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 American K2 2009 Expedition: Everest Summiter George Dijmarescu reports in from Skardu

Copyright© Billy Pierson

George Dijmarescu reporting from Skardu exclusively for EverestNews.com.
Little is known to the climbing community about Pakistani climbers and especially about high altitude climbers. Although their contributions to the success of countless expeditions are numerous, their service is seldom reported or, to be more accurate, properly reported or recorded in the books about high altitude mountaineering.

With five of the total 14 giants, Pakistan is the home of one of the hardest climbs on this earth--K2.  Considered the mountain of all mountains, K2 is the most difficult of because, according to experienced climbers, K2 has no easy route to its summit. The peculiar and radical weather pattern makes it so different from the Nepalese Himalayas that even the climbing season is different. In Nepal the best season is spring, while in Pakistan summer is the preferred season for climbing. The Karakoum Mountains are arguably the most beautiful of all with Nanga Parbat the only eight-thousander in Pakistan that belongs to the Himalayas, with its impressive Rupal and Diamir Faces being second to none.

This is my second trip to Pakistan, after my failed summit attempt last year. I am here once again to try my luck face to face with this King of all mountains. Chogori is the local name, but for the rest of the world it is K2, and it brings chills to the spine of any climber who dares stand at its foothills. Its impressive pyramid shoots up to the sky forcing its audience to tilt their heads back in order to see it in its entirety. I found out the 'easy way' that K2 is indeed a hard mountain to climb, with its mood so erratic it almost puts my Everest experiences in the "do not apply" category, that Everest doesn't even count. I had to rethink all that I learned from my nine summits of Mt. Everest. Here things are different, very different. From the beginning, the planning was bizarre--this year we had to provide a waiver indicating that we were not infected with or exposed to the swine flue virus (h1n1??). Even the doctors were puzzled by our request to certify we were not exposed. In the end I managed to squeeze out a small piece of paper with a doctor's signature and a scribbled statement that I "don't appear to have the virus"--so vague was its language, a laughable request at the hands of Pakistani bureaucracy. Securing the visa also proved very difficult, I ended up getting the visa in Kathmandu where my doctor's "certificate" became useless. Several unfortunate events distracted my full attention from carrying with me the most important things I was supposed to have. My departure date from Skardu was delayed.  Wandering around I stumbled into a young man I had met last year, his name is Abid Hussain. The young man with blushy red cheeks spoke immediately about his father's bravery. I asked him where is his father was climbing this season. "He is home, sir," replied the young man. "No business this year, no tourists." As we exited the little  shop I noticed a man of medium stature, with a dark mustache and wearing a typical Gilgit hat. He looked familiar but I didn't want to guess. "I have boots," he announced in a calm voice. I turned to Muna, our cook, and asked who is this man. "Hassan, sir." I reached out and shook his hand.  "I am very happy to meet you, Hassan, I've heard a lot about you." He looked at me, paused, giving me the impression he didn't understand me. I asked him if he was willing to sit down with me for dinner and share with the western climbing community his climbs. He politely agreed and we set the time for 8 PM. Time is expendable in this part of the world but Hassan was in my room at precisely 8PM, a sure sign he has dealt with western climbers in the past and he learned that being on time is very important. After we ordered our meal, we started to talk about him, what he was thinking of the mountains and what he saw coming out of Pakistan climbing for so-called high altitude porters. Hassan didn't hesitate to tell us that on Jan. 23, 2009, he met President Zardari at the Presidential palace in Islamabad. He was introduced by the District Chief of the Northern Area and had about a 35-minute visit with him. He promised Hassan that he would help him get a chance to climb Mt. Everest. Hassan had told him he wanted to climb Everest so badly he wouldn't rest until he gets his chance. Still hoping for a word from the President, I encouraged him to seek an opportunity to go during the Spring season so he would have more chances to summit. "I climbed all eight-thousand-meter peaks in Pakistan, I want to climb all high peaks," Hassan said. "My first expedition was with Koreans in 1996 on Broad Peak.  I climbed to the fore summit and none of the members summited. The next year I had no job, so I stay home but in 1998, an Italian group hired me for G II (two). Michelle Fait was part of the group; I only reached C3, and no one summited that year."  Michelle Fait just died on K2 this June.  Hassan continued, "After the Italians gave up I was hired by a French group and worked for them for 25 days; once again I reached C3.  Then after the French gave up I was hired by a Bask team with whom I reached only C2. In 1999 I work for Peter Gugemos on Nanga Parbat, Diamir Face and reached the summit on July 2nd., four other members summited. The next year, 2000, I worked for Spanish group on Broad Peak and we only reached C2. In 2001 I work for Mr. Park with Korean expedition, I went four times to C4, four members summited, one died, three Nepali sherpa and 3 Pakistani high porters summited. I remember we did not work well with the Sherpa. Koreans and Sherpa used oxygen. The following two years I had no job so in 2004 I worked for Kari Kobler's Swiss expedition. I summited with Thillen Sherpa, a very nice man. Also a big Chinese group summited with 10 members."  His story continued, "I started at 10 PM fixing ropes and I reached the summit at 6AM and spent 40 minutes at the summit. We descend to C3 and the next day all the way to BC. A very good summit. In 2005 I climbed with Amicval Group, Ralph and Gerlinde on G II when only Gelinde summited, other members reached C2. In 2006 I climbed with Korean group on G II and G I, Mr. Oh was the leader and Jangbu Sherpa was with us. I summit G II on July 22 and on 27 july I summited G I. In 2007 I climbed with Serbian expedition and along with younger brother , I summited Broad Peak on July 12.
Last year I climbed with an Italian woman on G II but turned around just 70 m below the summit." Hassan wants to start a climbing school in Skardu and have the Pakistani government  involved in all aspects including financing the school. He would like to see more tourists and see the Government advertise its treasures, its mountains, to an international audience. I asked him whom he got along with best in all his years.  Hassan did not hesitate, "Americans and Germans." I told him I would take that as a compliment and thanked him. Hassan says he prays five times a day and has never tasted alchohol in his life. He has three sons and a daughter.  I thanked him for the opportunity to hear his story and share with EverestNews.com

Earlier: George Dijmarescu reporting from Paju on the way to K2.,
Except for serious back pain caused by the chilly rain from Ascole to Jula, I am fine. The trek so far went well...

I am giving k2 another try after last year face to face meet with the mountain of all mountains. I was glad to meet again some familiar faces from last year and for me it makes the "left over memories of my climbs. The human experience is so much a part of the reason why I climb.

Having a parallel with the life I am living in the United States, these folks are very different from what I am or what we are in America. I don't have much to say about climbing yet, and the best reason for my writing is because my elder daughter, Sunny, will be 7 years young on July 2nd!

Sunny, I wish you a very HAPPY BIRTHDAY; I miss you very much already, and I am so sorry I missed your birthday again. I know you can wait for me because I promise we will do another party (a big party) when I arrive home. Much love to all of you at 51 Lorraine.
Claudio, I don't think you could ride your motorcycle to K2 BC, unless you get better at it, which I'm sure you will.
George Dijmarescu Paju camp, Pakistan

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