The hike to Broad Peak (and with a little more hiking, K2) base camp is not a joyride. There are no teahouses, the trail can be pretty challenging and there’s not much variety. That’s why I was very surprised when on the hike in, we met some people hiking out with very light gear around Concordia. Turns out they were there on base camp treks. I knew about such base camp treks to Everest base camp or the Annapurna circuit, but it didn’t occur to me anyone in their right mind would want to hike up the Baltoro glacier just for fun.
After the unsuccessful summit push, it was time to return to camp 3. Needless to say without the darkness, distances became much smaller. At the same time, people (especially those of us climbing without oxygen) were getting very tired. For some of my teammates, climbing down the rocky “chimney” back on the snowy slopes took maybe even longer than climbing up did. While I’d have preferred to use a figure-8 to safely descend at that point, the ropes were such a tangled mess that it wasn’t an option. So I just rolled some of the ropes around my arm and climbed down as quickly as the altitude allowed. Personally I found that the easy part.
The long, snowy descent back to camp 3 was really hard for me. It was the soft, unstable snow. Basically every step meant sinking or sliding with the snow, making it a very frustrating challenge to go down in (needless to say it was an extremely exhausting challenge to climb too). Even with my trekking pole set up for snow, it was hard to take a step without losing my balance. This quickly drained the last of my energy reserves, so I was getting slower and slower, and I reached camp last of the team. The first thing I did (after reporting in) was collapsing in a tent to sleep for three hours or so (I think I didn’t even turn off my GPS tracker, making some people worry—sorry!).
Multiple people have commented on the trail how tight our summit push is. We didn’t have a third rotation, nor did we get a chance to sleep in camp 3. This is because we were there at the mountain early in the season, but had to sit on our hands for almost ten days due to snow (and then some more snow) and logistics issues. At the same time those of us who got up to camp 3 were fit and strong, ready and eager to go for the summit. Having some more leeway would’ve been nice, but with bad weather incoming, we had limited options. Being a commercial expedition means that we can’t just stay for three more weeks waiting for the next window.
After the second rotation on Broad Peak, I hoped we’d get a day rest. Resting a day in base camp after sleeping in the high camps helps a lot with acclimatization. Not to mention on the way up a rock rolled under me and I hurt my left knee. Luckily it got better after the rest in camp 1, but it’s still not good. Letting it recover would’ve been nice.
Except the weather forecast had other plans. There wasn’t enough time anymore to waste: snow was coming, and probably to stay too for weeks. Which meant we only had this one chance to move for the summit. Those who wanted a rest in camp 1 would start the next day, while those who were okay with the long way straight to camp 2 would get a day.
After taking a day of rest after the first rotation in base camp, we were heading back for the second rotation on Broad Peak. This time the goal was to sleep in camp 2, and preferably hike above camp 2, maybe even touch camp 3.
We started early in the morning so the glacier rivers would still be frozen and the snow firm. Once the rivers on the glacier thaw, traversing the moraine becomes much more difficult. The rivers’ flow is too strong and the terrain too slippery to cross just anywhere, and finding a safe crossing isn’t easy even with experience. (Hell, a local porter died trying to jump one of the rivers…) Higher up on the mountain having firm snow means much easier progress. Not sliding back a step for every two steps forward is a huge difference in exhaustion.
As soon as the weather allowed, the Sherpa team set out to fix the ropes on Broad Peak. To make the most out of the good weather, we followed a few hours later in their trail, just late enough to minimize rockfall risk.
For the past week, we’ve been waiting for two things: first, for the team cargo to arrive, and second for the weather to clear.
Very early start today, I assume to avoid glacier melt as much as possible. Woke up before it even started getting bright. The terrain the same rolling glacier landscape as the days before. Lots of up-and-down, pretty exhausting.
Once again I got scammed. Every day they’d tell us something like “breakfast at 7, we leave at 8” then they’d be shaking my tent at 6 and we’d hit the trail before 7. So today I was way ahead of the announced schedule, but they were yet another half an hour early.
Pretty tough and long hike. Loose rocks all the way made it really exhausting. The Sherpas were of course moving really quick, so I felt pretty drained when we stopped for lunch.
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