Expedition Gasherbrum 2 & Broad Peak 2022
The map with updates from my Garmin tracking device should be visible here: share.garmin.com/kimnystrom
FINAL THOUGHTS, IDEAS AND SUGGESTIONS
So ends the toughest trip I’ve ever done. Not to say it wasn’t full of good experiences as well, and learning – it most certainly was.
It was a big shock, to say the least, how much the path to the mountain, and the mountain itself had changed in 14 years. Not sure how big of a part last winter’s snowfall has played – at least on the mountain for sure the impact of all the snowfall was huge.
My expectations vs reality turned out to be very different. Last time, even the trek up to BC was straightforward and easy, and the mountain “easy”. This time it was all but that!
First – why did I decide to turn back?
The biggest reason, by far, was my stomach. I had some pretty big problems starting already in Skardu on the way in, during the first days. Typically, these kind of travel bugs are normal and expected, and often disappear after a few days. Meaning you can eat and refuel properly.
However, this bug just didn’t want to go away. It seriously affected how I was able to restore energy levels, as I was “runny” for weeks! Even after returning home, it has taken a 10-day antibiotics cure to get back to a semblance of normal.
Not being able to refuel is critical – how will you have energy for anything – especially hard trekking or climbing at altitude when most of what you eat just passes right through? You can’t keep it up for very long. I kept hoping it would get better, but even after 4 weeks on the expedition things still had not improved. Even though I did climb and go on for hours and days, my body was eating up precious fat and muscle tissue at a high rate.
At some point, I realised it was just too much.
What then caused me to make up my mind, in addition to the stomach issue were several other factors;
- The climbing was very, very tough, much tougher than expected – especially since we had to do most of it at night, and resting and refueling during the daytime was very difficult because of the heat.
- There had been a lot of snowfall, and more was coming so it was unsure whether we would be able to continue at all.
- The climb was seriously technical this year. Lots of steep ice and snow, narrow ridges etc. I have a clear limit for the risks I am willing to take, and we crossed those limits several times going from Camp 1 to Camp 2 and back down. So I was moving way outside my comfort zone, and it didn’t feel safe. You know I am not afraid of going outside my comfort zone, but there is certainly a limit to that.
- This year the mountain was not very welcoming. Those with experience from Everest and K2 said several times that this was one of the most difficult mountains they had encountered – more difficult than both Everest South and North sides, and K2. K2 is generally thought to be one of the most dangerous and difficult to climb, so that says a lot.
It was a very tough decision to throw in the towel and took me several days to make up my mind. Then, with tears in my eyes I went to our leader Rolfe and told him what I had decided. He was shocked and said I was one of the stronger climbers, so was very curious about why I had come to that decision. Though he was very supportive nothing he said helped – I had already made up my mind and my heart wasn’t in it anymore.
Two other members of the expedition (which only left one member, Stefan) had similar stomach issues and decided as well to turn back, so we shared the hard trek home. We had time to discuss our decision a lot and came to the conclusion that we were all happy about it. Very disappointed of course, but this was still for the best.
Anyways, the mountain ain’t going nowhere. And getting to the summit isn’t mandatory, but getting down is.
About gear - is there anything I would change, for a possible next trip?
There was very little clothing that I did not use. Fortunately, there was a chance to do laundry at Base Camp, otherwise I may have quickly run out of relatively clean underwear 😜. So maybe bring a few more of those, and a few more T-shirts.
I think the only piece of clothing I didn’t use were the Arcteryx Sigma AR pants. They were just too non-breathable and stiff, guess they are mainly targeted for skiing. But the other Arcteryx pants definitely saw some heavy use. The only thing I miss in them would be some side vents.
Other than that, a really good set (or two) of Merino-wool long underwear is definitely a must! They are comfortable, and they don’t smell very easily 😜. On top of that some thin two-layer fleece underwear works very nicely. The long underwear I used 90% of the time was the Helly Hansen Lifa Merino Lightweight Crew shirt. This HH shirt is super, with a thin layer of moisture-wicking material underneath and merino wool on top. Very comfy.
For the hotter days, a white long-sleeved shirt is also a big plus. I had a Helly Hansen Musto shirt, and it worked very well.
Huge thanks for the HH clothing Mr Kai Kantanen !
What about technical gear?
Garmin InReach Mini 2.0. The BEST gadget on this trip, can strongly recommend! It is super light, the battery lasts forever, it tracks you and you can send and receive messages anytime, anywhere . The drawback is that the monthly charges are pretty high – especially if you want unlimited tracking and messaging.
I also brought a satellite terminal – the plan was to use it to send photos and videos regularly – but the Mb charges turned out to be so high that in the end I didn’t use it.
Also, with a Mac and/or iPad/iPhone, the devices send and receive all kinds of stuff that eat up the Mbs very quickly! Of course, if you have a sponsor it is a different story 😉
So on this trip the whole satellite device was a waste of weight and space.
Camera – as I said, I brought also my “big” camera on the expedition, in addition to the iphone. However, as it is relatively heavy, I only used it up to Base Camp – after that it was in my tent the whole time.
Nowadays iphone cameras are so good, that they are more than enough for an expedition like this. Unless of course you are planning to do a lot of zooming, or high resolution prints.
I transferred all photos and videos to my laptop and then used Lightroom for some quick editing, which makes a big difference!
