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 American K2 2009 Expedition: Everest Summiter George Dijmarescu reports in from K2 with a story

Copyright© Billy Pierson

After a couple of sorties to the "far' reaches of ABC, I decided to rest, contemplating an acclimatization trip up to C3. The Austrian's weather predicts strong winds at 7000m on Tue. and no news on what it will bring the days after. We came to smash the boredom from lack of BC activities and threw a boozeless birthday party for Christian, an old friend from Austria whom I met on Everest several years ago. Chris invited all BC with only the Japanese and a Korean climber not showing up. The food was as good as one would expect at the foothills of a great mountain, but what a great view for the party. The evening ended with multiple 'Happy Birthday Christian' chants and an incredible glow of a setting sun shining on the top of Broad Peak. Mt. K2 was displaying the same images, imprinted by our memories and our digital cameras. I thought again of my daughter Sunny's July 2 birthday that I missed for the second time in a row, and felt guilty about my decision to climb rather than be with the family. But this will be my last adventure here on K2, so I will have to make the best of it.  No, I will not do stupid things but I will have to work harder than ever.
Here in BC I got to see again some familiar faces, one is Muhmmad Polowa, a Pakistani climber that worked for a Serbian team last year, an expedition that ended in tragedy last year. This time, Muhmmad works for an international expedition. He recognized me right away and did not waste any time before asking me to help him get a shot at Mt. Everest. But who am I to make people's dreams come true. I assured him though that I would help if I could. I came to know Muhmmad as a man of "what you see is what you get" and I have no doubt that this man is a true, honest Muslim. His short brown beard gives an appearance of a western man, as do his hazel green eyes, a genetic trait that I can't explain. His English I would say is very good given the fact that he has absolutely no education, and is a very pleasant, soft spoken and considerate man.
I sat down with Muhmmad to get as much information as I could about him and his climbing career.  He was delighted to share with me part of his life. I've told him that people in the Western world know almost nothing about high-altitude Pakistani climbers and his story may shed some light on what Pakistanis stand for, what they've accomplished, their personal insights about climbing, their own families, happiness and tragedy
Muhammad is the only climber in his family, and he climbs because he has to feed his children. "I was a porter at 15 and carry 15 Kg (30Lb) for 8 years. In 1998 my cousin give me an opportunity to climb on GII with a Japanese expedition and I managed to summit on July 22. The next year in 1999 I was hired again for GII, this time by a Korean team, I summited on July 28 or 29, I don't remember. In 2000, I worked again for a Korean team, this time on the mighty K2 on the Abruzi Ridge, I only reached C4, only two members summited, it was a good experience for me. In 2001 I went again on GII with another Korean team, the bad weather prevented everybody from reaching higher than C1. In 2002 I went again on GII with a German team, four members summited, I only went to C4, I was not interested in a summit since I top out twice this mountain.  The next year in 2003, I worked for Kari Kobler's team on K2, I reached the bottleneck when one of the members slipped and died, Kaari called off the expedition right after the tragedy. It was a sad moment for us all, I wanted to get to the top as well but I obeyed the orders. In 2004 I return to K2 and summited early at 7 am. I used only one bottle of oxygen which was empty at the summit, so I descended without oxygen, I got down to C4 at 11 am, waited for all members to come back down to C4 and all arrived at 1 pm, then all of us descended to C3.
In 2005 I went to climb Mustangata in China, again with Kari Kobler's group. This was the largest group I ever climbed with, more than 40 members and 25 Pakistani, Tibetans and Sherpa. Many climbers summited, I lost count but we were 3 Pakistani who summited..
In 2006 I climbed KuhnoyanKhci in Hunza valley having the Japanese Tobita as leader. This is a very dangerous mountain, but wonderful to look at. The Japanese group has tried eight times this mountain without success.
In 2007 I was hired for a strange but noble cause. An Austrian climber had died almost at the top of Broad Peak the year before and his brother had hired six Pakistani to help bring his brother's body down to BC. His body was just 48m below the summit, lying on his back with his arms up and his jacket open, a sign of hypothermia and perhaps exhaustion. Along with three Austrians we managed to bring the body down to C3.  Then, exhausted we left it there and returned to BC for rest; the weather was not good either. After three days we returned and climbed down with his wrapped body to BC, from there a helicopter picked it up, flew to Skardu where his body was then flown to Austria.

