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  K2 2008:  Sunny Mountain Guides reports in


Sunny with a friend in America

 
From The Goodwin Austen Glacier George Dijmarescu reports on behalf of Sunny Mountain Guides Chogori 2008 exclusively for Everestnews.com.
Logistics in Pakistan provided with excellence by Jasmine Tours and in the USA and Nepal by Sunny Mountain Guides LLC of Hartford, Connecticut. The three of us, Mingma Tunduk Sherpa, the leader sirdar, Rinjing Sherpa, and I have safely come down from our summit attempt defeated by the mighty K2 peculiar weather. If the reader is only interested if we summited or not, then read no more, if interested in the whole story, then here is. Some people believe that it’s better to write the final report after all the emotions of the climb are vented over several beers, good food and days of relaxing. Since I climb not only with my body but with passion and heart and, sometimes, with high emotions, I respectfully disagree because I believe that , while memories and emotions are still fresh, here I can express all my inner feelings and relay them to those interested in knowing our story. We all are obviously disappointed, but grateful we are unscathed. Personally, I feel good inside my heart that we did all we were supposed to do and could do to make a serious summit attempt. I had on my side two most serious and dedicated climbing partners, and I will say that I won't climb with any other. Two sherpa I am related to, Mingma a K2 summiter and Rinjing. Although I climb with Rinjing in the past on Mt. Everest, I was shocked by his sheer Strength; he even impressed Mingma.
 
Rinjing, a man with a beautiful smile (complimented by perfect dentures), speaks very little and mostly when asked. He plays cards very well and, despite his lack of education, displays an incredible memory. He is married to my wife's sister, Kayli. Mingma, also related to Lakpa, my wife, summited K2 last year and was able to help a Korean woman top out the mighty Chogori. He was chosen to be our true guide to the top by Lakpa, she grew up with Mingma on the hills of Makalu herding grazing yaks. I met Mingma few years back on Everest but never worked with him as a team. But Lakpa insisted he’d be a great climbing partner, and what a partner he was. The only time I was disappointed with my two sherpa was when the two mercilessly took all the money from the Norwegian Pakistani staff during their card game and, in particular, from Jafar, a fun loving cook. This proved to be a good lesson for us, given that sherpa may appear slow when, in fact, they are sharp as can be. Initially we received a weather report that a distant, August 30, 3-4-day window would be possible so we set our minds to that date, settling into a more relaxing, time-wasting routine. Base camp was almost deserted and temperatures were dropping every day. Ali, one of our kitchen staff who is from Hushe, warned me that after Aug 15 the weather becomes much more peculiar, with temperatures changing quickly and more frequent snowfall. It would be a lie if I said I believed him.
 
An e-mail from the USA told me that the forecast had changed and that we may have a small window on the week end of Aug 23-24, with Friday, Aug 22, and half of Monday, Aug 25, being clear weather. This was, no doubt, pleasant surprise -- none of us wanted to wait till the previously forecasted Aug 30. We started to scramble for going up; if we were going to catch this newly given window, we had to start toward ABC that very afternoon. Mingma suggested that we go directly to C2 and every day ascend one camp at a time.
 
The forecast also predicted the next Thursday to be a "hard day". As I drifted to sleep I was thinking and calculating where we would be if we were going to start the next morning and heading straight to C2. It just wasn’t right, I was going to be fighting a strong storm going up, but not from C2 to C3. There on the Black Pyramid and just above it, we were going to be very exposed, without the protection of the rocks, and surrounded only by snow and ice. It wasn't going to be fun at all. I made the decision that we wouldn’t go to C2 and instead ascend only to C1 and sleep there, buying one extra day. This way, the predicted Thursday storm would have us climbing from C1 to C2, a much friendlier elevation. As we started the climb from ABC and reached the beginning of the ropes, we realized that our initial, direct-ascent- to-C2 idea was only wishful thinking. The ropes which were fixed months ago were buried in 18 inches of snow-- some freshly fallen and some blown by the wind. This being typical on high mountains, Mingma, without saying a word, started to pull out the ropes. First he used his ascender but, as many climbers know, this only works in certain snow/temperature conditions. Here, the snow was wet and, in some parts, slushy, with ropes soaked and heavy. With the ice accumulating between its sharp biting teeth, the ascender became useless, even dangerous, to use, sliding down at every pull. Mingma began using his most trusted tool, his bare hands. As many people know, sherpa strength is in their lower body, the legs. But their arms aren’t as muscular or powerful--in just fifteen minutes Mingma was breathing hard and gasping for air, making little progress. Rinjing, who, like me, was comfortably stepping behind me into Mingma’s freshly made, 18-inch footsteps, cranked up his engine. He passed me and caught up with Mingma, took the lead, and assumed Mingma's job of pulling the ropes. Progress continued and we resumed our normal speed. But Rinjing was going to suffer the same fate as Mingma: he, too, got tired. I felt it was my turn now, but my comfortable, cruising pace behind these two brave sherpa was too much to let go. In normal conditions the two sherpa would leave me hours behind; but now, with their being slowed considerably by the buried ropes, they were put at a speed where I could keep up with them. But, like a traitor, I stayed behind them. Mingma took turns at the ropes numerous times, every 15-20 minutes. In some places the ropes were buried inside ice and much harder to pull out, it took both sherpa’s strength to secure a safe descent. Although comfortable stepping in snow, we were praying for the rock formations to appear. When we wanted to rest, all we had to do was just sit down in snow in chair-like comfort. As we neared the rock formation, we noticed the ropes were exposed; hence we could make better progress. The sherpa were climbing in down suits and, with warmer temperatures, got extremely hot. As we ascended we found numerous places were we could drink cold, running water. We arrived in C1, grateful we didn't have to climb to C2, to our tent we inherited from the great German climber, Peter Gugemo, who offered us his. The North Face tent was still standing but it had a large hole in its side, having been hit by a large rock which penetrated the outer shell as well as the tent itself. It was totally destroyed. Nearby were the Koreans’ two green tents, filled with snow. Their doors were ruined, so the snow invaded the two large tents, leaving mere remnants of a shelter for the Korean team. Above was a red tent which belonged to C. Dorje--with its poles broken, the shell was left just flapping in the wind. The only other tent still standing besides the North Face tent was a Mountain Hardware tent, except for its inclined platform, it was still good to use. We decided to move it a few yards below. It took the three of us about an hour to chop a new platform and anchor it properly. C1 is the dirtiest of all four camps and, with its latrine just yards away, the camp was in a dire need of cleaning. Old broken tents from years of use, climbing hardware, snow bars, pitons, ropes, gas cartridges, packaged food, spoons, forks, all showing evidence of human use and abuse. Tired of our activity we settled for the night. It was Wednesday, Aug 20. At dinner I warned my two partners that the next day, Thursday, was the day the forecast predicted a "hard day" for climbing. They both acknowledged the warning.
 
The morning started with plenty of sunshine, but, as we started to climb, we realized that the ropes spanning every patch of snow were also buried, this time because of cold morning temperatures and higher elevation. The snow was much more firm and the ropes harder to pull out even though the snow wasn’t as deep. We took on the same routine—with Mingma and Rinjing taking turns and me, the weaker one, behind. The topography from C1 is much different with fewer patches of snow and fewer rock formations, so Mingma and Rinjing pulled ahead of me. I was making considerable efforts to keep up with the two strong sherpa; only when Mingma lit up his M&L cigarette could I catch up. I had seen sherpa smoking at 8300 m on Mt. Everest and learned not to worry about them but worry about myself; they know what they’re doing. None of us had a heavy load so we made good progress despite the snowing, which started at about 10:30 a.m.. The increase in the wind caused no trouble for our ascent and we reached the base of House Chimney shortly after noon. Mingma climbed first and, as planned, we let him top out despite the fear of rock falling, then Rinjing and I. As I was just below the vertical rock formation, the famous House Chimney, named after the American climber, Mr. House, who discovered it., I realized that the snow drifting from above and the swirling wind were too much for my Julbo sunglasses. Totally blinded, I had to remove them; but looking upward was impossible, so how could I climb up without looking up? I had climbed the Chimney twice before--once when I made my acclimatization trip and again when I climbed to help Marco Confortola come down from his summit. So I knew some of the moves necessary and remembered the topography of the pitch. The Chimney is fitted with a cable ladder, the shoulder being narrow in some places shoulder. It has some good footholds for resting but I chose to climb on the 6-inch-wide cable ladder put in place by previous climbers. In one place one of the cables was broken and temporarily repaired with a rope. I had to trust it. The falling snow was filling my jacket, I was totally white and breathing heavily through my mouth. As I was climbing the ladder and holding onto the metal rungs, my fingers got numb, almost useless. I had to keep stopping to warm my fingers just to keep my hands working. As I got on top, literally like atop a chimney, I understood the reason for the snow constantly falling down the Chimney--it was hell. The wind almost knocked me down to the ground, I tried to put my sunglasses back on, only to realize it made me totally blind. From the top of House Chimney to C2 an average climber would take only 15-20 minutes. Although Mingma and Rinjing topped out the Chimney more than 30 minutes before me, they were not far ahead. The terrain is a gradual but steep snow/ice slope perhaps of 45 degrees, the rope anchored on a 7ft boulder which offers some protection against wind. There, the two sherpa were hunkered down waiting for a break from the wind. I was able to take only 3-4 steps before I had to stop, turn my back to the wind, and gasp for air. My down jacket hood was useless and couldn’t protect my head and face. It was the strongest wind-driving snow conditions I have ever been in. Then I remembered the descriptions from the books I've read about K2--the "savage mountain", "killer mountain", "mountaineers’ mountain", "mountain of all mountains", "the hardest of all" and all the other eye-catching names attributed to it. And yes, this season, the deadliest of its climbing history when 11 brave men paid the ultimate price their lives. From where I stood I could not see the tents. Our tent, was it still there, still habitable and, if not, what would we do?. Mingma stepped outside the protection of the boulder only to be lifted up and thrown to the right. The rope from the boulder to my ascender was curved by the wind, went over the edge of the cliff into oblivion, pulling me with it. Mingma regained his footing and marched on, only a few steps further before stopping, breathing heavily. They were too far from me for me to see their faces, but, like me, they must have removed their sunglasses. Rinjing followed him only to stop himself after few steps. I was leaning against the wind, fearing I would be pushed over the 50 m rock formation of House Chimney. Every step I made I had to stick my crampons deep and stay on the side of those alive. I could see Mingma and Rinjing ducking in the hellish blizzard, protecting their faces from the rice-size icicles driven by a more than 120 Km/hr wind. Watching the movement of the snowy clouds and comparing it to cars driving on the state highway--it was very fast--I calculated it would take me at least an hour and a half to reach the camp. My lungs just could not get enough air; I was taking deep breaths in order to satisfy my hard working lungs, yet it still felt not enough. The wind just took all the air available and it felt suffocating. OK Thursday was predicted a "hard day" but this was an understatement. My thought went to the night when I decided to delay the ascent by one day--it was a rational decision and I couldn’t imagine how it would’ve been to climb in this condition toward C3 or C4. Camp 3 is practically on the ridge and offers no protection from driving wind, it is situated on a snow slope, so when it’s windy, you’ll know. The storm was just ridiculous. Step by step Mingma and Rinjing were making progress and disappeared over the edge of the hill, but I was behind and felt my progress slowing to a crawl. Eventually I reached the boulder where the two sherpa took cover from the wind, like them I found it to be a huge break. At least I could breathe and stand without being thrashed around. When my breath became more normal I continued upwards. Immediately after leaving the cover of the boulder, like Mingma I was thrown to the right, but, because I am much heavier than Mingma, I was able to keep my feet on the ground.
The nightmare continued on, then when I reached the edge of the snow slope, I saw Rinjing standing with his back next to our new North Face VE 25 tent. He had a shovel in his hand but wasn’t using it. It was not a good sign. I knew our tent was in need of help but because of the wind Rinjing just could not face it. On the left side of the tent, ducking down was Mingma, with his back to the wind, throwing shovelful after shovelful of snow, only to be pulverized by the fast-driving wind, sometimes right into Rinjing’s face. I only had 20 yards to the tent and the rope ended-- buried deep in the ice. I tried to pull it but quickly realized the futility of my efforts. I had to continue to the tent without any protection, without an ice axe on hand. I started to crawl on all fours, found a bamboo stick and leaned on it against the wind--I wasn't going to be blown off the mountain. A broken tether from the Korean tent offered additional hand-held protection. I made the last three-yard dash and grabbed the rope anchoring our tent. I was safe. As I stood next to Rinjing I realized that almost half of our tent was collapsed, the poles bent beyond usefulness. "Is any tent not broken?" I asked Rinjing, yelling so he could hear me. We check every tent, all broken and snow inside," replied Rinjing. Checking yet another tent Rinjing added, "We check the poles on this one, they are not broken." I could not believe the poles weren’t broken and asked again only to receive the same answer. In the hellish conditions we were in, we were in a daring situation. Thanks, The North Face, the VE 25 tent remains a trusted high- altitude shelter. The platform for the tent was literally carved out of solid ice by Mingma, Rinjing, C. Dorje, and little Pasang, one of the Korean sherpa. It took them and me almost five hours.
The tent was anchored with some ice screws, snow bars and many ropes. One of the secrets of ensuring the tent stay where it is intended is to use proper anchors, and Mingma knew how vicious K2 winds could be. With more than eight tents in C2, ours was the only one habitable. The two sherpa worked for more than 45 minutes shoveling snow and blows with ice axes dislodged the accumulating ice behind the still-standing North Face tent. Slowly the tent regained its shape and Rinjing invited me to get inside. Without any hesitation I crawled inside the vestibule, zipped shut its door and took off my crampons. But inside was just as white as outside--not from snow but from the spilled sherpa’s "Tsampa", a flour like food used by sherpa at high altitude. It was everywhere, sleeping bags, my down jacket, food, everything was white, the wind had evenly distributed the more than two pounds of Tsampa, even on the walls of the tent. But at least it wasn’t windy inside; in fact it was Heaven compared to the Hell outside. The two sherpa stayed outside for at least ten more minutes, checking the anchors to ensure they were solid so we wouldn’t have to go out in the middle of the night in the event the wind escalated, again putting our lives in danger. We were the only three people on the mountain and the cavalry wasn't going to come if something went terribly wrong. There was no one else in Base Camp, other than Ali and Rozi, our kitchen staff, certainly ill-equipped and untrained in the event of a disaster; so great attention was directed to our only shelter--The North Face tent. Mingma and Rinjing came inside only to laugh at the white scene.
 