So, as a note for “next time”, leave the big camera at home – instead bring a good power bank (or two) with some small solar panels. One bigger bank and one smaller that is good for 1-2 charges, that is easy to bring up to higher camps.
The next piece I am very happy about is the inflatable Exped XL mattress, with inflatable pillow. SUPER comfy, light and easy to carry along. Normally you would use a bag to inflate them, but I brought a tiny rechargeable pump that did the work in seconds. The pump is originally designed for inflating packrafts, i.e inflatable canoes. Also strongly recommended.
Big kudos also to the Haix Desert hiking boots. Absolutely great! No blisters or anything, and taking into account the super rough terrain, these boots are the ones I will use in the future, for sure!
One more thing – I mentioned in the beginning about keeping a close eye on team work. I did. Lots of learning there as well. Biggest learning there was to stick together from the very beginning, helping and supporting each other, and spending as much time together as possible.
There was a big difference between our little expedition compared to the K&P group that we shared some Base Camp facilities with. We were a cohesive team, while they were more just individuals in a group, with a constant sense of competition in the air – who was fastest, highest, had the lightest gear etc etc. That is not the way to build trust and cooperation.
That’s really it. Expedition done, not the outcome I had expected of course, but still full of learnings and tons of new experiences that I will be sharing in my presentations.
Thanks for staying along for the ride!!!!
19/7: Home sweet home.
After making my way homewards for 8 days, am finally, finally here :-)
Got up at midnight in the hotel in Islamabad, was picked up by the local expedition operator, Mashabrum Tours, and taken to the airport. Many slow security checks and hours on the plane later, I was met at the Helsinki airport by three beautiful young ladies, seemingly all happy to see their "skinny is the new rugged" Dad home, in one piece 🥰
Wonderful. Now I need a few days to acclimatize to being home again, then it's time to start going through all photos and videos. Will post some of them here, mainly photos, most of the videos will go on Youtube. Tried to film a few clips each day during the expedition, like a video diary, talking (in Finnish 😉) about how I felt, what had been going on etc. Will let you know when I have those uploaded, so in case you're interested you can always take a look.
17/7: Early morning flight to Islamabad.
After a surprisingly smooth check-in at the local Skardu airport, with our oversized luggage, we boarded the Pakistan International Airlines aircraft and took off. What an exciting flight!
After a steep and very interesting take-off, in order to cross the mountains, the skies cleared and a magnificent view opened up on both sides of the plane. Throughout the flight, the pilot worked as a tour guide and explained all about the surrounding landscape. We heard about the huge amount of high peaks in the Karakorum, their altitude, history as well as stories about any other landmarks we could see outside the small windows. Big thanks to the pilot, what an excellent and exceptional service!!
Right now the challenge here in hot Islamabad is trying to figure out how to get the homewards flights arranged. I have return flights booked on Turkish for 11/8, and naturally I would like to change those for as soon as possible. However, all TA flights seem to be full for all of July and August (!), so not sure yet how things will work out. I may have to buy a ticket on another airline.
So tomorrow morning am heading over to the local TA offices to see what, if anything, can be done - wish me luck!
16/7: Slow day in Skardu.
Today we repacked our extremely dusty and dirty gear, then went to get a shave. My face feels odd without the beard, and I hardly recognise myself in the mirror.
In addition, have also lost a lot of weight (though no surprise there…) - had to tighten the belt of my trekking pants about 20 cm, so there definitely is a different me staring back from the mirror!
The most important thing today has been eating. A lot. Seems it’s very hard to eat enough. Will keep practicing :-)
Tomorrow we have flight tickets from Skardu to Islamabad - and are sincerely hoping we at least this time will get to fly, instead of doing the Karakorum Highway in reverse!
Once I get to Islamabad, I can finally try to arrange the tickets home!!
15/7: Finally in Skardu!
We left Paiju camp early in the morning and started walking towards the planned jeep pick-up point. For a change, a quite pleasant and relaxed walk, good weather, talking to various groups that had just started their trek up towards the Baltoro glacier.
Couldn’t help but smile when they all looked so clean, fresh and eager - knowing what a rough trek they have ahead.
They have no idea! What used to be a quite straightforward trek is far, far from that nowadays.
4 hours later took a nice little break in the sunshine, boots and socks off, drinking coke and tea, waiting for the jeep to arrive.
Then - a wilder than wild jeep ride! For the first hour we had an open jeep, more like a pickup, and stood there holding on for dear life as we cruised and bumped over rocks and steep inclines.
Suddenly the jeep stopped in front of a bridge the had been washed away. All luggage off the jeep, and one by one were pulled by hand high over the roaring river in a small wooden box suspended on a cable - quite exciting and a new experience richer :-)
The next jeep ride was even shorter, only a few km, when we again had to stop because the road had totally collapsed. All luggage had again to be offloaded and carried up and over the collapsed road section. A big group of locals were frantically fighting over who would get to carry our bags and earn a few extra rupees. Man, what a circus!
Fortunately, the rest of the road was without washed away bridges or any hanging contraptions, but the ride was long, dusty, tiring and extremely bumpy. We slowly bumped along a very rocky and narrow road, closely following the roaring river, sometimes high above, sometimes down by the river. For a large part of the time the road was exactly one jeep wide, with a very high drop on the side, marked only with small stones. One small mistake by the driver would have sent us tens of meters down into the river.
