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#K2Calling – La route vers le K2

Blog écrit par Charles Audier

Arrivés à Islamabad le 6 juin dernier, on se confronte aux premières réalités de l’expédition, les douanes ont bloqués les antennes speedcast nécessaires à la communication lors de l’expédition. Pas de temps à perdre, on file à l’enregistrement pour notre vol vers Skardu. Nous scotchons les bagages les uns aux autres pour passer les contrôles et Mike joue de son charme avec l’hôtesse de bord pour faire passer nos 50 kilos en trop dans la soute de l’avion. Première mission réussie. On s’installe dans l’avion et découvrons le paysage fascinant des montagnes du Karakoram à travers le hublot. L’avion se pose et le cirque des bagages recommencent. On entasse le matériel sur des 4×4 et filons vers l’hôtel Concordia de Skardu. Ce sera notre camp de base pour les 48 prochaines heures. Après, nous dirons adieu à la civilisation. Mike et Fred nous préparent à l’aventure, on regarde le parcours avec excitation et appréhension. Dès le premier souper, le binôme d’explorateurs nous fait rêver et peur avec des histoires rocambolesques. Au matin une horde de Toyota Land Cruiser d’un autre temps – aux peintures folkloriques et aux pilotes expérimentés aussi hauts en couleurs – nous retrouve à l’hôtel.

On file à la hâte a travers des paysages montagneux sublimes. Fin du macadam, on avale les kilomètres au rythme des postes militaires égrainés sur le parcours de 240 km à effectuer en 8 heures. Nous nous enfonçons dans un paysage de plus en plus lunaire. On ne sait pas trop si nous traversons Mars ou parcourons la lune en plein soleil. Les ravins abrupts et les sentiers étriqués ne nous laisse pas le temps de rêvasser. Cramponnés aux sièges on se surprend de vertiges en passant la tête par la fenêtre comme coincés entre les surplombs infinis en contre bas et l’imposante domination des montagnes alentours. Le soleil tombe derrière les cimes, nous arrivons à Askole. Dès lors tout se fera à pied. On passe notre première nuit sous la tente et au petit matin le village s’est attroupé autour de nous pour participer à l’aventure. Les Serdar – guide de locaux de l’expédition – recrute à tour de bras. Le soleil grimpe et nous filons vers Juhla, première halte après 8 heures de marche dans le canyon. Le soleil tape et cette mise en jambe annonce la couleur du périple : 20km pour cette première journée et les premiers coups de soleil pour l’équipe.

A demain pour la rencontre avec le glacier de Baltoro !

#K2Calling – Mike’s K2 Diary

Hello everyone, this is Mike reporting from K2 base camp. It has been an intense week trekking up to K2 base camp. Heavy snows started falling from day 1 and didn’t stop until we reached base camp. This is quite a change from our last K2 expedition in 2015, when it only started snowing on our last day before reaching K2 base camp. Occasional snowfalls are to be expected around 5000m and upwards, however I was surprised to witness snow on the second day of our trek.
These conditions have unfortunately made it impossible for us to use our various devices and the lack of sun meant we were unable to use our solar panels to charge our batteries. For this reason, we haven’t been able to provide our team back home with updates and content, as well as tune in to live Q&A’s. But now that we have all arrived at base camp, we hope to be able to catch up on the content and updates you have been missing out on.
To start off with, here are a couple lines from my daily diary:

Wednesday 12th of June
Snowing here this morning, we decided to set out a little later so that the porters don’t have to walk in the fresh snow. We are all well rested and ready to hike higher. The only problem we have is that we have no power to send content because we haven’t had any sun for the past 3 days – impossible to charge the batteries of our communication devices.

Thursday 13th of June
Still snowing nonstop here. We managed to hike up to 4000m today in fresh snow. The porters decided to stay lower in altitude and wait for the bad weather to pass. Our solar system has not been very efficient on the move in bad weather so no live content can be sent at this stage until the weather improves a little. The whole team is doing well and adapting to the altitude.

Friday 14th of June
Arrived in camp “Goro2” for the night. So much snow around the mules might not be able to make it to Concordia tomorrow due to the snow. They will go as far as they can and leave the equipment there to be picked up by porters on foot. It was an amazing day with no clouds in the sky. It feels nice to have good weather for a day. A lot of great content created so far; everyone is working hard when we reach base camp, I hope we will be able to start sending.

Saturday 15th of June
Arrived in Concordia. The fresh snow is knee deep. Tomorrow morning Fred and I will scout a route through the glacier covered with snow that will lead us to K2 base camp. It is still cloudy. K2 and Broad Peak stay hidden behind a curtain of clouds. We can feel the power of the mountains without seeing them at the end of the valley. Tomorrow night we will finally sleep at the foot of K2.

Sunday 16th of June
Fred and I had to make the tracks in heavy snow. The rest of the team and porters stayed behind in Concordia. Tonight, the track will freeze, and we hope the porters and the rest of the team will be able to use the frozen tracks to join us in K2 base camp tomorrow. Some of our climbing equipment had to stay in camp “Goro2” because the mules could not get through the snow. We are feeling strong and are extremely happy to be at BC sharing a tent with friendly Pakistani.

Tuesday 18th of June
The whole team arrived at base camp today! Still snowing though, and we are still waiting for some our climbing equipment. Our power situation is not very easy due to the lack of sun, but I will try to send some photos and short videos, and perhaps find enough power and connection to try and do a live tomorrow.