"Tsampa ma sale" shouted Mingma with one of the most used sherpa expressions of frustration. "A, ma, ma, ma, ma," added Rinjing, using another sherpa expression. We all laughed at the comical display of negligence. Cold to the bone, we all rubbed our hands in order to get the feeling back in our fingers. The two sherpa brought inside with them a good amount of snow, having shoveled and being out in the snow-driven wind, much of the white mountain magic accumulated on their jackets, boots and all the equipment. The back packs were too much to bring inside, so they offered a good vestibule barrier against the blowing snow. After about thirty minutes Rinjing dared to open the door and, with a shovel close by brought in enough snow to make a small cup of tea, then again and again, one shovel at a time, the pot was filled with enough snow to make a decent cup of tea for each of us.. Each time he opened the door, the snow invaded our newly occupied tent. The only good thing about the snow inside was that it kept the Tsampa from flying everywhere. Rinjing was the cook for the evening, as he had been most of the evenings we spent together above BC. I managed to eat three small bowls of Rara soup, even though I don't eat soup (other than bean soup). But this time it was a must or I was going to go to sleep hungry. The high altitude food I brought didn’t appeal to me; I knew my body and force-feeding would guarantee my throwing up seconds later.
I decided to call USA to find out what the next-day forecast would bring the three of us. Welcoming news came that the storm would die down the next day and we should march toward C3 the next day. With this information we settled into a quick preparation, organizing what we needed for the ascent to C3. We went to sleep, hoping to get the rest we’d need for the days ahead. I noticed that Rinjing took from C1 a 200 m coil of rope we had found abandoned by the Korean team--it was a cheap poly rope used to fix most of the parts of the mountain. Knowing from Pemba Sherpa, the only sherpa member of the Norit team, that the Bottle Neck ropes were wiped out during the unfortunate and unexpected serac collapse on August 1, we needed about 200m of ropes to replace what was broken. Originally we intended to strip off some of the double ropes that were fixed between C2 and C3 and carry them up further. That, unfortunately, would create a huge disadvantage, having to tie the ropes together tightly in order to make the length 200m. The two-piece rope wouldn’t be desirable for a quick rappel down the Bottle Neck. Rinjing anticipated this and brought a one-piece rope from C1 and, although he hadn’t told me, I was surprised and relieved that he wouldn’t compromise. The storm that started on Thursday at 10:30 a.m. with what I thought would just be snow flurries had not let up but, in fact, increased with wind speed. Side by side, we lay down on the floor of the tent which was constantly slapping down on us, forcing us to adjust our position every half-hour. The drifting snow was building up behind our tent slowly pushing us out. I would push back the snow only to have it back in minutes. Thursday and Friday nights were absolutely restless--we woke up numerous times tossing and turning, with the wind howling and the tent rattling with an all too familiar noise. Ice sent down the tent from the large boulder which protects C2 made noises hard to ignore. Because of the conditions outside we had to keep both door and the vents closed, inside, the vapor from our breath built up on the walls of the tent, froze, and sent icicles down on top of our sleeping bags. Inside, the scene was miserable and depressing. The morning brought more bad news: outside was total hell--snow, wind, and zero visibility. We were not going to climb up or down, not because we didn't want to, but because the danger was too great. After our morning brew we called Ali, our trusted man in the kitchen down in BC. With no visibility to C2 he wondered what our condition was and what our plans were--we had an agreement that we would keep him and Rozi informed. Packed in our tent cross-legged to create more space, we started to feel the confinement of the tent. The only thing I didn't want to happen was a call of nature, but it came. I opened the tent door and wondered how I would do it. Then I remembered the repeated questions from the students at Noah Wesbster Micro-Society Magnet School in Hartford, Connecticut, where Lakpa and I gave a few slide-show presentations; "How do you go to the bathroom when climbing big mountains?" The rest of the children exploding in laughter, I responded, as always, "you just drop your pants and, voila." "Are the girls looking at you?" was almost always the follow-up question. This time there were no girls to worry about but a vicious, wind-driven blizzard of snow that must enter every little cavity and hit every bit of exposed flesh. I kept looking out, not finding a reasonable solution--how should I do it, turn my back to the wind or face it?. I got outside and, barely able to stand, rushed to one of the broken tents nearby, the fabric flapping wildly, stood in the middle of the tent , facing the wind, dropped the pants. In an instant my whole buttocks was covered in snow, I felt numb. It seemed to last an eternity. I got back inside the tent perhaps white like the Tsampa flour, the two sherpa couldn’t help but laugh at how I looked. I hugged the warm gas stove for many minutes until my body temperatures returned to normal. The sherpa were still laughing, so at that moment I wished both of them would have diarrhea in the next hour or so.  The radio crackled again with Ali informing us that the kitchen staff of two was enjoying good food and mild temperatures. Then Mingma asked Ali to sing some of his Balti songs and, to our surprise, he and Rozi started to sing a medley of songs. We listened through the radio to the pleasant songs they had sung for us so many times before. It started to warm up in the tent with these moments of our having a really good time; so with nothing to do I started the video camera and filmed the entire concert symphony, with Mingma and Rinjing laughing like children.. From time to time I would turn on my satphone to see if anybody sent a text message or tried to call. "In the last three hours you have missed seven phone calls, phone calls from: 860 970.... " said one of the text messages. Lakpa, my wife, was definitely worried about us knowing that the weather had crapped out on us. It was in the middle of the night Eastern time and too late to call back. I scrolled down through the rest of the messages, one in particular being from Capt. Ushman, our liaison officer::"LOT OF BEER IN KARIMABAD BUT VERY EXPENSIVE, WE'LL HAVE IT FOR YOU WHEN YOU COME BACK TO SKARDU" read the message from Capt. Ushman, a rather young man for his military rank. Capt Ushman departed BC after mild symptoms of AMS (acute mountain sickness), and now, joined by Mircea and Thea, our two other climbing teammates, was telling us that there IS life after climbing, and one much better. Another text message read: "Weather is still unstable, wind is very strong at C3/C4 and evening/night is hard. The stormy winds will pass tonight." I passed along the message to Mingma and Rinjing. We were all relieved that, in the morning, we would start climbing. But the next text message, dated the same day, August 22 read: "Other storm will hit on TUESDAY, BETTER COME BACK DOWN." I didn't want to show Mingma the latest text messaging, nor tell him the bad news verbally, that the storm was approaching swiftly. I wanted to make sure that the forecast would indeed remain the same. I called Everestnews.com and, sure enough, they confirmed that we could not possibly climb the mountain safely and come back down before the newly formed storm hit. The warning was that the storm would hit during the second half of Monday. With the current storm howling outside and the bad news of another hitting K2 the reality of our fate sank in. I had to discuss with my two trusted partners our immediate plans. Both of them were disappointed, I could see they wanted to top out this respected mountain. But experience had taught them that there is always another day, surely better than these. "What to do, Birsap?" exclaimed Rinjing, looking me in the eye. I wanted to cry. We were waiting for two days and two nights inside this tent for a lousy, three-day window, at least a chance to climb to C4, perhaps march in the middle of the night toward the notorious Bottle Neck, at least reach its base and stare the crux of the climb in the face, getting an idea what it would take to climb this dangerous pitch of sheer blue ice. Being realistically impossible to reach the summit, I was satisfied with only reaching C4, comparing the elevation with Everest’s 7900 m, a very comfortable elevation that I reached without oxygen many times.
 