Fortunately the drivers are super good, professionals, and the jeeps incredible at not breaking down even on the rockiest sections. Quite incredible. Once I get my photos and videos sorted out, you will see :-)
Finally, around midnight, we arrived at the Concordia Hotel, for a quick dinner and then, the long-awaited shower!
Having hiked, sweated and slept, not to mention driving on the dusty roads, in the same clothes for 4 days, it’s hard to describe the feeling. It didn’t really matter that there was only cold water, what a joy to get rid of the smell :-)
14/7: A long day later, we are finally off the glacier! Now resting in Paiju camp. Just had a nice dinner with the brother of our mule driver . Excellent spicy rice and cummin-filled meat sauce, washed down with chai tea. Again one step closer to home.
Tomorrow we continue this long journey, on foot and by jeep. The challenge is that at least two bridges have been washed away by some flash floods, so it remains to be seen how far we get. For sure until Askole, and there is even a small chance that we could make it all the way to Skardu, very late at night. We are 100% prepared for a long day and keeping our fingers crossed that things will work out in our favour, as the sweaty aromas are getting quite strong, I can tell you
13/7: Trekked from Goro 2 camp to Urdukas today. Got a bit lost on the glacier so had to do some serious scrambling over and around boulders and crevasses.
Started raining as we arrived. All gear is pretty much humid or wet, and the rain continues. Our feet are sore from trekking across the very rough surface, much more so than expected. Our gear bags are transported by mule as we go from one camp to another.
We only carry very little in our back packs. The ground is muddy mixed with mule crap, clothes and sleeping bag are moist, as we are lying here in the tent listening to the rain. So it looks like we still have a couple of long days ahead before reaching any kind of civilisation, can’t wait.
12/7: Have just left BC. Made the tough decision of abandoning this expedition, based on many reasons I will open up a bit later. But mainly involves risks I am not willing to take, incoming bad weather/snowfall, and small chance of anybody summiting at all. Am happy with the decision though it was a very very tough one to make.
Am leaving with Bill and Susanne, and today we have a looong 27km trek to Goro 2 camp. From there 3 more camps and a few jeep drives that should mean we are in Skardu on Sat.
Then, hopefully we will be sble to catch a flight to Islamabad on Sunday or Monday. Should the flights be cancelled, which seems to be the norm, we will drive down the Karakorum Highway (about 15 hs) to Islamabad.
Then the last thing is to arrange the flights back home , a lot of experiences richer!!
11/7: Just as I finished the last sentence, the order came to pack everything and descend back to C1, because of an incoming snowstorm!
At the same time the wind started blowing hard and the snow came, so it was a bit of a struggle trying to pack most of the tents.
Going down took a long time, as there were many of us and the rope abseils were long, over steep ice!
Arrived at C1, exhausted and super thirsty, not having had anything to drink since morning! Crashed into the tent hoping for a good night’s sleep, but were woken at 3, with an hour to pack before descending to BC. More snow on the way, with quickly increasing avalanche danger.
So here I am, in my tent at BC. The forecast looks bad for at least a week, so we will have to see what happens next.
Personally I have exceeded my comfort/risk limits way more than I like, and the climbing has been significantly harder and much more technical than expected.
Every day has been physically super hard, also my stomach still has not returned to normal, which of course impacts everything as well.
Also, based on what experienced climbers here say, G2 may not be climbed this year. Based on that, and the increasing snowfall, I may well throw in the towel and return home. A tough decision, but may be the best. Will make that decision within the next few days.
10/7: Greetings from Camp 2 6500m. Got here this morning after a brutally steep and icy climb. Those who know are comparing it to K2!
Most of the sections were fortunately protected, ie there was a fixed rope in place.
However, because of the heat many of the anchors holding the rope in place are not 100% reliable. And that kinda sucks!
Though they keep improving the anchors, In practice it means you cant put your full weight on it, except in an emergency.
The climbing was 60-80 degree ice in many places, and the Banana Ridge was broken up, looking nothing like before. Camp 2 tent platforms, for instance, had to be dug out from a 40-degree slope.
Also, the plan has changed, unfortunately. We will now spend today, tonight and tomorrow here, descend to C1, and to BC as there is a storm moving in.
We ran into Denis Orubko, a very famous mountaineer, and even he has doubts about the whole mountain this year.
Apparently there was a record amount of snow last winter, and those who have summited G2 before say they’ve never seen it like this. Those who have summited Everest say G2 has been much tougher, and that says a lot as well!
7/7: Well, today was supposed to be a nice last rest and refuelling day before heading up in the night. Hasnt yet turned out that way, unfortunately. First, it’s been raining in BC all night and day. Not hard, but still a steady drizzle. This will most likely mean that the route up will be soft and wet. Though now, at 14, at least the sky has cleared, and I had a shower :-)
Second, I had to get up a couple of times during the night to empty myself. So have now a mild stomach issue (great timing!). Took an Imodium in the morning to calm things down, and right now it seems things have settled down. Of course it also means I am totally empty. This will affect the next few days quite a bit energy-wise as I don't want take the risk of eating or drinking much anything, yet. Took a nap and had a bit of rice and tea for lunch, and now waiting to see what my stomach says. The timing is very unfortunate.
However bugs like this are common, and the only thing to do is wait for it to pass. But will be a tough climb to C1! So keep an eye on the Garmin map, there you will see where we are moving. At least the climbs to C1/C2 will be at night/early morning.
