On June 17, the members of the 2011 International K2 North Pillar Expedition started their ten-week campaign to climb the world’s second highest mountain with a long-planned rendezvous in the ancient Silk Road city of Kashgar, China.
We are a small but experienced team hailing from a diverse array of countries.
Expedition leaders Ralf Dujmovits and Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner are from Germany. Ralf climbed K2 from the more popular southern (Pakistan) side of mountain in 1994, and is the 16th man to have ascended all fourteen of the world’s 8,000-meter peaks. Gerlinde—making her fourth attempt on K2—is bidding to become the first woman to climb the fourteen 8,000-meter peaks without supplemental oxygen. She needs only K2 to complete the list.
Also needing only to climb K2 to join the elite 8,000-meter club are our two young climbers from Kazakhstan, Maxut Zhumayev and Vassiliy Pivtsov, making their sixth and seventh attempts on the mountain, respectively.
Team member Darek Zaluski, making his fourth attempt on K2, is from Poland and Tommy Heinrich, attempting K2 for the third time, is from Argentina.
Friday night we had a Uighur banquet with our liaison officer Iskander Abibullah, and the expedition’s agent in Kashgar, Mohammed Keyoum of the Kashgar Mountaineering Adventures. Saturday we spent organizing our gear—ropes, tents, down suits, ice screws, of course what every modern expedition now requires, elaborate solar powered electrical systems, batteries and computer cables.
“We nearly have as much electrical cable as fixed rope,” said Ralf.
Sunday we visited the Kashgar market where people sell a wild assortment of goods from bread and sheep to hand-made hay rakes fashioned from poplar wood. The market is a vestige of the old city that is now surrounded by a booming Chinese metropolis. “I was in Kashgar in 1996 and I hardly recognize it now.”
After a stop for last minute provisions at market that reflects the new Kashgar—Minxin Supermarket where you can find everything from smoked fish to dirt-cheap lingerie—we boarded three Toyota Land Cruisers and with our equipment following in a truck, headed south for the Karakorum.