In the evening I called again, just to see if the weather could change a bit, JUST FOR TWO DAYS, and the answer came: "George we can only give you the weather forecast; we cannot change it for you," informed Everestnews.com. " Time to go home and see your kids." I opened my down jacket and fleece jacket and pulled out the two-sided plastic picture holder with photographs of my two girls--Sunny my older daughter, exercising on a climbing wall, and Shiny at the Mystic Aquarium in Mystic, Connecticut. I thanked the staff at Everestnews.com for the extremely important service, hung up, contemplating that in just a few days Sunny would be starting first grade at Noah Webster Elementary School in Hartford, Connecticut and that I wouldn’t be there to walk her there on her first day of school. I called Lakpa, it was early morning in Connecticut, she urged me to start going down. All I had to do was calm her down; I assured her that the three of us were fine and that, even if we wanted to go down, it was far too dangerous at the moment, the storm was in full force. But I assured her that as soon as the storm and wind slowed down we would start our descent. I also mentioned that we had deposited eight bottles of oxygen in C3 and that I wanted to get it down to BC. She wasn't interested in my excuse for a delay and that the oxygen wasn’t important. But the cost of eight bottles of oxygen in Islamabad is $4,000.00, and at C3, much more. Once again I assured her we wouldn’t make the oxygen a priority but get down asap. We understood each other and the conversation ended. Lakpa was satisfied with six summits of Everest and understood very well the precarious situation I was in and I wasn’t going to push the envelope with her. She brought responsibility of the children into the conversation and we left it at that. The evening brought no change in the weather pattern with the wind just as strong with less than twenty yards of visibility. We went to sleep without eating anything, perhaps with each and every one of us praying for a break in the weather the next day. The tent rattled all night in the strong wind and I was wondering how long this annoying storm would last. The morning, too, brought little change, I look down to see if the visibility had improved but was quickly disappointed with the lack of it.. The wind appeared to die down, to a comfortable 65-75 mph. I proposed to Mingma that we assess the situation and make a decision whether we try to retrieve the oxygen from C3. Rinjing looked outside and spoke with Mingma in their sherpa language. Silence filled the tent; then, impatiently, I asked: "What's the decision?" "We will try," replied Rinjing. I replied, "But I want to help; eight bottles are really heavy." "Rinjing and me will go up quickly using oxygen, you stay here, we will be very fast" added Mingma. I felt unwanted at that moment, but reality put my feet on the ground. It was still very windy for a white face like me, and, with visibility less than 20 m, snowing like mad. With all the gear that had to be carried down, I told the two sherpa that I’d pack all the sleeping bags, fill my back pack and carry down the House Chimney (since the chimney is so narrow, only light loads can be squeezed down its narrow ,shoulder-width passage) Days ago, Mike Farris, one of the American climbers who abandoned his climb, asked us if we could bring down his equipment from C2. The equipment was precious to him, and he had tried to retrieve it himself, but the bad weather prevented him from going up. Perhaps Mike didn't anticipate that the ropes would be buried in 18 inches of snow. Even if he had tried to recover it, it would’ve been impossible to do it alone. Mingma and Rinjing found the gear inside Mike's totally destroyed Mountain Hardware tent in C2, brought it to our tent for safekeeping to return to Mike. It was a generous act, but now our loads almost doubled with the additions of Thea's equipment, down jacket, and other items. To add more to the load, Christian Stugll (sp) had left his ice axe in our tent along with his foam mattress. I loaded my mid size backpack with more than 25 kg and headed down toward the top of House Chimney. Frankly, I wasn’t used to carrying such loads; it would prove somewhat difficult as I had suffered a dislocated left shoulder years ago playing in a soccer game. With every step my body moved from side to side with the help of the strong wind. I began the descent and found myself breathing unusually hard--the weight of the pack, bad weather, and three days and three nights of inactivity in the confines of a tent were the cause of my being "out of shape". I deposited the load, covered it with large rocks to make sure the wind wouldn’t take any of the lighter loads, and radioed Mingma. After repeated tries I realized that my position just below a 50m vertical rock wall wasn't going to help me at all. My calls were monitored by Ali, who offered to radio Mingma from his position. I could hear Ali’s repeated calls to Mingma, but no answer came. I looked up and couldn’t believe that, from where I was standing, it was calm, with a wind no more than 35 mph, and visibility all the way down to ABC. But upwards--just a lousy 50 m above--was blinding snow, howling wind, a total white-out blizzard. Well, I thought, this is K2. And that's why K2 is so dangerous.
 
I rested my sore shoulders before heading up when a radio crack came--a faint, indecipherable voice, with no other people on the slopes of K2 and with only two other people in BC--it had to be Mingma. Ali picked up the call, talked with Mingma in Urdu language and, although I could hear both, I couldn’t understand what was being said. I asked Ali to patch up the conversation and he relayed that Mingma and Rinjing had arrived in C3 only to find all tents totally destroyed, some covered in snow and ice and some just missing, including the one where he had stored our oxygen. They promised Ali they would keep looking, but Mingma’s description of a "bomb-like scene" brought the thought of us being in C3 instead of C2. We’d probably be blown off the mountain inside the tent in the middle of the night. I asked Ali to order Mingma down the mountain at once since it was now past noon and, knowing that the two brave sherpa were fighting a strong storm above, they’d at least two hours to get down to C2. But we had to get down at least to C1 to be in a safer position to fight the newly announced storm. Mingma estimated that we’d need three hours to get to C2 and it was just too late. I headed up to the bottom of the House Chimney and started the climb back up, it was my fourth ascent of this pitch thus far. At the top, hell was once again present and it welcomed me with its open arms. Looking up all I could see was a full-blown storm with very strong winds. Once again I needed more than an hour to reach tent. I got inside, exhausted, with the crampons fastened to my boots. In that moment I decided that the trusted The North Face tent would have to be abandoned on the slopes of K2. With still three more large loads to carry down, I wasn't going to climb down the chimney again--the tent was just too much for the three of us. Mingma’s radio call came asking me where I was. I told him I’d gone down to C1; he assured me that he was just an hour and a half from C2, and, with Rinjing almost snow-blind, they’d be careful coming down. They had to remove their only eye protection, sunglasses, and climb without them. I told him that I’d be waiting for them with a fresh brew. Two zombies arrived, plastered in snow and ice just like the ropes anchoring our tent. Rinjing had a face mask and his left eye was fire-red and almost swollen shut. Mingma looked much better, his down suit hood helped him protect his face from the stinging wind and snow. "We are very tired, no carry the tent down" announced Mingma. "OK," I replied, "no problem," without telling him I had decided the same thing. The sherpa loads started to take shape and I was shocked to see Rinjing piling up his pack despite being blind in one eye. I closed all the zippers of the tent and told Rinjing that I wanted to see next year if the tent survived the harsh winter of k2. Of course no tent can survive, but we always find remnants of tents from previous years. I felt I betrayed this trusted shelter that kept the three of us alive for three horrible days and nights. With Mingma first, myself in the middle and Rinjing in the rear, we headed down toward the top of the Chimney. We let Mingma reach the bottom to make sure that none of us would kill each other sending down rocks on top of the one below--with the chimney so narrow, there’d be no escaping a rock sent down accidentally. Once again I found it extremely difficult to get down; Rinjing was patiently looking down at me. I got next to Mingma at the point of the load deposit, where he was adding to his load what I had brought down hours before. Rinjing arrived and, after seeing the loads I brought, he started to laugh, saying to Mingma that it would be better to come back up again to take the extra loads. But the quickly deteriorating weather made them change their minds. Although Rinjing’s load rose way above his head, he took out some ropes and started to fasten three more sleeping bags onto the already overloaded pack. At this moment Mingma improvised using the all too familiar sherpa head-strap, made of a band that extends under the entire pack and over their heads, spreading the pressure points from the shoulders to the head. Sherpa have very strong necks from training; if you don't have one, don't try this technique--your neck will hurt for weeks. I foolishly tried it myself once, and the experience made me never use their technique again. My pack was already heavy, and Mingma asked me if I could add a little more to it. I was sincerely shocked that he asked me to load more. I had already wanted to unpack everything I was carrying so far, and keep only one sleeping bag, head down the mountain and save my ass. Mingma, on the other hand, continued to strap more on his pack. Mingma, a short guy of perhaps 5' 4'', looked ridiculously out of proportion to his pack, with ropes everywhere, tied to each other and climbing materials. As I sat there, I thought that it wasn't my job to carry Thea's gear, Mike's gear and, given the formidable conditions, not even my own gear, only what was strictly necessary to survive myself. I asked myself why are we busting our asses when it really isn't necessary. But looking at the sherpa, still busy loading, I felt I was going to create additional dialogue, wasting precious time arguing the case. I said nothing, took an additional load and strapped it to my pack. Mingma placed his pack on a ledge, positioned his body under it in a sitting position, placed the band strap over his head and shoulder straps ready, he tried to lift the monster pack. At first he couldn't lift it; he turned his head toward me and smiled, then grunted, and the pack started to walk. With only the lower part of his legs visible from behind, it literally looked as if the pack itself was walking down the mountain. Mingma was cleverly using a Carlo Bonatti rappelling device, probably the best device for k2, making sure he was going down safely. He gingerly began his descent. I followed him without using any rappelling device other than an arm wrap, sometimes a double arm wrap (this technique is the fastest, no doubt and, used properly, quite safe but not nearly as safe as the other mechanical devices). Rinjing took to the rear using a Figure 8 device. His pack was just as monstrous, I had an understanding with Rinjing that he’d wait for me to descend to a point where I could take cover from the falling rocks. Since he was using the Figure 8 and descending first, with his back to the wall, it was very likely rocks would be dislodged, sending them down the mountain. Mingma was first and the one exposed the most. Below both of us, the risk for him was double, with Rinjing in the safest position. But not even Rinjing was immune to rock fall, as I climbed with them for acclimatization, we dislodged a rock above us, with our own ropes anchored and touching other rocks above;, so climbing on K2 one can kill himself/herself by just pulling on the fixed ropes. I asked Mingma numerous times to not climb down too far from us in case a rock got dislodged and sent down accidentally, as it could gain too much speed and become deadly. Mingma's load was just too much to bare on his shoulders and neck, but he kept on going down, ignoring my warning. I would wait for him to get to points I considered safe before starting my own descent. At one particular rock pitch, just a half-hour below the Chimney, I tried to rest my tired legs and relieve the shoulder pressure from the heavy pack. As I squatted, the pack suddenly swung to the right and my crampons lost their grip, landing me on my belly with the weight of the pack on top of me. I was on a slope of totally blue ice, with a pitch of perhaps 70 degrees. Fortunately I had the double arm wrap on, so I was able to hang in there. But frightened to death, I stood up only to find myself breathing at an incredible fast rate. I was so scared--the length of the rope to the nearest anchor point was 100 m. If I were to fall that distance over the rocks and ice with the monster pack, I would’ve been seriously injured, or worse. I cursed the loads and their owners. but it was my decision to take them down--none of the owners had asked me to risk my life save some climbing gear. I regained good footing on top of a decent-sized rock and tried to regain control of my body and thoughts. Mingma was still cruising down without even noticing. The snow and wind was still strong and visibility under 30 m. At the next rock pitch, the second most difficult after the House Chimney up to C2, Mingma was climbing down very carefully. He had to make a tricky 10-m traverse over a 75-degree slope of ice to the anchor point where he had to change the rope. I was patiently waiting for him to make the traverse when, for no particular reason, I looked up at Rinjing who had started to climb down toward me. As I looked up, Rinjing dislodged a good size 35-kg rock which started to careen down right at me. It bounced once and all I could do was move my head to the right. With a silent "whisp", it passed by my head within a mere couple of inches as I yelled, "Roooooock!" Following its move, bouncing straight down toward Mingma, I looked down at him and noticed that my scream of "Rooooooock" wasn’t heard. The wind had picked up and my voice was carried away from his ears. The rock bounced again, now with tremendous velocity, striking a large boulder, then shattering. Rinjing looked terrified, perhaps his thought was: "I just killed Mingma." With a few pieces of rock landing and barely missing him, Mingma still had no idea he was almost killed just then. Rinjing and I continued to yell repeatedly, and when Mingma stopped traversing. I caught up to him and told him what had just happened. Rinjing joined us and, instead of at least a moment of contemplation, Mingma just said, "I am very lucky."
 