6/7: Now we have a plan. Next time we move up will be the summit attempt! Early in the morning on the 8th, we will head up the ice fall to C1, 6000m. Spend a day, night and day there. Early on the 10th up to C2 6500m. Same thing, spend the day, night and following day there, resting and refuelling.
On the 12th we move up to C3 7000m, rest and refuel that day, and continue to C4 7400m the following day. Then, late in the evening on the 13th starts our summit attempt! If all goes well, and the weather cooperates, we will summit on the14th, then head back down to C2 for one night and on the 15th push on down all the way to BC.
The two biggest factors are the weather and my no-oxygen approach. Right now the weather forecast looks very good, but who knows? It will be a struggle without supplementary oxygen, pushing myself both mentally and physically, no doubt about that! I am quite aware of my own limits, physiologically and risk-wise, so if push comes to shove, I will not have any problems in saying thank you for the adventure and turning around
5/7: What does a typical day in BC look like - how do we spend our time here?
Well, its a pretty simple life. At BC we all have our own tents, which is a nice luxury - you have a bit of privacy, plus plenty of space to spread out and organize your things.
You typically wake up between 4 and 6, lie in your sleeping bag listening to the camp waking up. Breakfast is scheduled for 8, so the cooks get up at 6, fire up the kerosene burners and start boiling water and preparing breakfast for us all.
The kitchen help organize the mess tent, make sure the table is set with cans of coffee, tea and chocolate. Cans of marmelade, nutella and honey, as well as cookies are laid out.
We lie in the tents, waiting for the first rays of sun to hit the tents around 630, warming it up so you can get out of the sleeping bag and change into clothes for the day. That is followed by typical morning routines - brushing teeth, going to the latrine etc.
Then we have a leisurely breakfast with plenty of coffee, some muesli, fried eggs, chapatti bread.
If there is nothing specific on the agenda we retreat to our tents or hang around in the mess tent, reading, talking, relaxing.
You have a lot of time for doing nothing, which for the more restless of us can sometimes be difficult. Plenty of time to think, which in today’s world is a rare luxury, as there are no emails, whatsapp ir other messages to constantly interrupt
Sometimes you do a bit of laundry, take a shower, or service your gear.
The cycle then repeats itself for lunch around 1 and dinner around 7. On this expedition the cook is a real magician and we have enjoyed everything from pizza and french fries to steak, cake and fresh fruit! After a long dinner with stories from everyone, its time to return to the tent, change into night gear, crawl into the sleeping bag, perhaps read a little and finally close your eyes and go to sleep
4/7: Base Camp. Crevasses, crevasses and more crevasses was the theme when we left C1 at 22. An unforgettable night.
The five of us were roped up at ca 5m intervals as we started our way down towards BC. At regular intervals one of us would plunge through seemingly solid snow into dark and unforgiving crevasses, up to our hips.
Everybody had to stay super alert and immediately when someone shouted ”Fall!” we would throw ourselves either forwards or backwards, depending on who had gone through. Then we hauled that person up and continued until the next shout came.
We thought the snow surface would have hardened enough three hours after sunset, but we were clearly wrong. All in all the descent lasted 6 hours.
The teams who left a couple of hours after us had no such problems and were down in 4 hs. Lesson learned. So it looks more and more like the majority of the work needs to be done at night
That messes with us in many ways, especially with recovery - sleeping and eating. Sleeping a few hours in the evening, climbing at night, trying to sleep in a hot tent during the day, repeat - well, you get the picture…
In addition it messes up eating and restoring energy levels completely - who has an appetite at altitude in a steaming hot tent? We have all lost weight readily, and there is more to come.
To combat this, we all have our own snacks of some sort. I have Nosht energy gels, Puhti honey packages, some beef jerky strips - and of course salmiakki and Pantteri candy
3/7: The sherpas left at midnight to start fixing the ropes to C2. We left at 2 and started up the steep wall. This time, without packs, and using the fixed ropes, the going was relatively easy. 2 hs in, there was an unfixed section just above a steep wall, that our group deemed too risky to cross, so we descended back to camp from 6300m. A bit of a disappointment, but we have clear risk limits we do not wan to cross. At least we got some altitude in.
The rest of the day has been spent trying to sleep in this sauna, waiting to descend to BC at 21 when the surface has hardened. Hopefully it wont take more than 4-5 hs. Last winter saw a huge amount of snow so the mountain is exceptionally difficult this season, and the going super hard. It may well be that we will have to abandon our attempts. That will depend on our next, longer rotation, and of course weather. Should there be more snow, then we may have to retreat, and somehow get all our gear down. Lets see, it’s not over yet :-)
2/7: Greetings from camp 1 6000m! We are all lying in tents here, exhausted from our push up here. Left at midnight, worked our way up the icefall with heavy packs. We tried to bring everything we need for the next rotations, i.e all clothes and equipment we might need. Mainly high altitude down bags and clothes etc that we are then going to leave here for the next pushes higher up. Super hard work!
Going was ok until the sun hit us and then everything became a struggle, small steps at a time! Extremely difficult going as the crevasses are enormous and we have circle around, back and forth to find a relatively safe route on the softening snow. We are now at the foot of the mountain and the sun has turned this into a huge sauna. There is nothing to do. You cant walk around as you just keep sinking into the snow. Just lie in the hot tent and melt snow to drink.
