked out of the tent only to return a few minutes later with tow Heinekens in his hands. That green can never looked nicer! He made a short but heartfelt speech, handed me a can while he opened the other. And with that the seven of us shared a moment.

Gerard was a little of mystery to me in the beginning. An Irishman living in Alaska we had exchanged a few emails prior to the trip. He asked excellent questions and provided some appreciated input during the planning process. I knew he would be a leader and share his extensive experiences with the team upon his arrival. Ger is another Everest summiteer as well as some interesting unclimbed peaks in China!

This proved out many times as he showed his strength and determination – and wisdom – as a climber and a leader. His teammates naturally sought his advice and watched him closely. His wisdom showed through on the night he and Wilco left Camp 4 for the summit. Simply put, he was not feeling 100% so choose to stay behind. Unfortunately for Wilco since it was taking two to break trail but smart on Ger’s part by not putting himself- and others – in danger. This in spite of having made it to the highest camp in a difficult conditions. Smart man.

Mick is a ball of unbridled energy! He came in late due to work considerations but quickly integrated into the team with his magnetic personality. Yet another Everest summiter, he was one of the few on the team that had been to the Karakorum before. I was especially impressed with how he worked with the HAPs. One day, Tagi was complaining of a stomach ache in the mornings. Mick took this comment seriously and began sifting through the medical kit. Soon he came up with a “prescription that he gave Tagi. An intense individual, Mick is an inspiration!

Finally, Ryan, now the overall expedition Leader is a true mountaineer. Completing the Everest veterans, Ryan came directly to the expedition from a successful expedition to Cho Oyu. His quiet but confident demeanor proved to be a calming influence on everyone during stressful times. Ryan showed his stuff on his summit day when he, JJ and three HAPs made it to the top of Broad in deep snow, an unknown route and long days – in other words just a normal day at work for him! Ryan went on to stand on the true summit and as JJ put it … climbed the final stretch when I thought I would fall off of it!

So there you have it, our four intrepid climbers. Wilco reports they are at Camp 3 and the weather still looks good for them. They appear to have timed it perfectly. Starting in windy and snowy conditions on the bet that the forecast of improving conditions was accurate, they seem to have won.

But K2 is notorious for fast changes and the upper part is where the difficulty increases dramatically. Please send your positive energy to them in anyway you can imagine.

Climb Safe guys.