Very lucky indeed. Rinjing shook his head in disbelief--two close calls and we weren’t even half-way down to C1. Will there be a third--will we regret climbing this mountain? Rinjing and I continued on and found Mingma in a comfortable resting place, smoking his all-too-familiar cigarette. It was a good opportunity for me to reiterate what I had always told him: don’t get too far down from us, and keep in mind that most accidents happen on descent--fatigued, frustrated, carrying heavy loads, and awful weather can turn our summer vacation into a tragedy, and perhaps add to the number 11, of those who Mt. K2, kept forever on its slopes. Mingma, sucking on the quickly burning cigarette, listened as I made my case, chuckled, and said nothing. I thought it was a sobering discussion only to discover that Mingma had his own way of doing things. He kept on doing what he did before, so I decided to increase my distance from him to at least 100 m and complained to Rinjinjg, "This man will not listen." Fortunately the descent to C1 continued without incident and we arrived in C1 within an hour before dark. I contemplated continuing down to ABC, but the three of us were too spent to go any further. As we unloaded the heavy packs, with Mingma inside the tent, I chose to remain outside to be on the lookout for Rinjing, who was 100 m above the tents by then. I recalled my previous trip to C1, when we went to help Marco come down. Chuck radioed me from BC to warn me that the Korean team was descending and that it was too dangerous to climb up. Sure enough, as I was sitting with the two sherpa outside the tents with a bunch of tired and devastated Koreans, and others still descending, one of them accidentally sent a large rock down the mountain from at least 100 m above. Facing up the mountain I saw the rock coming straight down at the seated Korean team. I yelled and everyone started to run in every direction. The rock struck one of the tents, went through the outer shell, through the door, exited the same door and punctured the fabric floor, leaving a hole the size of soccer ball. Everyone was silent. Now Rinjing was coming down from the same place, so in case the same thing happened I decided to stay on the lookout. Luckily, nothing happened.
 
Weeks ago Mingma had told me how he and Thillen Sherpa, a two-time K2 summiter and a Himalayan veteran, managed to send down their gear from C1 all the way to ABC without carrying it on their backs. They pack the gear into large duffel bags, rope them tightly, and let them go down the ice/snow slope. He assured me that it worked like magic and the loads got down to ABC in less than two minutes. With an angle steep enough and ice slick, I thought it was a great idea. Days ago we found two large duffel bags, one black with a Kolon Sports logo on it and one red with an ATP logo, both about the same size. That evening we packed most of the sleeping bags, eight in all, socks, down jackets, pants, and Thea's make-up kit from C2. We decided not to finish packing since we decided to take out the Mountain Hardware tent to sleep in that night. I radioed Ali in BC and announced that we’d like them to come to ABC the next day to help transport the loads to BC. We set the hour for around 8 a.m.. The night was calm but by about 4:30 a.m. the wind started to pick up, rattling the tent. I woke up first, Rinjing was sleeping face down, or was he? Still snow blind, Rinjing was groaning in pain, covering his face to avoid the cracking daybreak. Mingma was covered as well and sound asleep. I called Ali who was now very close to the crevasse. With the two kitchen staff less than 30 minutes from ABC and us still inside our warm sleeping bags, I knew it was time to get things going. Without any drink or food, we started to pack all that was left. The tent was dismantled, fabric put inside the duffel bags and poles to be carried on our backs.
 
I stood at the edge of C1 and, looking down, saw the two Pakistani friends waiting. "Do you see me here?'' I called on the radio. "No, I don't see you," replied Ali. Hearing the conversation Mingma took the fabric remnants of the broken tent and unfurled it so Ali could see us. It didn't help--if you don't know where to look, the effort is in vein. I told Ali it didn’t matter; he and Rozi should be on the lookout for two large duffel bags coming down the snow/ice slope that ended in ABC. Mingma grabbed the bags and dragged them to the launch pad, then assigned Rinjing to push them down. I was the camera man recording the sherpa innovation while Mingma climbed to the top of a large outcrop of rock to monitor the slide. Rinjing pushed the first bag down. Mingma said,"Is going, is going, is going." Then, "Kekpa," meaning ‘shit’ in English. "Borken", meaning '' Broken".
The second ‘missile’ was launched, it went a little further than the first one. I could see gloves and larger items so laboriously carried down by us; but the most obvious was the Mountain Hardware tent we had just slept in. The wind picked it up, sending to China like an open parachute. The bags didn't make it half-way through the journey, and there. was nothing we could do.
 
We started down the mountain on the last leg of our descent to ABC, n the same order--with Mingma first, me second and Rinjing at the rear. We received hugs from Ali and Rozi and were greeted with a 2l-oz bottle of Coke. At this point, with the two large bags lost, we didn’t need the help of our Pakistani friends. We were tired so we could use a lighter load going to BC. As I walked through the icefall and glacier morraine, I kept looking up at Chogori, still in the clouds and the storm just at C2. As we left it, the mountain was saying, "Keep on going, man; don’t even think about it.--not this year."
:
After a long time of culinary neglect, we finally sat down to a real dinner; but with our stomachs having shrunk, we couldn’t eat all that was served. From time to time, I would go outside the dining tent to see what the mountain looked like. The same as we had left it. The next day we rested, gathering together most of the time inside the dining tent while we packed some of our luggage and labeled with the with the proper destination.
 
"Where this is going?" asked Ali. "This to Katmandu, this Islamabad and this to Skardu," I answered. "Skardu?" replied Ali. "Yes, Skardu," I confirmed. "I will need it for next year."
 
Today Thursday, August 28, one week since we battled the first day of the storm in C2, BC is covered in a mantle of more than six inches of freshly fallen snow. It looked pretty outside, I woke up at 4:00 a.m.--I wanted to finish this report. I made myself a double espresso while the four other occupants slept. The wind, always present here in the foothills of Mt. K2, rattled the dining tent where I slept for most of the time. At about 7:20 a.m. I noticed Ali struggling with the tent’s tattered zipper. "Come in, Santa Claus," I invited Ali in. Strong laughter sounded from outside the tent. Mt. Chogori and the surrounding mountains looked beautiful this morning, loaded with snow--its summit engulfed in a lenticular cloud, an indication the winds were up; its crown was enveloped by serious weather, making it no place for humans, for now. Hopefully the porters will show up on time, if not we will add another round of playing cards till they come. I am going home with all my climbing partners, each sound and unhurt. We did not reach our goal, to summit, but we learned an invaluable lesson--that nature is almighty, we are intelligent and humble creatures, but sometimes this is not enough. I could offer my fifty-cent analysis of this mountain. It has been climbed solo, without oxygen, skied down, climbed using various routes, some incredibly difficult. It has take many lives with 11 this year alone. It has barred climbers from its summit for years in a row. I found it a difficult but quite climbable mountain. Broad Peak, the neighboring mountain, is less than five miles apart from K2. Yet sometimes its summit is crystal clear when K2 is being choked by vicious storms. How could this be possible? Various weather reports, many of them wrong, are testament to K2’s unpredictability; it’s a big mountain that makes its own weather right here on it slopes, challenging even the most sophisticated weather forecasting tools available today. It is much different from Everest. I had on my side two of the most experienced and dedicated climbers in the world--Mingma and Rinjing. I’ve always said that high-altitude mountains are climbed first by climbers with solid, mental preparation and then with a good body. I believe we had both this season. The two sherpa were not just at work here. They wanted to climb this mountain for themselves. I sensed this when all the other occupants of BC left for home. These two partners encouraged me to stay in the game. When we saw when Marco Confortola in trouble high up, we three volunteered to go up and help. As one of the American members was organizing the rescue team, we found ourselves going alone for the task. This ‘safety in numbers’ is false, we had the mountain to ourselves and we went up confident that we’d summit. With all our preparedness, I will say that LUCK was not on our side. We were defeated by K2’s peculiar weather pattern. I would like to thank my family for allowing me the privilege of being here, to do what I like, and Sunny Mountain Guides and Jasmine Tours for the logistics. I give a special thanks to Everestnews.com for their invaluable support throughout this and previous journeys. Because the laptop I was using quit weeks ago, I will follow up with some amazing pictures from the "Mountain of all mountains"  From the Goodwin Austen Glacier George Dijmarescu reports on behalf of Sunny Mountain Guides, Chogori 2008 Expedition exclusively for Everestnews.com.

Earlier: George Dijmarescu, Mingma Sherpa and Rinjin Sherpa went to Camp 2. What was supposed to be a a build up turned into a pretty big storm. They are riding it out in Camp 2 and then planning on heading to Camp 3 to get some gear before heading back down. Another bigger storm is going to hit early next week. They are now alone on the mountain.

Earlier: Dave Watson and Chuck Boyd on the other American team have headed down, it appears over for them in 2008. George Dijmarescu, along with Mingma Sherpa and Rinjin Sherpa (all on the  Sunny Mountain Guides expedition) are still headed up. They should be at Camp 3 right now with plans to move to Camp 4.

The snow is deep after the storm of last week. There will be no more e-mails, only sat phone calls when possible. The ropes from earlier expeditions are buried or gone... They are going to need to climb it. It is not going to be easy.