Next, the super strong sherpas will try to push up the first ridge and fix a rop to Camp 2. The only time to do that is after sunset when it gets cold and the snow hardens. This means most of our movement will need to be done at night. And that doesn't make recovery any easier.
So we will spend this night here, and the night will be cold. Tomorrow the day will be as hot as today. If the sherpas manage to fix the route tonight and set up a few tents at C2, we might make our way up, and then just touch the camp and return to BC - or, I may stay there for one night with another guy who will also not be using extra oxygen, as we need the extra acclimatisation. But we will see, tomorrow will know better.
30/6: Last night went to bed for a couple of hours, then wakeup at 2330, get the gear on and to the mess tent for some coffee and cookies. After midnight we set off towards the icefall. It is beautiful and menacing, broken up into apartment-sized blocks and seracs, and beautiful sculptures.
As said before, it is very complicated and similar to the Khumbu icefall next to Mt Everest. The biggest difference, fortunately, is that it barely moves.
Anyways, we made our way sideways, up and down, trying to avoid the huge crevasses everywhere.The route was very complicated and involved quite a bit of ice climbing. Very hard and slow going. Also very much different from last time in 2008. Ca 4 hours in, it turned into more of a flat plain, and 1 hour later at 5560m we dug a hole in the snow, left some tents and gas canisters, turned back down. The sun started blasting us about an hour later and made the last two hours a sweaty zigzagging journey.
Returning to BC, we all retreated to our tents, but as the temperature inside is a dry 35-40 degrees, it is not really possible to sleep. The good thing is we got in some altitude to help us next time when we bring some more equipment for the rotation I mentioned earlier, on Sat morning. The rest of today and tomorrow we will rest and prepare.
The question Why? went through my head numerous times, but the fact is that if you want to achieve something big, you have to take steps towards it and not just think about it. And that’s what this is all about :-)
28/6: Rest day. Been relaxing, eating salmiakki and drinking a lot . Swede Stefan and I hiked an hour up the moraine ridge from BC to get a look at our mountain, Gasherbrum 2. Took a bunch of photos and then we had a close look at the route on my laptop.
This year the big challenge is the 10km long icefall that we need to tackle on our way to Camp 1 at 6000m. A team has already been hard at work for nearly a week in trying to find a route through. Its a big challenge as the icefall is a barrier that is the only way up. For continuing the acclimatisation process, we will need to start moving up the icefall no matter what. The plan now is to take off upwards for 4-5hrs around midnight1am on Thu morning and then return back to BC before the sun starts roasting us.
Fortunately these two expeditions have the best sherpas, awesome super guys. They together have an enormous amount of experience and summits from 8000m peaks. One of them has 17 Everest summits under his belt, incredible!!!
If all goes well, we will do our first rotation a few days after that. Bring some tents etc to Camp 1 at 6000m, sleep a night, go up to Camp 2 at 6600m, sleep a night, perhaps try to touch C3 at 7000m, return to C1, sleep and return to BC.
From our team the others are going with supplementary oxygen, and two have their own personal sherpas. From Kobler there are two others who have also decided to forego the supplementary oxygen. Will be interesting to see how this pans out :-)
It is essential that we do most of the climbing during the night. Because when the sun hits us, it’s like walking around in the sauna in warm clothes and high altitude boots - you can imagine how it drains all your energy!
27/6: Wonderful easy rest day today. Very hot though, so even only lying in bed with all doors open is like being in a dry sauna! Have been using my Garmin InReach Mini, connected via bluetooth to the Garmin app on my iphone. It allows sending sms over satellite, and works amazingly well. Been communicating with family and friends daily :-)
So updates have gone to Taru in sms-sized pieces, and she has then compiled them and updated the web site. Lets not make it too easy :-)
While expedition members have been relaxing, the sherpas have worked hard at finalizing this tiny village. That means comms tent, storage tent, both kitchen tents, toilets and shower tent. Super hard work in this heat, having to hack away ice and move rocks around. The highlight today, without any doubt, was showering! In addition I also washed dirty clothes, by hand, in a glacial stream’s super cooled water . So, a clean me, in clean clothes, especially in clean underwear feels wonderful!
26/6: We overnighted about 3hs from Concordia towards Gasherbrum. Then a very early wakeup for the final push to base camp. Once again a super rough trek, lots of ups and down over a very much broken up glacier - again very different from last time. Global warming is very apparent here, so sad!
4 hours later, yes! Our home for the next few weeks. As we were looking on, the sherpas and staff did a huge job of hacking away ice and moving rocks in order to build smooth platforms for the mess, kitchen and storage tents, and of course for our tents.
We have a luxurious 3-person tent per person, including a foam mattress . A new experience for me, and am not complaining as have not slept well at all for the past week.
We also have a mess tent, which is insulated and heated! Meaning it is cool in the daytime when the sun is beating down, and to eat dinner and hang around in the evenings without being cold. Also a new experience :-)
The day was super hot, but right now the weather is clearly changing, it is very windy and cold. Tomorrow we should have our first weather forecast, it will help a lot in making plans for the coming week. Fortunately we have two rest days ahead, after that we will probably start our rotations and moving up the mountain.
Up to now we have been moving as one 15 person unit - our 360-expedition team of 5, Kobler’s 7 person team, plus sherpas. From now on, fortunately, its just us 5; Susanna (Switzerland), Bill (UK), Stefan (Sweden), myself, and our fearless leader Rolfe Oostra (Australia) plus our sherpa Pemba. Rolfe has an incredible amount of experience from 8000:ers, Antarctica, and pretty much from all over the world - so we are in very good hands!
