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  K2 2008: Sunny Mountain Guides reporting in on the big summit push

Copyright© Billy Pierson

Sunny Mountain Guides Chogori 2008 Expedition reports from K2 BC exclusively for EverestNews.com : Yesterday--Friday, July 25--I witnessed what appears to be the last of the many meetings  since our arrival in BC. After speaking with a sherpa and an Irish man, I realized the strategy of the climbers who arrived here early. The summit will take place on July 31. The Cesen Route climbers, Norit, and the others on the same permit but loosely associated with the Norit Expedition, will start from BC.  If the plan holds, they'll meet the Abruzzi Ridge climbers, mainly Koreans, Serbian team, some of the American team, and perhaps the two Italians. The Norwegians may choose to go with the second group. If all goes well, they will meet at the Shoulder (C4). Then, if it goes according to plans from yesterday's meeting, the selected climbers--consisting of mainly Nepali Sherpa, Korean sherpa, Pemba from the Norit Team, and Dorje one of the sherpa guiding a Western climber--will join forces with three Pakistani climbers to forge ahead, perhaps an hour or more hour before everybody else starts. It is said that one or two Korean members will join forces with the sherpa and Pakistani to fix about 500-600m of rope at the Bottle Neck and perhaps a little below it. Then the plan is that most members will follow to the summit.  I asked the Irish climber what the sherpa and Pakistani do after they complete fixing the ropes.  He speculates that the sherpa will continue to the summit without waiting for their members. Based on my experience I don't see this happening; I just don't see how the Koreans would climb without the protective umbrella of the sherpa.  They cost so much money and for sure they didn't bring them just to fix the ropes at the Bottle Neck.  More likely the Koreans should be close by. A one- to two-hour delay for departure from the last camp isn't realistic; the sherpa and these Pakistani summiters will likely be moving much faster than the rest and, with  perhaps a half-hour lead being what they need, they will likely wait for their members. Although the Norit Expedition will have a few hundred more meters to fix at C4, I didn't see much snow to slow them down from where they last left the route unfixed. The Norit will likely have five members including Pemba Sherpa. The weather today, Saturday, July 26, here in BC is quite windy.  Looking up and down the mountain I can see clouds and it seems that the weather forecast sent by Everestnews.com is so far right on target. Tomorrow we expect worse conditions. The Sunny Mountain Guides Chogori 2008 expedition plans to make another carry to ABC and, weather permitting, fix C1, C2 and C3. Our five members are in perfect condition and ready to climb. If our efforts are futile due to the weather, then we will reconsider climbing up. There are reports that this year Abruzzi is stable and that most rock falling was caused by the climbers above. One of the subjects discussed yesterday was an effort from the team leaders to once again urge their climbers to use extra caution not to disturb rocks that may fall and injure (or worse) others below.  When a climber is utterly exhausted he or she can make mistakes. I was listening to the Irish climber who in 2006 was bombarded on the Abruzzi by an avalanche of literally hundreds of rocks, and all he could do was cover himself as much as he could. He hung on to life with what he called "a helmet that saved my life". He was wearing an HB helmet that cracked when a rock hit the left side of his head, knocking him unconscious.  From that point the unfortunate climber could only tell us what he was told by the climbers who came to his aid. He was evacuated by helicopter and then at home doctors discovered that he had several skull fractures. There are many stories to tell but, in general, the Irish claim that in 2006, Mt. K2 was "falling apart".  Although Broad Peak remains inhospitable as well, the same weather pattern will apply--Monday is supposed to be a nice day. OR, not so fast, some forecasts predict August 1 to be a better summit day, so yes it's possible to have yet another meeting.  We decided not to attend these meetings because, personally, I became fed up with the Everest meetings, where a commercial expedition provider calls all members to attend. The meetings are usually nothing more than to inform members that he and his team will fix the ropes and the rest of the expedition will have no choice but to pay a hefty cash to him. In my first years on Everest, 1998 and in 1999 in particular,  when a commercial group fixed the vast majority of the route; we were given the choice either to pay a $50 fee, assign a sherpa, or donate ropes to the effort. Although much is the same here as on Everest, it seems to be a different kind of crowd, with most people being quite friendly and are open to share their own experience, making every discussion interesting and pleasant. Mt. Chogori, or "Big Mountain" as the locals call it, remained unclimbed so far but, like 2004 when a large group of Nepali Sherpa were present, the mountain allowed more than 50 climbers to top its crown.  This season there are plenty of sherpa, and we have two experienced high-altitude Nepali climbers, with Mingma of Makalu a fresh 2007 K2 summiter. As time drags on, I miss my family back home in Hartford, Connecticut, especially my two kids, Sunny and Shiny as well as my wife Lakpa who is the one taking care of them and the house. Sunny has finished her swimming classes and claims that she is ready for a scuba-diving class with me as her instructor!  She just turned six years old July 2. Love you all. George Dijmarescu reporting from K2 BC on behalf of Sunny Mountain Guides Chogori 2008 Expedition exclusively for Everestnews.com.  