Wish them luck and keep them in your prayers this weekend ....

Earlier: Sunday, 8/17, I was the first to wake up (still sleeping in the kitchen/dining tent) to a fresh, new snow; this time the night brought at least four inches of snow. Since all night was windy with the big kitchen tent rattling like a little rag, I thought that much of the snow in front of the tent was mostly blown by the strong winds. I looked at the table in front of the tent and realized that it was perhaps more like less than three inches.  Once again the landscape looked pristine, clean, and peaceful. As I was reading my e-mail correspondence (in particular one from Betty Anne Cox of Hartford, CT, where she described the contrast of our weather here of snow and cold, there torrential rain and quickly decreasing hours of daylight), my mind brought me home once again, thinking of the roof that leaks during heavy downpours.  She also sent me a poem that she had written in the past; it delighted me beyond words.  Betty Anne writes poems and articles and is a regular contributor to a major local newspaper in Hartford.  She’s also sending me regular political headlines as well as the latest Olympic results. Such e-mails are very welcome here, even though  world news is almost irrelevant. In a way I can understand these Balti people and their oblivion to what is happening in the rest of the world. This world is so different from ours, and I understand better how much the media shapes our lives, telling us what is new and what is important (or not).  As I find myself removed from the daily dose of our own propaganda, I realize more that there is nothing more important to me than my immediate family, my children, my wife and my parents. On a positive note, these trips outside civilization make me understand more of what life is all about. Here on the other side, seeing people here living in a rut of poverty--without even shoes, just sandals, for walking in deep snow--makes me appreciate more the country I live in.  America is the country I always wanted to live in, and I won't trade it for any other. Things are not perfect there, but I never look for perfection; I doubt that it exists in this world. It’s easy, after observing these conditions of poverty, to become sensitive to what your eyes can see, what your brain can analyze, how your heart sympathizes with the less fortunate struggling to make ends meet.

There are many moments when we think of what is fair and what is not; but regardless of our own conclusions, there is little we can do to change the place we’ve chosen to be right now.  Our team is here for a purpose, to try and stay focused on our destination, the summit of K2. I look up and get a glimpse of the mighty mountain; it doesn't look like it got much snow at all, even though the wind may have blown it away. I look down at Mt. Chogolisa and see for myself that the instant weather forecast for the next few hours will be nothing but the same bad weather--snow, wind, and so,,, playing more cards. I read again, for the tenth time, the forecast sent by Everestnews.com, the best and most reliable source of mountaineering news in the world, with Hanif giving us here the most detailed forecast to date. Although a little disappointed with the predicted forecast, I am personally pleased with its accuracy. It called for snow and winds and that's what it is. Hanif goes beyond his forecasting job and advises us not to venture up at least until Tuesday. Thank you, Everestnews.com, and thank you, Hanif. Please continue to help us with the forecast.  It will make a success/failure, life/death difference. 

All of Sunday was, quite frankly, pretty crappy with snow, almost zero visibility, fog and only minutes of sun. I received an invitation to dinner from Chuck and Dave--they would have a "reception" in the parlor (their kitchen/dining tent) to honor Mike's departure.  With his porters here, he’ll go down this morning after breakfast. For the short time I’ve known Mike, I have to say that he is a great guy, smart, articulate and fun to be with. I will not hesitate to join Mike for future expeditions. Chuck and Dave sat on the table enjoying the last drops of brandy in this BC.  We, one by one, sipped from the little Marmot bottle, a fine, smooth brandy; but, surprisingly, we left the bottle half full. The topic of the discussion was the funny, then hilarious, story of the flying mice. I asked our Pakistani staff where these little creatures come from.  Judging from their answer, I thought they were just being humorous: "From the blue sky,” repeated Ali, Rozi, and even Muna. I started to dig more into this; the answer came back even stronger. Ali swears he had had a personal experience with one mouse landing on his arm and lying motionless for five minutes before scurrying away. Ali claims that these mice have wings and are sort of like bats, with a metamorphosis-like transformation, shedding their wings and becoming regular mice. Pay attention, National Geographic, this can be big. The Pakistani claimed that mice landed once in C2 as well. I argued the more plausible explanation—that the mice were being transported in the many, many food barrels and boxes.  As for their presence at C2 , Ali has absolutely no problem with my theory, but for the mouse that landed on his arm from the sky, he insists that “seeing is believing" and argues that the mice in Skardu (where the food comes from) look much different from those we see here. Having earlier committed to a plan to capture Chini and keep this zoological discovery in my possession, I have no plans to share it with National Geographic.  Instead I will set Chini free and wish him a happy life hereafter.  Conclusion--the high altitude affliction, hypoxia, is obvious among the Pakistanis as well as among ourselves.

I will come back with the mice news as the story develops.

Today, Monday morning, 8/18, Chogori looks once again inhospitable: the very top is in clouds, and, looking down at Mt. Chogolisha, I get the impression that today will be another card-playing day. After all, the forecast calls for just that. But, tomorrow is another day.  I am thinking of my children and family, my phone bill has gone over the cliff so I won’t be able to call home; so I use this venue to send you all at 51 Lorraine St. much love.  Please have faith in me that I will not do foolish things here. I miss you so much. From the Goodwin Austen Glacier, George Dijmarescu reports on behalf of Sunny Mountain Guides Chogori 2008 Expedition exclusively for Everestnew.com only.

Earlier: George Dijmarescu reports on behalf of Sunny Mountain Guides Chogori 2008 Expedition exclusively for Everestnews.com

The forecast we got from Everestnews.com [Hanif] has been right on target so far. Knowing Friday would be unpleasant and too dangerous to climb the slopes of K2, we decided to go ‘”sightseeing”, as Mingma put it. Dave and Chuck had the same idea, so we all picked up our backpacks, departing on a two-hour hike to ABC to camp there. If the weather, by some miracle, shows any sign of improvement, we will climb up directly to C2 and try to camp there instead. With Sunny Mountain Guides Chogori expedition’s thorough preparedness (with camp stashed with all the necessities of gas, food, oxygen, extra sleeping bags), we wanted to make the trip just to stay in shape for our eventual summit bid. As we settled in ABC, the night fell quickly, but we managed to get some soup.  The cold air started to bite, so everyone bundled up in the sleeping bags--except me. Having miscalculated the number of sleeping bags at ABC, I ended up without one.  But with the extra fleece and Mingma's down suit, I was able to keep warm. Just as I was falling asleep, I heard the noise of icy snow hitting our EMS tent, sounding like handfuls of rice being thrown on top of the tent. I sat up and saw that it was snowing "hard", just as Hanif had reported to Everestnews.com. I tried to get back to sleep but the noise was too much. As I rolled from one side to another, I felt the rocks beneath my back--my Thermarest had lost its air. I turned the lamp on; Mingma was completely covered in his down sleeping bag, along with Rinjing, sharing the same sleeping bag, purring like a cat next to him.  Chuck, Dave, and Mike were silent, sleeping  in the two tents next door.  Lying there I began losing hope that we would be going anywhere but down.  I tried again to get some sleep just in case we do go up; I can’t afford to be too tired going directly to C2. I woke up and saw a little light, but clouds rushing in from below were an indication the weather won’t be what we want. Rinjing sat up and sighed, “Ma, ma, ma, ma”. I learned years ago upon first meeting him that this response is his way of saying that things are not good.  He unzipped the vestibule and shut it in just two seconds and lay down next to Mingma again. I stared at the top of the tent thinking of my children at home, the unfinished second floor bathroom which I gutted almost a year ago, and all the remodeling things I still have to do in order to bring our early twentieth century home in Hartford, Connecticut, to its original appearance. My thoughts were interrupted by the conversation Mike and Chuck were having next door. I noticed Mike going down to BC--the weather wasn’t good; but I thought, “George, so far you’ve gotten accurate forecasting.” Rinjing, always a gentleman, got up and in just a few minutes the stove was roaring. Mingma was still completely covered. Rinjing handed me a large cup of coffee, not like the one I had in BC but good enough for the altitude. I asked Chuck if he wanted a cup of coffee, so he joined us.   As the tent got warmer Mingma joined us for our morning coffee chat. Dave poked his head through the door, making a funny comment. Then, with the five of us inside the EMS tent, we all agreed that, after the morning brew, we would all go down.

Dave looked at Mingma and said, "We go down, smoke a cigarette, Muna make good food, and we’ll sleep well." We all laughed. This is the kind of atmosphere I really like when climbing a big mountain like this--having such good company with climbers like Chuck and Dave makes me love these adventurous trips even more. Just as we were ready to leave, Dave noticed two large plastic bags of garbage left by other climbers under a large boulder. "Should we carry this garbage down"?  Dave asked us.  Goraks (blackbirds) had chewed through the two bags, so I asked if anybody had an extra. empty one. Chuck went to Mike's tent  to get two large kitchen bags; I took one and Dave one--we did something good for the environment. The garbage will be taken down by our porters when they arrive. Ali, our cook, separated all the aluminum and tin cans for recycling and the rest of the garbage will be incinerated. Although our trip to ABC was not what we intended, it was fun and helpful.  Too many days of playing cards with little physical activity isn’t good for any of us.

On the way back down to BC, I could see Mingma and Rinjing hurrying to the kitchen tent.  With empty stomachs, our minds directed us to our kitchen and, to my surprise, my favorite food was being served--bean soup. Having been gone from ABC for a night, I worried about Chini, the little mouse that took residence in our kitchen after Hoselito Bite, the Serbian climber, abandoned him.  He had plenty to eat for now and, in the night, I woke up with him sleeping on my belly. I really wanted to bring him inside my sleeping bag but so far I did not have enough ‘communication’ with him. Chini was baptized by Hoselito; I was grateful the Serbian climber, like me, was an animal lover. Chini has rounded up a little and I worried he’d become obese and get sick; after all he doesn't have to search for food—it’s everywhere. I asked Ali what Chini's nationality was: is he from Hushe, Askoli, is he Balti or what?  To my surprise Ali and most Pakistani think the mice come from the sky; maybe, but Chini must’ve piggy-backed on some of our food barrels. So now the poor thing is without friends or girlfriend, and all he has to do is eat. One thing for sure: he is acclimatized and, if in some way I can talk with him, I’ll ask him to join me for a summit push. If not, I told Ali to catch him before we go down and hand him over to me. I want to take him from here to the nearest village and tell him that there is much more to life than eating all day. I’m worried Chini will venture outside when it’s warm, for a sun bath.  He must be careful--the big black ravens and Goraks are everywhere and, most importantly, hungry.  How can I warn Chini of the ever present dangers, one bad move and he’ll no longer be with me. I’ll be brokenhearted; seriously, I love mice and all animals. I got used to seeing him; he’s my pal now. Ali told me he spotted him inside the tissue box (no surprise here; he’s not stupid), a lofty, soft and warm place.  My down jacket, softer and warmer than the tissue, will be off limits, if he discovers it.  It was an accident that Chini got here--if I leave him here he won't survive the winter, too cold and without food he will venture outside and get snatched by the black bird. I take this opportunity to ask people how I can save Chini from death. How can I fool him into a trap, put him inside my jacket pocket and take him down to a village where he can go on with his life? Thanks in advance for the advice. Ali promised he will try to capture him but at this point he doesn't know how to, either. 