So what do we eat on an expedition?
Quite often expeditions come with a kitchen and staff, so with ours. They have a few kerosene burners and can conjure up incredibly good food!
A typical breakfast is coffee (of course!) with lots of sugar, mashed eggs, chapatti bread, toast with honey or Nutella. Sometimes also oatmeal or muesli.
Lunch and dinner typically start with some sort of soup, followed by rice or french fries and a main course of chicken or pasta. On occasion there will be pizza as well. At dinner we also get dessert - fresh and delicious mango or some other fruit. So we are definitely set on that front.
As we move up the mountain we will mostly eat read-made expedition meals, which could be a bag of pasta or curry, you just heat up some water on a small gas stove, pour it in, wait a bit and eat :-)
Gotta say they are definitely taking care of us well food-wise , the cook is a master .
24/6: Hyvää Juhannusta kaikille, a very happy Midsummer to all, especially to Taru and my girls!
Had a good breakfast today, and decided to try find a good cruising speed and then just go. Weather-wise a perfectly clear day, so I set off and slowly figured out my own pace, moving along with the porters quite a bit. Was on the lookout for the Goro 1 camp but 4hs and 12 km later it turns out I had missed it totally as I arrived at Goro 2 before 11.
Highlight of the day! Super icy cold wash of myself, with soap at a nearby glacial stream. Man it hurts when you try to wash off the shampoo!!
It was worth it! For the sake of Midsummer! And to get rid of the smell hahaaa!
Aah, and fresh underwear, so things are looking good!
Its surprising to suddenly have some data coverage here, so will try to send a short video clip to Puhujatori, to see if Mauri can get that out at least on LinkedIn
Tomorrow off to Concordia camp for lunch and then one more overnight camp before Gasherbrum Base Camp day after tomorrow.
23/6: A fucking hard day. The plan was 5h trekking, lunch, and then a few hours more to camp Urdukas. So we brought about a liter each. Well it was hot the ground was extremely tough, up and down, back and fort, among boulders, rocks, stones and sand of all sizes. Also the two days of being sick and really eating, had its hand in this. The last few hours were solely on fumes. I’m completely exhausted…
Now we are at ca 4k, at camp Urdukas which is packed full with people tents and gear. Its like being at a high altitude marketplace! With an awesome view of the famous Trango towers and spires!
Yesterday’s 20km/7hr and today’s 20km/10hr treks were a lot harder than what I recall from last time. The whole glacier was different, broken up a lot so we had to go around quite a bit. But definitely more broken up and melting in many places and very hard to navigate - global warming very visible here?
Tomorrow we go to Goro 1 camp site for lunch and then to Goro 2 for the night. Lets see in what shape the glacier is as we move further up, the ground should definitely even out and the view will keep improving.
22/6: My stomach was a bit upset yesterday, and at 2 am yesterday I exploded. We had departure at 7 in jeeps, so took some Imodium and hoped for the best.
It didn't help my situation that the ride was super bumpy, over some ridiculously rocky and crazy terrain where at times we were convinced that the jeeps would never make it. However those drivers are incredible, and so are the little Toyota Landrovers and 7hrs later we arrived at Jhola camp site, 2100m.
During the day I had perhaps 0,5 dl to drink and that was probably what saved me from any bigger disaster :D
Managed to eat a bit in the evening, as well this morning, after which we trekked for 8hrs and 20 km up to the Paiju camp at 3400m. A very rough day with low energy stores. Happily though, I'm eating again, and drinking coffee!
Tomorrow is another long day, ascent onto the Baltoro glacier and onwards to Urdukas camp at 4200m. Typically you have a rest day here to acclimatise, so now we are skipping that.
Our group of five is super, we are getting along really well and I can feel the group becoming a team as we are slowly getting to know each other.
Hopefully will have some sort of connection at the next camp as am now sending this in small sms-sized pieces over satellite!
20/6: Felt a bit better this morning, though my stomach is definitely not back to normal yet, so been careful with eating and drinking today. But suppose this is all part of a trip like this, and in any case, better now than during the trek!
Walked around town today, talking to locals, checking out weird workshops and stores :-) I think, that no matter what you have that needs fixing’ - somebody here can do it - they are masters at improvising! Also, you can buy just about anything, from car parts, furniture, spices, computers, chicken and carpets.
Today we doing some final packing - separating into two duffel bags everything that goes all the way to base camp, and whatever is needed for the trek. Hotel has been like a market place, with so many expeditions doing the same. Lots of climbers heading over to K2, which is very disconcerting as the route options there are very very limited, i.e there is pretty much only one. Plus the camps are small, so there can only be 2-3 tents there at a time. In addition it is an extremely dangerous and risky mountain. So what’s going to happen when 300-400 climbers arrive???
Tomorrow morning we will be getting into the jeeps and driving through some pretty rugged terrain, as far as we can, and then go on foot the rest of the way to Base Camp.
19/6: After two days of non-stop being thrown around inside the minibus (the smaller one), km after km of hair raising twists and turns, we have finally arrived in Skardu.
I thought the road would have been better and improved on during the past 14 years - and for some parts it was. But mostly not!