Earlier: Sunny Mountain Guides Chogori 2008 Expedition reporting from K2 BC exclusively for Everestnews.com

In my ten years on Everest I [George Dijmarescu] never met a single climber from Pakistan and sometimes wondered why. After my 2000 Oxygen-less ascent, I had the privilege of meeting Lakpa, my wife-to-be, at a party in Kathmandu.  The party was organized by the first and, thus far, the only, Pakistani Everest summiter. Nazir Sabir went on to fame in Pakistan in the field of mountaineering, eventually becoming president of Pakistan Alpine Club. As I made the long six-day trek to K2 BC, our Pakistani staff would most often bring into discussion the name of "Little Hussein".  Naturally I was curious to meet him to see how "Little"  this man was.   According to the stories, he has summited K2 as well as Pakistan's other "Eight Thousanders" (mountains over eight thousand meters in altitude). Every time I asked why Pakistani climbers don't climb outside Pakistan I would get the same answer: "We don't have a chance, sir". "And what about Nazir Sabir?" I asked.  Their faces fell, answering in unison, "He don't care, sir".  I  found this hard to believe because, having met this man, I thought he seemed to be a decent, honorable man, let alone having a track record for climbs on the death zone. Slowly our discussions drifted toward politics and the politics of climbing in Pakistan. "Every time Nazir Sabir tried to make changes such as the almost ridiculous one--having a liaison officer for each expedition, somewhat unique in the army world, telling him not to go there, but in a way he's there because the army approves." As I sat down with the cook from the Serbian K2 expedition, we got into a discussion about why the Pakistani high-altitude climbers were sent down by another expedition without giving a reason (besides the high cost to these climbers).  Then, a man of small stature with a distinctive, clean-cut mustache sat down beside me. At first he looked like Apa Sherpa (Apa and I summited Everest in 1999; it was his only ascent on the Tibetan side and my first summit of Everest). What impresses people first about Apa is his smile and, like him, this little man had a great, heart-warming smile. Next to him sat another man who looked like a westerner, wearing a white cap with a sponsor logo. Likewise he sat in silence, listening to us opine about what can and should be done to prevent the sudden dismissal of high-altitude Pakistani climbers. So, as long as their system is based on daily wages, unlike Nepali Sherpa, there is always a chance that when the weather is bad and with nothing to do, some team leaders send down the Pakistani climbers. I assured the cook that there will always be politics, and Pakistan will not jeopardize their relationship with the climbers for a bunch of "Pakistani porters" as they are called here. I have a personal problem with this: summiting K2 doesn't make you a porter, especially when there are fewer than 300 people in the world who have summited K2!  "He is Little Hussein," said a young Jasmine staff member as he introduced the little man.  I was taken aback, he was sitting next to me for half an hour and I had no idea. "This is Muhammed, "continued the young man and, using very good English, said, "He also summited K2 and other eight thousanders in Pakistan. As I mentioned, Muhammed didn't look anything like a Pakistani, his eyes being light green and having a brown beard and a pleasant smile.  He shook my hand as I introduced myself. "I heard a lot about you, Little Hussein".  People talk about you all the time, you are indeed a small man."  A few days back in Concordia, I was told a story by a Pakistani man, about how a Korean woman was helped by a 'Pakistani porter' to reach the summit of Gashebrum 2 AKA GII. Upon her return to BC she refused to credit the Pakistani man with helping her and, moreover, that he didn't even summit. To this end, I was left with disappointment and disbelief. The story goes on to say that the Korean woman went on to climb another eight thousander and died during her attempt. I was listening passionately to their story and at its conclusion I said, "InshAlah" (God Willing)" to which every Pakistani exploded with laughter. As I was telling the Serbian cook about this freshly heard story, the little man with the distinctive mustache touched my left arm and said, "That was me, sir."  Again, small world!  Little Hussein added more details to the story but basically matched what I heard. Hussein shifted the discussion on how much he wanted to climb Mt. Everest and other giants outside Pakistan, and that he "has no chance" to go outside Pakistan because of the expense.  