Final Report from K2 – On Turning Back from “the Mountain of Mountains.”

We are back down from our summit attempt.

Last night I was sitting in front of my tent looking up at the mountain that stamped its effect on my life.

Base camp is not exactly where we want to be, but I am satisfied that we gave it our best shot. Even more important, we tried with everything we had.

I often speak of failure as a big part of my life. Nothing I do is a sure thing, otherwise I would not be doing it; not knowing if, or if not, is the most exciting aspect of my life, In fact I have built my life on the chance of failure, because then, each time you do something, you have to do your best!

Maybe one day I must halt trying, then and only then will I cease failing but I will also terminate the chance of success.

How can man fall asleep if so many unsure dreams elude him?

— Mike

K2 summit not possible

Nature has the last word. Too much snow and high avalanche risk stopped Mike, Fred and Kobi from reaching camp 3 and the summit of K2. The mountains have taken 26 lives this year. Mike, Fred and Kobi assisted in an unsuccessful rescue mission last week when three Iranians got lost on Broad Peak. They learned another 4 people lost their lives on Gasherbrum 1 yesterday and a high altitude porter on K2 nearly lost his life. The Himalayan peaks are there for a lucky few to enjoy but they must know when to turn back and accept that it is the mountain that decides who reaches the summit. It wasn’t meant to be for Mike, Fred and Kobi this year.

K2 Expedition – Waiting at basecamp

After our last climb up to camp 2 nothing much has happened. We had very bad weather that kept us at base camp for more than six days. Snow and strong winds was on the menu every day. Although we have very little with us we are very comfortable in our tents. Temperatures are just below freezing point at night but with the wind, the wind chill makes it feel colder.

I did a couple of short walks up the base of K2 to take some photos but with the danger of avalanches could not wander off too far.

What I love about bad weather is that it can only get better. K2 is making us wait but slowly the weather is turning in our favor and Fred, Kobi and I cannot wait to start our last acclimatization climb up to about 7600masl.

We will spend the next two days in high altitude for the body to be able to form as many red blood cells as possible that would carry the oxygen to the extremities of our body. When we go into the death zone above 7000masl we only have 7% oxygen, and life expectancy up in that zone is only 20hours.

For the next two days we will have to make sure that we have everything in place equipment wise for our trip to the summit and back. Reaching the summit is only half of the callenge!

K2 Expedition – My first ascent to higher altitudes

We just got back from Camp 2 at 6'510 meters! The weather has been clear so Fred, Köbi and I decided to make the most of this perfect opportunity to attempt the steep but straight climb from our basecamp position at 5'600meters.. I still need to acclimitize more as I only arrived at basecamp on the 2nd of July but overall  I'm very happy with my performance.

The new Mountain Hardwear equipment with the Petzl crampons and ice axe have been tested in severe conditioins and I'm very happy with their performance.

We spent a cold and windy night up at Camp 2 two nights ago but are the first to arrive there this year so we were able to choose where to place our tent – all very strategic due to windy emplacement of Camp 2.

We arrived safely to basecamp yesterday and are now taking a few days rest. The weather is once again turning for the worst with snow and high winds forecasted for tomorrow. We will take it easy and regain our strength for our next climb, to camp 3 in a few days time.

This is a big mountain and we will have to take it step by step.

Base camp – Acclimatisation

Mike had a comfortable first night in his tent and is extremely happy to be where is is. Today its a quiet day for him as he gets used to the altitude, sorts out is equipment and finds his place in the K2 basecamp.

Fred and Köbi have left the camp today and are walking to a higher altitude where they will leave some equipment that might be needed during the ascent.

Base camp is quiet this year with only two other expedition teams attempting to do the summit. It appears that the recent shooting of alpinists in the Nanga Parbat region put a few teams off the trip and several of them cancelled or turned back.

Mike arrives at basecamp

Today Mike arrives at the basecamp of K2 situated at 5'600 meters altitude. He raced quickly up the Baltoro Valley, within 2 days, leaving one porter far in the distance, obviously too eager to reach the camp and to rejoin his teammates who had already settled in one week ago.

It was a very happy meeting with the team today. They quickly exchanged stories and can now look ahead at the great challenge that lies ahead of them – k2 – whose silhouette lines the horizon.

K2 Expedition begins

It was a long wait for Mike to get back to Pakistan but he is finally there and ready to attempt the ascension of the second highest Himalayan peak, K2. Known especially for its difficulty, the peak has been nicknamed by mountaineers as 'The Savage Peak'. Alpinists that affront the clmb to the summit must know what they are doing and for this reason Mike chose to go with two other experienced Swiss climbers, Fred Roux from Vollèges, Valais and Köbi Reichen from Lauenen, Berner Oberland.

If Mike reaches the summit of K2 this will be his 4th peak over 8'000meters reached without the use of additional oxygen. During a previous expedition with Fred, Mike summitted both Gasherbrum I and II (8'080 and 8'035m respectively) and during an expedition with Köbi, he summitted Broad Peak (8'051m).

After a brief over-nighter in Islamabad the team headed off to Skardu, the capital of Baltistan and a 793km jeep ride away via the Karakoram Highway. After three days driving up the Karakoram Valley, over a broken and treacherous road, the team arrived in the beautiful villlage of Skardu, perched 2,438 metres above sea level, amongst the backdrop the great peaks of the Karakorams.