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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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PostScript: K2 Russian Deaths and Ger update plus Marcus' Summit Report

Posted on August 15, 2006 09:45 AM U.S. Mountain Daylight Time

Tragedy on K2 as 4 Russian climbers were killed in an avalanche near the summit. Banjo, who climbed with WIlco, Ger and others on our team, escaped along with Jacek and 3 Russian climbers according to his site. My sincere condolences go out to the Russian's family and friends.

I can confirm that all our 29 team members are back home except for Mick who should be in transit today.

Mountains are dangerous in the best of times. I have attached an update directly from Ger on his condition. An amazing experience for him. Marcus was kind enough to give me permission to repost an email he sent out to his friends on his Broad Peak summit. It is quite a read and reveals the dangers of even an "easy" 8000m peak. Thanks Marcus and Ger. Well done. Please Enjoy:

From Ger:

Thanks everyone for your well wishes. I'm recovering nicely alright here in Ireland. Unfortunately I can't tell you a whole lot about the accident - only what Joelle and Mick told me about it afterwards. The details of the day and the 2 days before are slowly returning though. Mostly the funny parts. Thankfully neither Mick, Wilco, Joelle , Banjo or Jackcek were in the path of the rock avalanche. Wilco was above, Joelle was closest to me in a rock section before the snow field I was on and Mick and Banjo bellow in camp1. I'm not too sure where Jackcek was - either at camp1 or about to arrive there. For the descent it seems like I was merely operating in the present tense as I've no recollection of it yet and yet, according to Mick, I was descending unassisted.

The Russians and Japanese then met us (Banjo, Mick and myself)at ABC and accompanied me back to basecamp. I'm extremely grateful to a lot of people involved here of course - too numerous to mention. Also I have to say that FTA and ATP were extrodinaire in their handling of the incident. Thank you. Sorry to have given all my friends a scare though. One thing's for sure, next time I'll have a sat phone of my own. I would have been able to aliviate a lot of the worry at home with one simple phone call.

Finally had a CT scan. IRL lads say they were mad in Pakistan not to give me one..surprise surprise. :-)5mm depression fracture on one side and a minor fracture that runs along the base of the skull on the other. Heading to another hospital tomorrow where they are likely to operate - stick in a screw and pull it out. They might decide not to due the time lapsed since the accident. That's the latest.

From Marcus:

Traveling and climbing in Pakistan is a huge adventure starting the minute one gets off the plane. Unlike Nepal, reaching the climbs in Pakistan is not straight forward. Ten days were required to make the trip from Islamabad to Broad Peak base camp. The trip up the Karakoram Highway and Indus Highway (Imodium required) make the road from Vancouver to Whistler look like the 401 Highway in Ontario (wide, straight and smooth). We were informed by our driver that in most years they loose at least one bus into the Indus River, never to be seen again.

The walk to Concordia was worth the trip alone. I was stopped in my tracks when Broad Peak (BP) and K2 came into view at Concordia. Both of these peaks project over 3km above the glacier. For those of us that live at sea level, the summits of BP and K2 are over 8km above our standard level of reference.

We had an excellent group of climbers and trekkers heading into base camp. The international flavour was fun and resulted in patriotic competitiveness with Irish, Swiss, Scottish and Canadian flags flying in base camp. Soccer fans even brought flags for their favorite teams to celebrate the world cup.

The acclimatization process for an 8000m peak takes several weeks and lots of schleping up and down the same route. On June 27th we left Camp 3 (6800m) heading for Camp 4 (7500m) and onto the summit (8047 m). These are not huge distances between camps but movement at these elevations is slow, at best. Our plan was to reach Camp 4 just before dark, to brew up, and then leave for the summit at 2 am. C4 consisted of two small single wall tents so space was tight with 2 people in each tent. Through miss communication, we had understood that there was 2 stoves and pots in C4, but when we arrived there was only one stove and pot. This may not sound like that much of an issue until you consider that it takes almost an hour to make a liter of water at this elevation. Even with 6 hours between arrival and departure we were unable to prepare enough water to rehydrate from that days climb and prepare adequate water for summit day. We were dehydrated even before we left for the summit.

Three of us were away from the tents at 2:00 am; Joelle decided to leave after us. The going was tough! There were no tracks to follow, it was dark, cold and we were plowing through knee deep snow. Once we were on the summit ridge the snow was less deep and the climbing more interesting. Our team did not install any fixed lines above camp 3 so we got the full feel of the exposure on the rock sections. There were fixed lines from previous years but they are best not trusted.

After several weeks of hard work I was fortunate enough to reach the summit of Broad Peak with Mick and John on June 28th at 2:00 pm. John and Mick were the first Irishman to reach the summit of Broad Peak and I believe I was the 4th Canadian to do so. Unfortunately, there were no views from the summit because it was snowing, windy and cold. Attempts to display the Canadian flag were thwarted by the wind.

Getting to the top is only half of the challenge when climbing big mountains. Our descent went generally as planned until we reached Camp 4. On first look I thought the tents had blown away. However, they had been buried by snow avalanching off of the bergschrund above. It took about an hour of digging by hand to excavate the tents adequately to allow a tight squeeze inside. To our horror, the snow that had buried the tents had swept away the only stove (long storey how it got left outside). The lack of stove meant no water. It had been 17 hours since we left C4 in the morning and the one liter of water we each had been carrying was long gone.

Mick and I were in one tent and John in the other. Mick did not have a sleeping bag so the close quarters were helpful in keeping us warm - pride aside we huddled in the tent. Snow continued to pour down on the tents throughout the night. By morning the lack of water was taking its toll. The only option was to descend to camp 3 and make water there. By 9:00 am we were descending in clear weather. The progress was slow; very slow. By 2 pm it was snowing again and we lost the route. We contemplated hiding in a crevasse until the weather improved but were afraid we may never come out again so decided to keep descending in what we thought was the right direction. Fortunately, we got a break in the weather at just the critical time and we saw C3 below us. The climbing was easy and we were able to literally stumble down hill to the tents. We reached C3 at about 6:00 pm - we were wrecked. It had been 48 hours since we were last properly hydrated and over 24 hours since our last sip of water.

Hours were spent brewing water and drinking soup at C3 but we were slow to recover. After a night at C3 we headed down again to C2 where friends met us and feed us more water, soup and food - thanks Carl and Kurt - I needed the help.

Base camp was a welcome site after the days on Broad Peak. Large quantities of food were consumed and a much needed wash had, before moving up to K2 base camp.

I had never intended on climbing high on K2. I found it psychologically very difficult at K2. The route is dangerous and the ever-present body parts and signs of previous failed attempts played on my mind. I found a portion of Dan Culver's climbing suite (the first Canadian to climb K2 - unfortunately Dan died on the descent) melting out of the glacier below the south face. My contribution to the climb on K2 was carrying a load of cook fuel to camp 1.

Two friends and I left K2 base camp on July 21 heading for home. It was difficult to leave friends and fellow climbers behind but it was time to go.

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