Muhammed, the other man next to him, nodded in agreement that he, too, was ready for Everest.  They both spoke with ardent patience and yearning to climb the tallest mountain in the world. "Only if we are given a chance," they repeated. "But we are poor, sir." While the South side of Everest is off limits for me for the same reason, finances, I suggested the Tibetan side where I've climbed so many times.  Besides, logically, I thought, China and Pakistan are good neighbors and closely related countries; they may consider granting a fee waiver, making a symbolic gesture on behalf of those brave Pakistani K2 summiters. "We can't even afford the air fare, sir." I suggested they repeatedly petition the powerful Pakistani bodies, the Alpine Club and the Ministry of Tourism. Then I remembered a similar situation for some of the Nepalese sherpa who, after their summit of Everest, don't even make it down to Kathmandu but stay home farming potatoes. Likewise, these Pakistani climbers who live at altitudes of 3500m will not even make it to Skardu, remaining at home, not for potato farming but for wheat farming and raising livestock.  After all, Hussein has five children that need to be fed.  He proudly named them all and stated their ages: daughters Sadika, 13 years old;  Zahira (pronounced Zahra), 11; an only son, Ikrar Hussein, 9;  daughters, Saira, 6, and Madiha, 4. They all live in Machulo village in Kaphlu District.  Hussein began as a porter when he was just 14 years old and, through various expeditions he graduated to climbing and in 1998 climbed with the Korean GII expedition. His summit on 22 July opened a big door for employment for the little man and a better chance to feed his family. The next year saw Hussein on the killer mountain of Nanga Parbat on the notorious Rupal Face with a Japanese expedition, reaching 7600m along with some of the Japanese climbers, but due to deteriorating weather, the expedition was called off by the leader.  In 2000 Hussein climbed once again with a Japanese expedition on Broad Peak where he summited on July 31. After the summit the whole expedition moved to K2 but again, due to bad weather he reached only C2, and no other team members went higher. The next year kept the little man busy on MustanghAta on a  Japanese women's expedition, where Hussein reached the summit at 7646 m on August12 along with three Japanese women and three men.. After his descent, Little Hussein was sent to retrieve the body of a Japanese climber on Pasu Peak in Hunza.  In 2002  he was seen once again on K2 with another Japanese expedition on Abruzzi Ridge, but because of bad weather the expedition was called off at C4. After coming down he was sent to the rescue of a Japanese man on G1; the man survived but was evacuated by helicopter.  The Japanese seem to like Hussein and once again employed him in 2003 for Khuniankish in Hunza Hispar; he only reached 7800 m, with no member summiting because the team chose a new route and didn't find the right way to the summit.  In 2004 Hussein climbed with a joint China-Pakistan K2 expedition where Little Hussein reached the summit without Oxygen on July 27.  In 2005 Hussein returned to Khuninkish with yet again a Japanese expedition but on a new route.  Their expedition didn't reach the summit. In 2006 he climbed again with Japanese on GII but only reached C3.  In 2007 Hussein was sent to retrieve an Austrian man who died on Broad Peak just below the summit. The four Pakistanis and two Austrians made an epic descent with the body where they had to abandon it twice due to bad weather, once losing him in a total white-out. It took them several days to bring the body to BC where a helicopter took the fated climber down and home to Austria. When I asked Little Hussein what he wanted to say to the climbing community, I was surprised to hear: "Please come and visit Pakistan and its mountains," he said, smiling. For me, what I saw so far impressed me greatly, and I know, InshaAlah, I'll be back.  The people are great, as kind as K2 is remote.  With their giant mountains we cannot ask for more. "But what about you,"  I insisted, "saying you want to climb other big mountains outside Pakistan." Once again, Little Hussein mentioned that one day he hopes someone from a wealthy country will take a chance and invite him to be a climbing partner on Everest, Makalu, Annapurna or any other mountain. He went on to say he'd like to meet and climb with western climbers; since he dedicated so much to the Japanese, he isn't much further from where he started. InshaAlah, yes, my new Little friend, you will climb outside Pakistan.  