This is where our minds have taken us while we wait for good weather! Cheers for Chini.

From The Goodwin Austen Glacier, George Dijmarescu reports on behalf of Sunny Mountain Guides Chogori 2008 expedition exclusively for Everestnews.com

Earlier: From The Goodwin Austen Glacier, George Dijmarescu reports on behalf of Sunny Mountain Guides Chogori 2008 Expedition exclusively for Everestnews.com.

8/13--I woke up again this morning to a white mantle of newly fallen snow from yesterday and last night. Chogori AKA K2 was invisible in the morning; Ali, our cook, woke up earlier to prepare breakfast, mine the usual espresso--only this time it was a double.  Dave, Chuck and Andy went up the day before yesterday to C2 to check out the route and conditions. Chuck and Andy returned to BC the same day but Dave decided to stay overnight at C2. The weather turned bad and Dave returned the next day with quite a story.  Playing cards remains our only pastime. We hope for a break in the weather to at least be able to move around, go to ABC or the upper camps. Andy came up to say goodbye--his time had run out and, although his departure was announced days in advance, we were sorry to see him go. 

On the light side—We keep two tables outside for lunch during good weather; but now loaded with snow, Mingma, our veteran sherpa, started to build a snow man on top of them.  While we chatted with Andy, the snowman began to take shape: Mingma created an image of himself, we think.  We knew it wasn’t a snow woman, but with a closer look, we noticed one of the snowman’s ‘private parts’ was disproportionately long. Before the snow man began to melt, Dave took a snap shot of it. It was a hilarious note for Andy’s departure, one he’ll probably remember for a long time.

As we sat outside Dave's kitchen tent, basking in a fleeting sun, an avalanche came cascading down, pouring freshly deposited, powder snow down a narrow gully. The noise made us scramble for a video camera--I got quite a few minutes of this amazing display of nature at its most fierce, an event always feared by climbers who venture onto mountains loaded with snow. Last night another loud noise made us rush outside to see "what's falling now?”.  Just behind our kitchen tent, a massive rock falling avalanche, rocks the size of wash machines, tumbled down the mountain’s steep slopes, taking more rocks with them.  The  velocity of the falling rocks caused them to crash violently into others in their path, making them disintegrate almost into powder. Tons and tons of rocks tumbled to the bottom. All that remained was a cloud of rock dust, hissing an echo of the piercing noise. We couldn’t resist watching such a powerful display; it made me think even more how insignificant and powerless we are in this environment on K2. 

Staying inside because of the weather makes our isolation seem worse--we need to exercise to keep our bodies in shape. None of us have a short wave radio, so we all are craving for news from home.  At this point, even political news is welcome. Olympics....go, USA, for the most gold medals!

To my family: Sunny, Shiny, Lakpa, Claudia, my niece, and my father, Valeriu. I am fine, don't worry about me, we are safe here in BC; it may take more days before we head up the mountain once again.

On behalf of Sunny Mountain Guides Chogori 2008 Expedition George Dijmarescu reports exclusively for Everestnews.com

Earlier: Today, Tuesday, Aug 12, I woke up to a warm morning, went outside and saw the landscape of a fairyland--everything white, soft, and, most important, clean. The snow continued through our time at breakfast.  I placed a radio call to Dave, who went yesterday to C2 and decided to stay there.  He reported wind and snow, but his main concern was the danger of an avalanche. I always ask him to be extra careful on the way down; so, as always, he complies—safety first. The forecast we received from Everestnews [Hanif's] is so far perfect: today; Tuesday, was predicted to be "hard", with the two following days to be good weather, and Friday’s weather  deteriorating again.

Mt. K2 is in a bad mood now, but we hope the mood will change and give us a chance to prove our abilities to climb it.

Yesterday we played cards with Mingma, Rinjing, Ali and Muna, Chuck Boyd's cook. I was surprised how fast time passed as I learned one of the local card games. We laughed, and Ali once again enchanted us with the Balti songs and his pleasant voice. There isn’t much to do here while waiting for good weather. I was planning to hike up to the icefall here to get a better view of how deep the crevasses are, but poor visibility made it prohibitive for good picture taking.  For perfect pictures, I need a clear day.  A two-hour climb on a scree slope will put me almost at the heart of the icefall with more icefall above. It must be an impressive sight. As I look up, Chogori AKA K2 shows its face only at the lower elevations, so I placed another radio call to Watson, who, still on his descent, responded that he was in “full winter condition”, with "frozen ropes, spindrift and wind".  But warming temperatures will most likely make the snowy white mantle disappear, with the rocky moraine on which we live, once again, all too familiar. 

It’s so easy to lose your drive for the summit with weather like this, but our Sunny Mountain Guides group is determined as ever to be patient with this mountain and wait till it says "welcome". Time, patience and luck--the first two we have; the last, we will see. A few good wishes from the Everestnews readers will be very welcome messages at this time. [You can e-mail them at ] We don't have the wherewithal to just do "nothing"!  Thanks in advance. Once again a message to my family, Sunny, Shiny and Lakpa, as well as my niece, Claudia, and my father, Valeriu:  I love you all so much.  Please have faith in me that I will make the right decision; my decisions will be with you all in mind. I miss you.

From the Goodwin Austen Glacier on behalf of Sunny Mountain Guides Chogori 2008 Expedition, George Dijmarescu reports exclusively for Everestnews.com

Earlier: For the K2 expedition, Lakpa Sherpa (Sherpani) six-time Everest summiter, dispatched two sherpa here--one, her brother-in-law, Rinjing Sherpa, a four-time Everest summiter, and Mingma Thunduk Sherpa, also a four-time summiter of Everest but also an older, veteran Himalayan summiter of numerous other, eight-thousand-meter giants. I had met Mingma, this man of small stature years before on Everest, but got to know him better at a party in Kathmandu at the home of one of Lakpa's twin sisters, Pasang.  (Married to a French man from Paris and residing there as well, often return to Kathmandu, in part to get their son, Dani, used to the Nepali language.) It was a party I will never forget--most sherpa were from Makalu, happily celebrating their summits. Large grilled fish, lots of salads with American-bought dressing, were served along with Carlsberg beer and French wine; we listened to music from all over the world, including Romania. The sherpa wore kadar, the traditional Nepali shawl with shades of light yellow, representing good wishes. Elderly Nepali folks joined the party as well. Mingma, with his ever-present smile and small stature, stood apart from most. As our climbing partner here, Mingma has the job of ensuring K2 is summited and summited safely. Only last year Mingma topped out K2 with a Korean woman. They summited rather late, at 6 p.m. but managed to be back in C4 by 10:30 p.m. As a climber who knows the route, Mingma serves as the eyes and our guide to the summit; his knowledge of the mountain is vital to our success. I sat down with Mingma many times and he told me stories of his past climbs, but one seems to circle time and again. As I made the comment that K2 is much harder than Everest, he assured me that I haven't seen a hard and dangerous climb yet:

The South Face Of Lhotse in winter, arguably the most dangerous climb anywhere. But why in winter--isn't South Face hard enough, why in winter?  Well, one only has to listen to Mingma about his experience just last year, 2007. The expedition started in December, the main reason being that the Korean team banked on the fact that cold temperatures would keep the shear rock and ice face in one piece and not send missiles down on the summit.  Wishful thinking. Mingma was chosen to be the sherpa leader, or sirdar, and he gathered nine sherpa, with six from Makalu. The only place safe from falling rock is ABC; and after going only to C1, four sherpa considered it suicidal and left the team with only five sherpa.

The Korean climbers made every effort to keep up with the Nepalese sherpa, and helped them fix the ropes as well. The BC is only an hour from the village of Chukum--a green, relaxing place. On his team was also Pasang Bhote who perished here on K2 Aug 1st.

Mingma described the South face of Lhotse:  "From ABC is ice, then at C1 rock, then ice hill, then rock, C2 is ice, then rock, C3 is only rock, the C4 at 8075m was not established, except in ABC, rock fall is ever present."

The first sherpa who was hit was Nima Tenzing of Makalu.  A large rock hit his left thigh, seriously injuring him.  He was sent limping to Kathmandu for treatment, but the brave, perhaps foolish, sherpa wanted to come back for more, and did. Only five days after his return working on the upper slopes of Lhotse, Nima Tenzing’s fingers froze and were amputated in Kathmandu. Nima Sherpa became the next victim of the notorious Lhotse when he was hit by a massive rock and ice boulder, dislocating his shoulder--putting him out of action and off the mountain. Two weeks in the hospital ended his climbing season. While carrying loads between C2 and C3, Lhakpa Unghel suffered frostbite to his fingers, but immediate treatment spared them the doctor's knife. One by one the team got smaller and smaller. The next victim, Pasang Nanghel of Thame, was hit by a rock in C1. Luckily it came at a weird angle, penetrating his down jacket and all the other layers of clothing Pasang was wearing, barely piercing his stomach.  But the force of the impact left the sherpa breathless, and constant pain made him abandon the climb. He spent two days in Khumjung Hospital and was released. Mingma's down jacket lost its loft due to the impact of small rocks hitting it, and he had no other weather protection to continue the climb. The leader of the Korean expedition, who only reached just above C1, called the climb to a halt. Lhotse will not succumb to the Korean team this time.

On the slopes of the same mountain, a strong Japanese team with 18 sherpa made better progress and reached the top, or so they claim; however, the sherpa had a different story. Tired and exhausted, confused sherpa claimed that the team made a lesser summit, not the main one. Whatever the truth, the climbers battled an enormous, difficult mountain. So unfortunate was the Korean sherpa team that the talk about the rock falling even spread to me, but I never knew Mingma was part of it. The Koreans and Japanese rarely report their climbs to the outside world; their reports remain within their personal alpine clubs. The inability to speak English may contribute to their silence; but even though they didn’t reach the summit, their attempts and sacrifice ought to be recorded.

This story, as told by Mingma with his limited English, is only part of the story, from his point of view. Hard climbs such as the South Face of Lhotse will always remain examples of bravery. In spring of 2008, Mingma Thunduk Sherpa looked down from the top of Lhotse on the South Face, and it seemed it was hanging over entirely. Climbing again with a Korean expedition, this time on the normal route, Mingma reached the summit, together with his Korean climbing partner, without incident. 

