After four exciting, beautiful but also exhausting days, we returned to our advanced base camp [ABC] at the lower part of the K2 north pillar on Friday afternoon, July 8. We are now planning to rest at this camp—which is also called ‘Italy Base Camp,’ at 4,650 meters (15,260 feet)—for a few days and are hoping to get a break in this extremely changeable weather here. Since we arrived at the Chinese Base Camp at 3,900 meters (12,800 feet), a lot has happened.
First, the camel herders assisted us tremendously to get to the Italy Base Camp (the name of the camp stems from the successful 1983 Italian expedition, which was led by Agostini di Polenza). Unfortunately we were not as lucky with our two low-altitude porters, who were supposed to help us reach the ‘proper’ advanced base camp at 5,050 meters (16,570 feet). After our first carry, which admittedly was pretty tough, the two quit their job telling us that work at Muztagh Ata was a lot easier. Without their help, it would have cost us too much time and energy to set up our ABC at 5,050 meters, and so we decided to put it lower at 4,650 meters (15,260 feet)—about half way up the side moraine of the K2 Glacier, which stretches about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the foot of the mountain towards the North.
The eight Kyrgyz camel herders were even kind enough to help us carry some gear to the real ABC, which has now become our deposit camp.
After the camel herders had left us we were stuck in bad weather for three long days. As we do not get satellite connection at this side of the K2 Glacier, we set up a little communications tent on the East side of the moraine—our only connection to the outside world. The two Kazakh members of our expedition affectionately call our email excursions, which involve half-an-hour’s walk over hilly and stony moraine, a ‘visit to Anastasia.’ It is quite an effort to get to our Internet Café, and as nobody serves us coffee there we have to take our own in thermoses. However, the views into the Shaksgam Valley are a well-earned compensation for the exhausting excursion.
On July 5, the weather improved and we ascended to our deposit camp from where we continued to the foot of the incredibly impressive north pillar of K2. All of us were weighed down by extremely heavy rucksacks. We set up our Camp I about five-minutes walk away from the beginning of the pillar at an altitude of around 5,300 meters (17,400 feet), which is an interesting height as it is the usual altitude for a base camp of any other 8,000-meter peak.
The next morning, Darek, Tommy and Gerlinde descended to our deposit camp to pick up some gear that needed to be carried up to Camp I. In the meantime Maxut, Vassiliy and Ralf took 500 meters (1,600 feet) of fixing rope and anchors to the 250-meter-high (820-foot-high) gully. This mixed climbing in perfect conditions really made this excursion a lot of fun. At noon we all reunited at Camp I, and everyone was feeling very content about their day.
On July 7, we all went back up with very heavy rucksacks. Especially Vassily but also Gerlinde took the climbing lead on this amazingly beautiful day. The climb started off on an increasingly steep snowy ridge, which offers amazing views of the K2 Glacier, and then turned into a challenging grade V rock climb. At 6,200 meters (20,340 feet), we decided to divide our labor: Maxut, Darek and Tommy built a small platform, which we will use on our next ascent; Gerlinde, Vassily and Ralf fixed the rope on a 100-meter-long (330-foot-long) traverse. Vassily and Gerlinde continued climbing for another 100 meters (330 feet) to about 6,300 meters (20,670 feet) on pretty tough rock while Ralf exchanged all ice screws on the traverse with Abalakov threads. After a 1,000 meter (3,280 foot) abseil and about 13 hours after we had left, we returned to our camp and felt very pleased about our good teamwork. Tired but content we went to sleep very early that evening.
As predicted by the weather forecast, it started to snow heavily during the night. Nevertheless, we wanted to make the most of the day and descended to our deposit camp to carry fixing material, tents and ropes to Camp I. When we returned to ABC after these four exhausting days on Friday afternoon, we were pretty tired but confident about our climb. Now we are planning to rest and recuperate for a few days and are hoping for another weather window to arrive soon.
Gerlinde, Ralf, and the rest of the K2 team are sending you warm regards from a snow-covered base camp.