Rumor has it that Osama Bin Laden will come to K2 BC and, as the Serbian cook answered questions from a Frenchman intending to climb K2.  The Frenchman seemed more worried about Bin Laden than the great mountain itself. The cook replied that, yes, Bin Laden is in C4 and that he's been there so long that his beard has grown long enough to reach BC.  Consequently, all climbers will be able to jumar (ascend) up his beard and, in exchange, Bin Laden will have his picture taken with all the climbers who reach C4; then he will climb to the summit and once again have pictures taken with summiters for a rewarding PR. I thought although it was reported by the media that Bin Laden was in Baltoro, I found this E-mail reply to the Frenchman quite funny. Without such fun here we will  all be too cold. It was a great pleasure meeting these Pakistani climbers and if anyone has a message to send, please do so here.  Hussein will be more than happy to chat with you. Reporting from BC of K2 for Sunny Mountain Guides Chogori 2008 exclusively for Everestnews.com. This content is intended only to the mentioned website and no reproduction of its content or part of its content is allowed.

Earlier: Sunny Mountain Guides Chogori 2008 Expedition reports from Base Camp exclusively for EverestNews.com

Thanks to the weather report sent from Everestnews.com, we are bound to wait out the expected bad weather for at least another 5-6 days. It is also reported that the weather will improve, and a window of one week of good weather will follow. Our team of five members is in good health and with high spirits. Mingma wanted to go up for a load carry but I advised him that we don't need any unnecessary risk. It is snowing on and off and the accumulation is more than an inch. Since the upper parts of Chogori (K2) are still hidden, we have no idea how much snow has fallen on its slopes. Broad Peak, although just five miles away from us, displays a quite different weather pattern and its peak is visible only from time to time. Looking down towards Concordia and Mt. Chogolisa we can easily estimate how long it will take for the clouds to reach us, and, of course, snow once again makes us feel it's Christmas time, a far cry from my daughter Sunny's swimming lesson back in Connecticut. As days drag on and we're unable to make much progress further up establishing the camps, I find the separation from my two children becomes harder and harder for me;  in fact I must confess this is the hardest part of any expedition I've  had since I became a father in 2002. Today base camp saw the early departure of a French expedition due timing and unfavorable weather conditions.  But after I found out the route they planned to climb on this great mountain, I realized that there is more to the story than what has been said. The Japanese route is nothing easy for any strong team, let alone for a three-member French team and, in my opinion, more like: Veni, vidi, run home. At least most climbers agreed it was a good decision for them to make; one day the French will come better prepared and not risk so much--the mountain will always be here. Our camp and the neighboring camp, both of which are supplied by Jasmine Tours, have become the entertainment center of K2 base camp. Every other night there are parties with a live band of Pakistanis pounding on empty kerosene drums loud enough to disturb the one Broad peak base camp--nothing to be worry about--this is Pakistan and alcohol is quite hard to get. At one of the previous parties more than 50 climbers showed up, with every nationality dancing their own dance (sorry, no girls here at the party, but the favorite of all seemed to be Gerard, who could sing old Irish songs with everybody clapping with approval). The Serbian Team exercized their own dancing skills but, according to Joselito, our Serbian independent climber, they would have a better time if the leader didn't show up. The sherpa will not let people down, singing their own "Sam Pi Ri Ri" song; everybody has a good time., Last night a miracle happened.  Some of the Korean climbers showed up for the party but as expected left after only one hour, and the Dutch decided to see a movie and didn't come. Dave Watson, my Everest buddy who is currently climbing Broad Peak, decided to stay overnight at our camp and party with us.  It was nice to have him around again; his team will soon make their way here at K2 Base Camp. With the weather so lousy our batteries are almost empty. No sun, no charging, no correspondence. Our three car batteries and the two Solar panels are hard at work keeping us barely connected. Yesterday I had the privilege of meeting some of the Pakistani, K2 summiters.  