The ascent this time followed the same route as Everest up to C3, both mountains share the three camps. The fourth camp at about 7700m is the starting point for the summit. The route continues from C4 upward on a plain snow field for about 2 hours, then follows the notorious Lhotse with its blue ice, visibly narrowing at the top. The middle summit is the main summit. The very top is very sharp and climbers can’t stand atop it; an ice axe planted on the icy summit serves as a good anchor for a summit picture. Mingma Thunduk Sherpa, from the village of Nurbugao in district of SankwaSabha in of Makalu, fulfilled his Lhotse summit dream this time on a more humane route. A hard climb at altitude over eight thousand meters, combined with its constant rock falling and frigid temperatures of Himalayan winter, brings such climbs to the very top of world mountaineering. The South Face of Lhotse even took the life of the ace Polish climber Kukuchka.

Many will follow Mingma and suffer the fate of Kukuchka.  But as long as there are difficult climbs, people will reach out with their own spirit of adventure and sacrifice. I was thrilled to hear Mingma's stories and felt privileged to have the opportunity to share not only this mountain but also his vast experience, his brushes with death, and his luck to be around us to share them.

From the Goodwin Austen Glacier George Dijmarescu reports on behalf of Sunny Mountain Guides Chogori 2008 Expedition exclusivily for Everestnews.com

Earlier: In winter, people pay attention to the weather forecast, especially in New England, where I live. I rely on it, too, due to my occupation--but a forecast is a forecast.  We’ve benefited from technology, and most of the time the forecasts are on the mark.  But when it comes to climbing K2, we need a perfect forecast. As I write now in the kitchen tent, the temperatures drop with the wind chill factor.   The Everestnews.com forecast comes in, compiled by a conscientious Pakistani, Hanif. I’ve watched his forecast for the past year and know he’s dependable. Even this season at K2, Hanif has provided perfect forecast predictions. So, as predicted, the wind has started to pick up; he gave us a small window for a summit push with Wednesday and Thursday as the best days; but he also warned us that Tuesday and Friday will be "hard". So since the two good days are flanked by potentially stormy weather, we had no choice but to play safe here. The prediction that the following week will be unfavorable for a summit attempt made no impact on our decision to stay.  If we have to wait longer, we will; and if the mountain doesn't want to accept us this year, we will accept its wish--we want to go home as we came, in one piece and unscathed. As I got up during the night, I looked up on K2 and could see a fierce storm up high. The forecast is accurate so far--the winds are here to stay.  The current forecast does not go beyond Friday, so we’ll have to wait for the next report.  As always, passing time is something every climber does differently. Yesterday Dave Watson proposed we go do some bouldering; looking down from BC we saw a couple of big boulders just 15 minutes away. Dave, Andy and I started first, followed by Chuck Boyd a half- hour later. I knew Dave was a great rock climber, having seen him in action on Everest.  This time I just wanted to enjoy watching this smooth climber. Andy Selters used the opportunity for a photo shoot and, as he predicted, with K2 as a backdrop, it will produce some impressive shots for their sponsors. I scramble on the face of one of the larger boulders and, to my surprise, I was able to top out with only a few moves (helped by my height, reaching higher than a shorter climber). Andy took off his hiking boots and borrowed Dave Watson's Mamut rock climbing shoes, enabling him to top out one of the more difficult faces of the larger boulder. We sat down together at the bottom of the boulders and looking down at Broad Peak and the route up to Camp One, we commented on how much snow and ice has melted since they left the mountain. Dave has skied down the slope, but now it’s impossible. Chuck Boyd made a few moves himself on the boulders but mainly chose to do pull-ups.

Having spent a pleasant day outdoors, we arrived in BC and the wind started to pick up. Muna, their cook, was busy preparing dinner, and I chose to spend the evening with them. After eating, we tuned into a live radio interview on a local Salt Lake City station.  We joked that the radio station, the only one in the world to talk with K2 climbers, is stationed right in BC.  As Dave waited for the phone he got a glimpse of the US news: the Olympics, its troubles, and news of an outbreak of E-Coli in more than 20 states. Presently none of us have a short wave radio, so no news about what is happening at home.

The gas heater in the dining tent brought the temperatures way above the outside temperatures, but by now the wind was strong I headed back to my sleeping bag. I crawled inside, shut the gas light and tried to sleep. My children came to mind again so I became too restless to sleep. I decided to turn on the computer and write the last few notes and observations related to this expedition and my quest for K2 summit. But it was too cold to type, so I tried again to sleep.

The morning brought my Espresso coffee, which, for me, counts as breakfast (even at home). Looking up at K2, it looks inhospitable.  Although the winds have died down a little here in BC, on the upper slopes of Chogori, they have not. Another weekend spent at the foothills. I turned my mind to the vegetable garden I planted with my daughter Sunny--too many tomatoes, some lettuce, chilly peppers, etc.  She and I also planted a few cherry trees, a couple of peach trees and a couple of plum trees. Only time will tell if we are going to eat their fruit. It was a happy time spent with my kid, and now I crave a live image of those green surroundings of nature. In contrast, everything here is dead except us. The spectrum of color is limited--black, white and in between. I just want to lie down on a field of green grass, fall asleep smelling the grass instead of the unwashed synthetic fabrics of my clothes. I don't want to see the down feathers on my fleece jacket but instead want a freshly washed cotton T-shirt and a pair of shorts. But my self-exiled environment is what I deserve. 

Again I say hello and goodbye to my children, Sunny and Shiny; my wife, Lakpa; my niece, Claudia Dijmarescu, who writes me E-mails asking smart questions; and my father Valeriu.  Hello to my customers, especially to Lauree, (sorry my computer with your E-mail address has stopped working) in Hartford, CT.  I once again ask for your patience; when I get back we’ll start that second floor bathroom remodel; meanwhile, enjoy your new swimming pool.

If anyone have questions or wanted to send us a message here in K2, please contact webmaster@everestnews.com

From the Goodwin Austen Glacier, on behalf of Sunny Mountain Guides 2008, George Dijmaresscu reports exclusivily for Everestnews.com

After receiving the weather report from Everestnews.com we had the hope we’d be going for a summit push. Chuck Boyd's forecast came as a surprising match of what we had, with the slight exception that next Thursday may not be a full day of good weather, which could put us at the summit in a storm. After intense debate, we agreed that we need a minimum of a good, two-day window to safely make a dash for the summit and retrace our steps back down at least to Camp 3. But now, with only one and a half days, we decided not to take this dangerous risk. It is also reported that the following week will be a no-go for the summit, so I made the decision to wait. Mingma and Rinjing accepted my decision, so we’ll all be waiting for new forecasts. The wind already started to pick up here in BC as well as on the upper slopes of K2, so all that remains here for us to do is watch the great mountain's mood and be flexible with it. I always said that climbers with time on their side have a better chance to summit without incident.  It was years ago that I adopted this philosophy--making sure I am not constrained by the time, pressures of work, lifestyle and other normal life commitments. Time will tell if I am right.

Dave Watson and Chuck Boyd, the only other two climbers from the other group still interested in summiting, had to resign to the same approach; the winds up high are of great concern, with the wind chill factor sending temperatures way below an acceptable level. Looking down toward Concordia and, in particular, at Chogolisa, our instant weather forecast makes us say: yeah, if Chogolisa looks bad, K2 will be bad. It is true our mood has sunk to a negative level due to the unfavorable forecast; every climber wanted to start the climb ASAP.  Staying in BC for too long is not a good idea--muscles have to be exercised, lungs inflated, mental state kept sharp. It is silent here in BC most of the time, and it will get even more silent after the last porters depart today. In the night we were used to seeing lit tents everywhere we looked, up or down, but last night our camp was the only one lit. Ali, our kitchen boy, has entertained us single-handedly with Balti songs and improvised drum beating. Knowing how to pass the time has become crucial. With my laptop in non-working condition, and unable to watch movies, I try to keep my mind relaxed as much as possible. The sun still shines for now in BC, but the weather may deteriorate.

Much love to my family back in Hartford, Connecticut, and especially to my younger daughter, Shiny, who is one and a half years old today. Happy Birthday, young life.

From The Goodwin Austen Glacier George Dijmarescu reports on behalf of Sunny Mountain Guides Chogori 2008 Expedition exclusively for Everestnews.com

Earlier: George Dijmarescu reporting on behalf of Sunny Mountain Guides Chogori 2008 Expedition exclusively for Everestnews.com

Today is another sunny day--warmth sending streams of water on the main and only path of our shrinking walks up and down the moraine. Drawn by the gravitational pull, nothing can stop this melting glacier, streams of clean water winding chaotically between rocks and newly present donkey dung. My visits are only to Chuck Boyd's camp only yards away. Their set-up is clean with delicious food; Muna, the cook, is very good and today I was invited to eat couple of slices of pizza--the best pizza since I left Kathmandu, where Fire and Ice rules the pizza taste. But here one has to be thankful with less, and Muna keeps the standards up. I also said goodbye to some of the Americans who departed today, with them Dorje, who gave me a big hug and wished us good fortune and luck. Their steps down the hill appear to be rushed, with Dorje as the only summiter and the rest appearing to want to go to civilization, to their own respective lifestyles, and, like me, return to their families. I left my family with sadness in my heart, as tomorrow, my younger daughter, Shiny, will be 18 months old. She was born a sweet and rather big girl! Her pediatrician told us she will be a tall girl, which may not give her the chance to be a top climber--but basketball is a big sport in America. She must be confused hearing my voice on the phone and wondering where her playing partner has gone. Being a father is a big disadvantage for high altitude climbers.

I keep the pictures of both children hanging around my neck and remove them only when I am showering; they're reminders of the world I belong to, the world of responsibilities toward the young lives I brought into this world. My aging father, also at home, still holds on against all odds with his liver transplant which, to this day, surprises his doctors at Hartford Hospital. I must stay focused on the climb but must also be home to walk my six-year-old daughter, Sunny, to Noah Webster School in Hartford, Connecticut, where she starts first grade. This is important, and K2 is important (I know, brother, you have disagreed with me for a long time, and this is fine).

The tension of going up to summit K2 is unique--you have to live it to understand it, with the thought of possibly seeing some of the guys who were partying with us just couple of weeks ago lying mortally wounded by a vengeful, collapsing serac. They had been clapping along with Pakistani kitchen staff, singing pleasant Balti songs. I remember Gerard, who always sat in front of the "live band", clapping, imitating the distinctive Balti way of clapping. His beard grew long after the long stay here at the foothills of K2. Gerard, "The Irish," as we all got to know him, resided in Alaska with his girlfriend. Our long evening discussion with him brought me to realize that he was a fine man who was living a full life but a life on the edge. May God rest his soul here on this mountain.