I can, hand on heart, say that I am extremely relieved in many ways. Not only am I bone tired, and have a funny feeling in my stomach after dinner, but after the minibus missing being hit by some microwave-sized boulders literally by milliseconds, some smaller still hitting the ceiling rack, and then running over the pieces and puncturing the gas tank of the minibus, the relief goes many ways!
Hopefully a good night’s sleep will help, after two very short nights and such rough days.🤟🏼
18/6: As we were waiting at the airport for check-in to Skardu to start, a gigantic rainstorm moved in.
Naturally resulting in all flights being cancelled.
So, plan B. Get into a minibus and start diving up the Karakorum Highway towards Skardu. This will be a 2-day drive.
Am a bit disappointed, as I have done the Karakorum Highway twice before - once up and once down, but will still be looking forward to some incredible scenery and exciting twists and turns on what is known as one of the most dangerous roads in the world. With plenty of time for sharing war stories :-)
Had a looong and ridiculously bumpy 8 hr bus ride to somewhere here in the middle of nowhere. Most of the time we were probably doing about 20-30km/h - yes the road was really that bad... Though we're up in some brand spanking new marble-floored luxury hotel at an altitude of 2600m, and it's cold, around 10C! We of course had all our warmer clothes transported to Skardu beforehand, so right now we're trying to get by in shorts and t-shirts, as this low temperature what pretty much unexpected.
During the afternoon got a message from Telia on the road that I have reached some sort of limit and can't even send messages anymore. So trying to log onto the Telia corporate portal to fix it somehow, but am not being very successful. The portal isn't exactly very logical nor easy to use. So let's see how that turns out.
Can clearly feel the altitude, have a bit of a headache, of course it could be that it is also caused by the jumping around in the bus all day long :-)
17/6: Last night had dinner with Bill, at a nearby cafe, which by the looks of it could have been in any European city. Good food, real coffee and excellent ice cream!
As the breakfast at the hotel is more like lunch, with potato stew, rice, beans and such - plus only instant coffee (!), so was supposed to meet Bill for breakfast today at the same cafe for some decent granola, omelette and most importantly, real coffee!
However, I got a message from him that he’s been really sick all night - perhaps from the cheese cake he had for pre-dessert just before the ice cream! Could have been something else as well of course. Those 24-hour pukings can be pretty scary, and when I checked in on him during the day, boy am I happy I settled for just the ice cream!
The rest of the team arrived around noon, so was nice to finally put some more faces to the names. Our guide Rolfe, seems like a real easygoing fellow, with tons of experience from the mountains, Antarctica, etc, so looking forward to getting to know him better, and hearing his stories. Then there’s Susanne, an energetic 65-year old from Switzerland, and Stefan, 51, from Sweden. A nice and small group 👍
The Norwegian superwoman, former cross-country ski champion, Kristin Harila, stopped over at the hotel just before heading over to Nanga Parbat. Her plan is to climb all 14 8000’ers in 6 months, thus beating Nirmal Purja’s (the Netflix guy 😉) record. So far, she has already managed to summit 6 of the 14 in something like 29 days!
Not by herself, but with strong support from her sherpas, without whom something like that would never be possible!
I don’t know…I bow and lift my hat to such an incredible feat, at the same time wonder why? Where’s the beef? Where’s the part where you actually enjoy the incredible scenery, and the whole experience? Can you do that when you’re hurrying to get to the summit and back, in order to make it to the next mountain, worrying about schedules and financing?? Seems the hip thing today is to make some sort of record on the mountains - the first amputee, blind person, asthmatic, blond, youngest, oldest, etc etc. Can't people just enjoy being there instead of always trying to break some sort of record?
Otherwise, the 2022 Karakorum climbing season has clearly begun. Multiple teams have come through this hotel already, and many others are already trekking the Baltoro Glacier to their Base Camps. The number of climbers is apparently close to 700 in Pakistan this summer, and that is a huge number vs earlier years. And definitely raises the risk level as well - of the fourteen 8000-meter peaks, Pakistan is home to five: K2, Nanga Parbat, Broad Peak, and Gasherbrum I & II. A surprising amount of climbers (400!) are headed towards K2, which is considered one of the most dangerous and difficult mountains - and I even heard about some expeditions planning to acclimatise there, and then head on over to Broad Peak. Which doesn’t make any sense at all.
Well, I’m definitely going to focus on what we’re doing, while trying to enjoy it as much as I can :-)
Our bags of gear were stacked on top of a minibus this afternoon, and took off towards Skardu, where we will hopefully be able to catch a plane tomorrow. Skardu is a small town at the edge of the mountains, where we will be doing some last preparations and relaxation, before we jump into the jeeps and the real adventure starts!
We just finished dinner with the whole team and are off to bed now, and an early breakfast in the morning.
16/6: Greetings from the Islamabad toaster, 40+C!
Arrived early this morning, from Helsinki through Istanbul to Islamabad. First flight was quite uneventful, but on the second flight I had the joy of being surrounded by children of various ages! A mother, travelling with her (at keast) 7 kids of various ages, out of which two were babies and the rest from 2 yrs and up. The mother (sitting behind me with the babies) was loud, shouting orders at her kids throughout the night, all the while trying to stop her two smallest ones from crying and screaming.
Anyway , after a torturous night, I arrived at ISB feeling thoroughly refreshed (NOT!), however still managed to get through passport and visa control and even found both of my bags. Was picked up by the tour operator and whisked to the Convoy hotel. When, to my surprise, I found out that it was the same hotel I stayed at in 2008 😁 with Veikka!