Even from my trek to BC I heard of a man named "Little Hussein" and wondered how little this man could be.  Well, he is quite small, but don't let the size fool you. With his great smile and clear-cut mustache, little Hussein looks almost like Apa Sherpa!  I sat down with him and asked him about his climbing career and, to my surprise, he was kind enough to spend almost two hours downloading his climbing career to my ear. As I'd never heard his name nor ever read about Pakistani K2 summiters, I thought people from the West might be interested to know that they are kind and gentle Balti climbers who make great mountaineering achievements without any headlines. To ignore them is a great injustice because they, like sherpa, are making sure that climbers who dare to challenge K2 are safe and get what they want, the summit. Even the only Italian team employed two high-altitude Pakistani climbers; the Serbians have three Pakistani K2 summiters; the list goes on and on. I will send a further report with details about "little Hussein" who wants to climb Mt. Everest, but due to the lack of funds Everest will remain, at least for now, just a dream. Embarking on a difficult task such is summiting K2 is indeed a challenge in itself, but meeting people is what I like most.  Arriving yesterday at K2 BC, Chris Stugll (apologize for misspelling his name), an Austrian climber who had been on Everest with me the previous year and went on to make an Oxygen-less and swift ascent, awaits yet another speedy ascent on this mountain. He recognized me right away, and we chatted, both wondering how small this world could be. It was nice to see him again. 
K2 remains elusive to all at least for now, but I feel will this will not be unlike our 2004 Everest summit, with climbers summiting en masse, with sherpa here to make it possible. Until next time, George Dijmarescu signing off from K2 Base camp from Sunny Mountain Guides Chogori 2008 Expedition, exclusively for Everestnews.com. 

Earlier: July 16th 2008.

Sunny Mountain Guides Chogori 2008 Expedition reports from Concordia.
Due to power problems I wasn't able to send any news about our group climbing K2.
Because of the Tibet issue this Spring I decided to climb K2 instead. Preparations were made quite late and, because Pakistan requires a 60-day waiting period for granting permits, our group was formed hastily. This K2 expedition marks the serious starting point for Sunny Mountain Guides, a company run by Lakpa Sherpa of Hartford Connecticut.  Because she is my wife and is home nursing our second child, I decided to take care of the entire trip on behalf of Sunny Mountain Guides.  Our group consists of two climbers from Romania, the star of the group being a  25-year-old woman, Thea.  She is a determined young woman who makes her living in Romania and Switzerland as a ski instructor and member of the ski patrol in Switzerland. With her is her partner, Mircea, who lives in Romania and, although he's a few years older than Thea, shares the same aspirations. Mircea initially wanted to climb Everest but unfortunately this Spring no foreign climbers were allowed.
Lakpa decided that in order to secure a better enviroment for a safe and succesful ascent she hired two of her family members. Our sirdar, Mingma Sherpa of Makalu, summited K2 last year with a Korean team and helped a Korean woman summit the great mountain. Mingma just returned from Lhotse where he summited without any problems. Mingma has  summited Everest four times.  The second sherpa is Rinjin of Makalu, whose wife is  Lakpa's sister (hence, my brother-in-law).  Rinjin has also summited Everest four times and helped Chuck Boyd in 2004 with his summit. They are eager to see each other here, and I, too, George Dijmarescu, am a first-time visitor to K2.
The mountain is indeed impressive but, although I seem to like it a lot, I hope not to visit it 10 times, as I have Everest. But, as the locals say: IshAlah or God willing.
Our Expedition provider is Jasmine Tours of Islamabad, Pakistan, and is run by Asghar Ali Porik.
Just got to Concordia today, tomorrow BC. First glimpse of K2, impressive, very impressive. A good summit day for K2 but no one is up now. All members are in good health, but I miss my daughters, Sunny and Shiny and thought about them all day today. I wish Sunny would talk with me on the phone when I call.  Also wondering how first grade school registration is going for her. Our weather is fine but a little too hot, so I hiked in shorts until today. Last night was cold with temperatures below freezing.
