Arkistot ajalle elokuu, 2014

torstai 7. elokuu 2014 6:24

Details on my K2 Summit on July 27th 2014

It is odd how intuition plays big part in high-altitude mountaineering for me. Success is much about timing but for most time on the mountain I don’t even think about the summit. Rotations are just about mechanically getting everything in place and making sure of adequate acclimatizing. Then one day I usually seem to get a sensation, a strangely subconscious-like and yet comforting and emphasized feel that the time is now. I pick a day to start looking at. This is where modern technology comes along to play part.
This time the day I picked was July 27th whereas most teams where planning for 26th. I am glad to have found a weather forecast professional who is in great understanding what factors a mountaineer needs to look at. Deciding between these two days I had a feeling that 27th would be my day. Not just by the numbers provided in the forecast but given the feel I had, the sensation.
Climbers often forget that what they are looking at when they look at forecasts is an expectation what might be happening on that given day. It is after all big-mountain nature we are dealing with here and we for sure don’t know what’s going to happen ’til we’re there. Some weather-professionals though seem to often know better than others.

I was left alone at basecamp as all teams started their 5-day summit-push on 22th. I was to follow in two days as I aimed for the later day as well as I was skipping Camp 1 to make the push a day shorter. Was I making a mistake here and missing my change?
On 24th I left K2 basecamp for the last time. On a big peak you in reality only get one shot. In a couple days time all this would be over and I would be heading home, with or without summit. Fail, and you need several days rest before you are even able to go up again and most likely you in that case would not get another weather-window.

I always like to move early in the morning to benefit of firm snow-conditions before heat of day turns everything to slush. I climbed to my Camp 2 below House’s Chimney (6650m.). Following day I climbed the long and difficult section to overcome the so called Black Pyramid and reach Camp 3. Camp 3 is set on a shoulder-like feature at 7450 meters at where style of climbing changes. Now you have made the mixed, rocky terrain of Abruzzi-ridge and are entering a World of deep snow and ice.
At camp 3 I dug a platform, set up my lightweight summit-assault tent, tucked in and started my regular cycle of self-maintaining routines; melt snow, fill water-containers, prepare food, check what’s taken up next day, make tea, snack…repeat, avoid any extra effort and sleep.

K2-summit_001

On morning of 26th I packed down my camp and climbed across the snowfields towards the Shoulder and Camp 4, the highest campsite at 7950m. The day before summit-push is big effort as you are carrying full set of camping gear as well as your summit-gear (given you are not sherpa-supported). I thought this section was eventually easier than I had anticipated and I quickly reached the flat Shoulder-area. I got my camp quickly set-up and started my routines. All remaining day I was looking at the first wave of people climbing to the summit. Close to 30 people climbed slowly to the summit the first climber reaching it only after 1pm. It would take several more hours ’til everyone would follow and start down. They would not make it back to camp in daylight. Luckily we were saved from trouble and rescues.

K2-summit_002

I decided to start my push after 9pm. At the time I heard teams arriving at camp so slowly I got myself ready and started only after 9:30pm. It was just me, the three Americans, their three sherpa and Mingma Sherpa’s international team of 6 who had decided for 27th. I started well before the others and headed to darkness.
After leaving camp you are aiming directly towards the bottleneck, a snow-ramp between steep rocky outcrops and underneath a gigantic hanging glacier. This is the single most dangerous section of the whole climb. It was dark and my field of observation was only limited to within reach of my headlight. I was trying to move as fast as I could; two breaths and a step, two breaths and a step.. I made good progress and far below I saw lights following but not reaching. I reached the base of seracs where you traverse left step by step getting out of the most obvious fall-line in case the thing would break. Occasionally my light hit the hanging glaciers above me. This thing was massive and I was glad I did not completely see underneath what I was climbing. I could only try to climb as fast as I could and hope it would stay stable. Changes of the serac collapsing the very moment I was there for those few hours were smaller than it staying put but if it would, the outcome would be obvious.
I got out of the fall-line and knew I had now already made it to 8300 meters.
”Get this done now, and you will never need to return here”, I thought. It still was completely dark and I was climbing towards summit. After Bottleneck-traverse you climb straight up at a fairly steep angle (35-40 degrees). The higher I got, the deeper and softer snow also got. Sun was starting to light the horizon and eventually rose above it. At 8500 meters I started feeling the altitude and fatigue followed by breaking trail through all night. I let the American team pass.

K2-summit_003

From Camp 4 K2 summit looks flat and we were arriving to right-hand edge of this seemingly flat top. Angle started to ease out and the Americans, breathing oxygen got away. The closer to top you get, the more obvious it becomes that the highest point is at the other end. Now I no longer had to crawl on my all fours. I was very close to the real summit and I finally knew I was going to make it all the way. Day was beautiful – no wind, no clouds. I could see everywhere around me – to Godwin-Austin glacier, to China, to nearby Broad Peak and to further Gasherbrums and hundreds of other mountains. I forgot the fatigue. I was warm and feeling good as I speed up to highest point where the American already were taking pictures. Last steps I cruised like on any lower-altitude peak and soon the whole massive mountain was below my feet. I could not believe what had happened. During whole climb I was so focused and concentrated that it only now crystalized to me that it was K2 I had climbed! It just happened!

K2-summit_004

It truly was a magnificent day. Made a call home, took a few pictures and just sat there feeling confused of being there. It was only 8:15am.
I have been on high summits without oxygen before and know how harmful it can be. It is crucial for one’s survival to keep in mind that the sooner you get down, the better. Hypoxia hits you especially hard on descent after some time spent on the summit. I started down after the Americans, climbed down carefully and arrived at Camp 4 right after noon. I crashed in my tent for a nap but knew I should not stay there overnight after having climbed that high. In the late afternoon I continued down to Camp 3 and next day (which happened to be my birthday) the remaining way to base of the route and on to basecamp. Only once at Advanced Basecamp at foot of Abruzzi-ridge I thought I was safe and had survived.

K2-summit_005

I left basecamp on July 31st reaching Askole on August 3rd. Since then it’s been a freakin’ pain to get on with my journey home. A landslide blocked Askole-Skardu road, a truck-accident a section from Skardu to Chilas. Third day it just for the sake of it took 14 bumpy hours to reach Islamabad in where I pretty much directly got taken to the airport. This blog-entry I am writing in Ankara, Turkey where we landed due to engine-failure occurring on Doha-Copenhagen flight. Am I ready to go home? Hell yes I am!

Thank you all for following my K2 climb! Please do stay tuned on Twitter and Instagram! Photos will be added soon at ’Previous trips’.
Thanks to my partners: Valandre, Skyr, Rab / Heaven Distribution / Camu, LaSportiva / Outdoor Action Finland!

Samuli