The loss of 11 climbers has left a void in all of us, but it could have been worse. With the survivors now talking, I will say that if there is a need to find a hero, no one comes close to Pemba Sherpa, one of the climbers from the Norit team. He single-handedly saved the lives of three people who chose not to rest until their expedition leader was found. With a stroke of luck he was spotted from BC and below, and Pemba was directed to the place where the stranded leader was. Days after the leader was airlifted from BC, Pemba voiced his opinion .. His words were not light. I asked Pemba to speak out to ensure future understanding and clarification, and he promised that we will be sitting together in Kathmandu to further discuss what he will have to say publicly about the 2008 K2 season. I also told him that Everestnews.com is a very good place to start, the Internet being the fastest way to report today, and that the print can follow later. This sherpa climber, Pemba, showed us all that he is a man who cares about life (a true Buddhist), and as he put it, "Western people one day will understand that there is a big difference between sherpa and the rest of the world when it comes to high altitude mountaineering." Pemba was not shy in admitting that there are some climbers with exceptional climbing abilities, matching those of sherpa. Even this year, a young Spaniard climbed the mountain, almost totally silent and even helped with fixing the ropes. So there is no intent to generalize here, but I think most climbers have no doubt about sherpa strength at high altitude, and their ability for making proper judgment.

If the media or anybody is interested in what happened this year on K2, then there is no better question than this one: What were you doing at 8PM on the summit of K2? And, if the survivors can answer this question truthfully, then more should be told. The weather was better than any climber wishes for--the mountain was on their side. The blame game has begun, but in the end, I will assure you, the victims were at fault. Two women walked away with the summit and their lives, but one lost her life partner, her husband, and I could feel the sadness that surrounded her when I saw her in ABC. I hope her scars will heal, but the memories of summiting K2 with someone will never fade or be forgotten. She goes home as a hero and a champion; perhaps as a champion who never wanted to wear the medal, but will, perhaps, just for her beloved husband. Lakpa and I have summited Everest together five times and we've often discussed the possibility of one or both of us remaining on the slopes of Everest. The thought of walking home without your climbing partner, let alone your life's partner, is crushing. So the reality that this young woman is facing, versus our mere thoughts, must be quite different. Their having children at home magnifies the grief exponentially. The 2008 K2 chapter will be critical, but the lesson learned from it is what is important. The negative publicity will bring more climbers next year and, if history repeats itself, well, history always repeats itself.

From the Goodwin Austen Glacier, George Dijmarescu reports on behalf of Sunny Mountain Guides 2008 Chogori Expedition exclusively for Everestnews.com

Earlier: George Dijmarescu reporting on behalf of Sunny Mountain Guides Chogori 2008 exclusively for Everestnews.com

After the tumultuous and, to some, disastrous summit and summit attempts of the majority of climbers at this almost empty BC, the mountain appeared to be relieved of the human burden. Piles of garbage at camp one and lesser at the superior camps, gear abandoned by tired and rushing-for-rich-air climbers, some too tired to pick up their own sleeping bags. In some cases, precious equipment and electronics were left behind only to lighten their loads. Sunny Mountain Guides decided to pull down some of our own tents, finding it unnecessary to keep up there and risk losing to high winds. There are just far too many tents left behind that we could occupy.

The mighty K2 appears serene and calm, with a cloudless sky. The nights are also warm, displaying a sky sought after by many--the unmistaken projection of the Milky Way adds brightness to the night landscape. The silence of the night brings us the sounds of the ice-moving phenomenon of glacial movement and, since we are residing on this moving river of ice, we could hear the cracks of ice, some with sharp clicking sounds, while others on the opposite side were sounds of 'thung', reminding us that nature is so powerful. The tents on BC remained perched like nests on top of ice mounds that once were leveled with everything else. In no other place have I seen such a rapid melting of ice. It would be impossible to sleep in the same place; one would need a ladder to climb up to the tent, so climbers find new places for their little residences. I decided to move my house to the kitchen tent and just keep my personal tent for some of my equipment. The temperatures of daylight bring small waterfalls, and with avalanches on the flanks of Broad Peak and K2, rock falls are such an ordinary event that we don't even pay attention to them.

As had happened on Everest, it appears that the climbing season here is delayed by about two weeks. When the first K2 expeditions arrived there was almost a foot of snow.  Belongings were left behind, and I saw sleds for carrying up the gear. BC is nothing but rock flanked on either side by an ever growing river of glacier ice.  On one side are the toilets, on the other the drinking water. Burning garbage becomes the routine end of the expeditions; with climbers gone for days, the Pakistani staff burns everything including propane gas cartridges that display loud bomb-like detonations and, like everything else, they make a joke about it: Bin Laden is here and is testing new devices for America. Porters arrive in ever smaller numbers; it seems there aren’t enough of them as hundreds of plastic barrels are left behind and ‘harvested’ by needy Pakistani villagers.

With all the different things on display here, in a way I feel relieved of the crowd that only a few days ago made up the majority of BC.  At almost fifty meters away, we set up camp, the "Connecticut Connection", with Chuck Boyd as the leader and Dave Watson, who was born in Southington, CT. In addition, there is Andy from California who is not only a climber but also a writer and photographer. Andy, like any professional, is trying to relay to the world what had transpired here with the unprecedented tragedy of losing 11 climbers in just one day in what I call a "freak accident.”  As Dave Watson and I were discussing how it will be described to the world, a dismayed, uncharacteristic look came over his face as he said, “It will be told by someone half-way across the world who is not a real climber but perhaps with a seasoned climber to add drama to the story in order to sell.” Sure enough, I just learned that Outside Magazine is planning a story and that one of the writers will be M. Kodas of Hartford, Connecticut. He lives less than a mile from my house and, from my personal experience with this man, I will just say that Outside is making a grave mistake assigning him to this story.  As a photographer who works for a local newspaper, he often manipulates the truth in his stories, under the guise of journalistic freedom of speech. For the many of us who know this, we won’t buy the magazine.  Why not choose a writer such as David Roberts to tell the story, a man who has mesmerized the world with his books?  Or why couldn’t Andy, the man who witnessed it, who talked with the climbers involved and had first hand observation of the events, be selected to take on this task? As I look at the whole picture, I anticipate more erroneous reporting, a gross disservice to the events that unfolded on K2 these past few weeks.

I am happy with my Everestnews.com dispatches--they have kept my family informed of the progress of my small expedition on K2; they have served me well during my collaboration with them on the 1998 genesis of my Everest climbing experiences. I found Everestnews.com to be the best and most reliable source of information for climbers, and their families and friends. For those who enjoy gossip, there is the other website who claims to be the best above the rest but, in fact, all they do is go after the climbers’ websites and copy their material without being given proper permission, and then call it reporting. They have attacked me as well as many top climbers, even Messner, without any shame.  I encourage climbers to avoid the other American website and keep collaborating with Everestnews.com; the people here are, most importantly, ethical.  Each time I asked them not to publish sensitive material, they didn’t.  I have trusted them since 1998; you should trust them, too. They are the true source of information about serious mountains and serious mountaineers. Mountaineering is not a sport where corporations can sell tickets and make a profit.  Sometimes they send a filming crew to “document” the climb but most of the time the result is not reality.  As climbers, we don’t come here for publicity and, from my previous experience, I will never again allow a journalist to speak with me, let alone get close to me.

Apparently, my sentiment is shared by a man who was here on the mountain during this expedition.  While I was in the vicinity of the Serbian camp, I approached a man with a distinctive moustache, slim, and close to my age.  I wanted to ask him about Christian Stagl (sorry for misspelling his name) since I saw them talking several times. I learned that he is German and that he may be the only German on K2. He spoke very good English and, early on in our conversation, I learned that he was a Karakorum veteran who wandered this inhospitable land for many years. His square jaws were typical of the Germanic race, the wrinkles on his face testimony to the years of exposure to the harsh temperatures and environment. Our conversation drifted to the subject of Lhotse, so I brought up a young Nepalese woman named Pemba Doma who fell to her death on Lhotse. “I know Pemba,” voiced the German climber, “she was my sister-in-law.” I remained mute for at least five seconds. “Then you must know Lakpa Sherpa," referring to my wife. "Yes, I know Lakpa, and I know you."   “Are you married to a sherpa woman?” I continued.  “Of course,” the man across from me replied in a calm voice.

Lakpa summited Everest on May 18, 2000--one day before Pemba, who topped out on May 19, the same day I made my oxygen-less ascent in 2000. Lakpa became the first Nepalese woman to climb Mt. Everest and speak about it, and Pemba remained, unfairly, unnoticed. As I continued to listen to the strong German man, the conversation drifted to the subject of journalism on the big mountain. The man in front of me did not waste much time before he made clear his dislike for journalists, his feelings so strong that he made it clear he would never talk with any of them. "They are all the same."  If you think about it, this was a powerful statement. Before we parted, I asked, " What is your name, sir?"  An almost silent reply came: "Peter."  “Sorry?” I asked. “Peter,” he repeated.  "Peter.”  And the last name, sir?" “Guggemos.” “Wait a minute--you are the famous Peter Guggemos?” As he walked away, he turned half-way toward me and shrugged. We shook hands and we exchanged smiles. As he parted he told me that I could use his Camp 2 tent and that he was not going back up. For years I knew this man’s name and his accomplishments; it was truly a pleasure to meet him.  I never knew that, he too, is married to a sherpani woman. Rest assured, in the years to come the world will learn more about Mr. Guggemos.

The attention remains on K2, the most difficult mountain in the world to climb.  For those of us who remain here, the quest for the summit is a matter of believing that what happened is nothing more than a freak accident, not failure on the part of the expeditions. What could the chances have been that you are under a serac just as it collapses??  We think it seems impossible that the same thing will happen when we are there, so our group has decided that we will not be deterred by the unfortunate accident that happened a few days ago. Our confidence is solid and we’ve decided to attempt the summit next week. 

Our Pakistani expedition provider, Jasmine Tours has called in to assure us of their extended commitment; Asghar Ali Porik has committed more food with fresh vegetables and anything else we may need, but since we were well supplied from the beginning, I assured him we are just fine for now.  The only item we are missing is the beer, but it will take far too many days for the beer to arrive here so we didn’t ask for it. Thank you, Jasmine Tours, for the services. 

In conclusion, as always, I say hello and good-bye to my two lovely children Sunny and Shiny, to my wife and boss, Lakpa, back in Hartford, Connecticut; to my niece Claudia Dijmarescu; to my father, Valeriu; and to all my customers and neighbors who know about my trip here to Pakistan. 

From the Goodwin Austen Glacier and on behalf of Sunny Mountain Guides Chogori 2008, George Dijmarescu reports exclusively for Everestnews.com 

Earlier: July 30 - Update: with weather being cooperative, yesterday the sherpa and I went to Camp 3 and returned to Camp 2, where I decided to stay to acclimatize further while the sherpa continued down, perhaps to BC.  Everybody hopes tomorrow 7/31 is the day to complete  our prelude to the summit; the team is optimistic and prepared, looking foward to our  K2 ascent.  From Sunny Mountain Guides, this is Dijmarescu reporting exclusively to Everestnews.com
Earlier: 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 behalf of Sunny Mountain Guides Chogori 2008.
 
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