July 17th:
Sunny Mountain Guides Chogori 2008 reports from Base Camp.
Shortly before reaching BC I decided to visit Broad Peak BC where I knew two of my climbing partners form Everest 2004 and 2006 would be. Sure enough as I approached the camp I was greeted by their cook and Andy, one of their climbing partners, who decided to give his body a rest due to the heat. It was nice to meet this gentleman form California; he seemed to know a great deal about me from Dave Watson who climbed with Lakpa and me  in 2004 and 2006. According to his note to me, Dave knew I was supposed to be coming soon. Andy patched me on a radio call with them and Chuck Boyd was the first to answer the call.  Just like me he seemed to be excited to hear my voice. What a small world!  I spoke with Dave a little longer, and he assured me he would visit K2 BC as soon as they came back from C3 on Broad Peak. I said good buy and marched on to my own place on the mountain.
As we walked a large avalanche swept down the face of the mountain with huge clouds of
powder snow, engulfing most of BC. No one was hurt or inconvenienced so most people took video and photos of the event. Just as I walked in met another old friend, Joselito, from Serbia. We first met on Everest a few years back and he hasn't changed. He recognized me just as fast as I recognized him. The rest of the day we spent sorting out porters and we said good bye to those who had accompanied us for the last six days. We spent the chilly  evening being entertained by a band of Balti staff. I could never understand how anyone  could  have such a good time without a sip of acohol. We managed to break the rules in Islamabad and managed to get some 100 cans of beer. All except two had survived the trek to BC, and the singing lasted well into the early morning hours. Chogori AKA K2 welcomed us with a great view of its majesty with as blue a sky as any summiter wishes for. I was surprised to see all the climbers in BC; it was rumored that bad weather was coming and with such a miriad of weather forecasts, climbers make decisions on their own. Our Puja took place today; it seemed a little funny because, instead of a lama praying for us as was done on my ten previous Everest expeditions, the songs were played on an IPod with speakers. We were generous enough to share our supply of beer with all the people who were interested in joining our Puja. Mingma and Rinjin decided to make a trip to ABC because they thought Thursday would be a better day than Friday. I decided to catch up on the E-mails and news. The great mountain showed us the second perfect summit day, and I wished I were up there!   'Til next time, stay tuned. Signing off from K2 base camp on behalf of Sunny Mountain Guides.
George Dijmarescu.
PS Much love to my two children Sunny and Shiny Dijmarescu and to my wife, Lakpa, for empowering me with this great privilege to be at the base of this great mountain.
Today: 07/18/08
Sunny Mountain Guides Chogori 2008 reports from BC. Today Mircea and I made our first carry to ABC. Mingma and Rinjin decided to give themselves a well deserved rest after they carried five tents yesterday at ABC.  We had our back packs loaded with food, some gas and two shovels. It was surprising to see that the way to ABC is an intricate zig-zag between ice pinnacles marked with flags on top of bamboo sticks. We lost our way and wasted about 45 minutes but regained the route shortly after.  Looking up the Abruzzi Ridge it appeared to look quite easy, with Mingma encouraging us that K2 is much easier than the Tibetan side of Everest.  Oh well, his opinion, we will just have to see. The slope is quite gentle along a rock band. We were lucky to see a couple from Norway sliding down on their butts and having fun on the way down, oblivious to the well-advertised 'falling rock'.  Mircea and I spent about an hour at ABC when it started snowing. We went down all the way to BC with rice-like snow on our faces. At BC we had the best meal thus far so we congratulated Ali, our cook and kitchen boy. I have to announce that I made my way to ABC in blue jeans and Addidas sneakers; I fell in several puddles so my socks got saturated.  My next trip will be in different shoes. We spent the evening laughing along with our neighbor from Serbia. Tomorrow we'll make another carry to ABC and just watch for the weather as we hear it'll deteriorate on Sunday and two days after that. We want to make a trip to camp 2 as soon as the weather permits. Everybody is in good health, motivated and ready to go. 'Til next time, so long from K2 BC.  George Dijmarescu reports on behald of Sunny Mountain Guides Chogori 2008.


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