Managed to get a couple of hours of sleep and then hooked up with Bill, a well-travelled ex-paratrooper from the UK, who is part of the same group. Super nice guy! We went for a long lunch, introduced ourselves and talked about life in general. Especially about how there are so many people who live their lives without even trying to realise any of their dreams (provided they have some).
Now just hanging back, drinking water, repacked my gear into the duffels - one going all the way to BC, and the other that will have the stuff needed for the trek.
Tomorrow will meet the rest of the group!
15/6: Allright. We’re on! Check-in and security was smoother than ever, so now have time to prowl around the new Helsinki airport terminal.
Today felt like such a long morning. Leaving is always damn hard, especially just before and during. Saying bye to family, knowing you won’t be seeing them for several weeks, knowing you will miss them at least as much as they will miss you. The only medicine I’ve been able to come up with is not to think about it beforehand, make it quick, give your hugs, say bye. The longer you linger, the harder it becomes.
This time was differently difficult, compared to last time(s), as we’ve just moved into a house together with a lady I care very much about, and had only two weeks to try and get everything in order. “Hey, let’s buy a house, move in and then I’ll leave!”
Fortunately it will be super nice to return, to see what kind of new interior decorational solutions have happened - naturally at that time it will be too late for me to have an opinion about things 😅 - or I can have an opinion, but… 🤣 Istanbul is apparently going to be hot and steamy with a nice 40+C! Now it’s time to head towards the gate.
13/6: Was fighting with Turkish Airlines yesterday, spent an hour with them on the phone, and the end result was that nothing changed. Today did some last small purchases, so now should be set to go. Only thing missing - and it's naturally a critical thing - is the satellite receiver! Hopefully I will be able to get one tomorrow. If not, then my updates will need to be sent over the gps, in small 140 character pieces, and naturally there won't be any photos or videos in that case, arrrgh...
12/6: Three days left... Been going through the gear. Just about everything in place, and tomorrow I should be getting the satellite receiver, for sending video, photos and updates. I will also be using my Garmin InReach Mini 2.0 - it's super small and light, does the tracking on the Garmin web site so you can see where I'm at, and the best thing is that I can hook my phone to it over bluetooth and send/receive text messages! Will definitely be using that a lot.
Tomorrow will try to pack everything into the duffels, for practice. And when that's done, I will do it again. And again :-D
TOP TIP if you have a lot of luggage: If you have two suitcases or big bags, and don't want to pay 30€ per kilo for the second one - make sure you register it as "sports equipment" with the airline. That fee is usually fixed per flight leg and definitely a heck of a lot cheaper than paying per kilo! For instance, I will be flying with Turkish, and am paying only 90€ for my second 30kg bag :-)
8/6: One week to go! Just finished moving, so that took my mind off things for a while. Now I can focus again :-)
Went to the pharmacy today, to buy a stack of meds, to have in my personal first aid kit. Everything from antibiotics to pain killers. Also renewed some vaccinations, just in case they ask at the border.
Next few days will be laying out all the gear, checking and rechecking that I really have everything I planned. Still need to buy some small stuff, like goodies and snacks! Seems that the to-do list keeps growing each day, no matter how fast I check things off the list - mostly small stuff though and should be easy to take care of.
The anticipation is growing, and starting to get a bit of jitters hahaa!
So who else is going? We are a very small expedition, with only 4 paying clients with the operator, 360 Expeditions. Stefan from Sweden, Bill from the UK and Susanne from Switzerland. Plus the leader and a couple fo sherpas. Though we will be joining up with another expedition, Kobler & Partner and their 7 clients, at least until Base Camp. Will be interesting to meet all these new people :-)
25/5: Three weeks! A good walk along the shore, with a heavy backpack, finally being able to do that wearing shorts and t-shirt. Perhaps summer is finally coming?
Been aiming at doing at least one longer trek each week, 1-2 runs, and one gym session.
Am in the middle of moving right now, so have the whole apartment packed, including all my expedition gear. Can't wait to get it all spread out, so I can start making final checks, to ensure everything is there and in tip top shape.
The one thing missing still, is the satellite receiver. That's the one I would use to send updates, photos and videos from phone or laptop - so kind of critical from that point of view... It's very expensive to rent, however there is a good chance that I can borrow one device from Adventure Partners, though not until 1-2 days before departure!
In addition, a satellite SIM is needed. Also ridiculously expensive, 13-14€ pe MB, plus a monthly fee! Which means, that any videos I send will be as low res as possible. Though it's definitely better than nothing, right :-)
15/5: One month to go! Time flies. Constant tuning of equipment, thinking about if I have everything. Ordered some Nosht energy candy to bring along. Insurance arranged, through Fennia (only insurance company who was willing to do it). Tomorrow is another longer forest walk, fortunately all snow has now, finally, melted!
13/3: On track with the training. Been doing a long walk/trek with heavy backpack once a week, one run and 1-2 weight sessions. Now as soon as the snow melts I will focus more on the hills and forest, while increasing the duration. Have almost all gear in place, just need the high altitude insulated boots, the warm down jacket & pants, and some small stuff. Then it will be time to lay everything out on the floor and double and triple check that I have everything. Pack & repack :-)
10/2: Huge step - just booked the flight ticket!