In 2008 Mr. Nazir Sabir came to Machulu, my village, and asked me to join a Serbian team for K2.  Although my relationship with the Serbian team was the best I ever had with any other group I climbed with, our climb was 'not to be'.
We started at 1;30 am and reached the bottom of the bottleneck.  I was somewhere in the rear when I saw a Serbian climber fall about 300 m (300 yards). He tumbled many, many times and came to a rest, but the fall was too much for the Serbian climber, he died. Shortly afterward a Pakistani friend slipped and fell on the China side, so far that he was out of sight. Our ascent was called off. None of the members continued to the summit. The tragedy of K2 2008 season was much covered in our media as well as on international news. There are many things that can be said and fingers can be pointed in all directions but I feel that the warm weather caused the serac to collapse while people were under it. It was a tragic accident and I am sorry to see so many people suffering. I have fear and respect for Mt. K2. But here I am again climbing its slopes, this time with an international team on the Cesen route."

Muhmmad sat down on the same foam mattress where I was sitting, his head down and almost hidden by his green John Deere cap.  He spoke of the future of climbing and in particular the future of Pakistni high-altitude climbers.  Sadly the 34-year- old K2 summiter could make no positive prediction about the sport in Pakistan. 
" I think the system is wrong," he said, "the Nepali system is better.  It allows the climbers to earn more money if they work harder and they get extra pay for carrying loads up the mountain. Here we are paid by the day, little money.  Either we go up or sit here in BC.  The summit bonus is almost nonexistent. I understnd that Nepalese climbing has been around longer and therefore better established, but there is so much that can be improved here for us and for our guests as well. I chose to serve foreigners because I need to feed my family, but as hard as I work, there is not enough. I wish things will change for us but most important for future  generations of climbers. It is a fact that few young Pakistani climbers are interested in risking their lives for a small paycheck.  I don't know, maybe we will have only sherpa accompanying our guests to the tops of our great mountains. Every year I climb with Nepalese Sherpa, I make good friends, Thylen Sherpa, he summited twice K2 and he could do it again, if he wanted to, Muktu, Sherpa, Mingma and many others. They are strong due to their genetic traits.  We are strong too but really lack the motivational part, money, a decent paycheck. We have few great climbers, I think the best Pakistani climber is Ali Raza, followed by the 28-year-old Neesar Satpara, as well as Meherban."

As we got closer to wrapping up our discussion, Muhmmad went on and said that high altitude climbing is hard work and accepted it a long time ago. To add a little flavor to his story, Muhmmad said he does not like cricket, instead he prefers football (soccer).
And true to his nature, Muhmmad answered the inappropriate question about
drinking/smoking: "I drink alcohol when given and smoke when I am not climbing." It snowed here in BC last night, all tents are covered in a pretty white mantle and somehow the Ipod my brother Claudio landed me had a song that started with : 'Feliz Navidad', to the pleasure of our Spanish neighbors. It looks like Christmas here.
Today is July 13, exactly 24 years ago when I launched myself into the largest river of Europe, the Danube, to escape the iron grip of Romanian Communism.

George Dijmarescu
Godwin Austen Glacier, K2 BC, Baltistan.


Earlier: George Dijmarescu reporting from K2, July 8, 2009
Two days ago, I arrived in BC. The weather cooperated  but my stomach not. I had a cup of lemon drink and I think the water was not boiled; the cramps made me stop several times to just get rid of the pain.. As I walked past the Broad Peak Bc, I heard a roar, turned my head and there the white death was rolling down. As it
snowballed, the sound become one of a cracking, sharp cracking noise; it hit a large tower and left a plume of lifted snow full of small crystals glitering in the sun. It is such a powerful display of nature's will, and we could only watch in awe, and yes I took an orgy of pictures of this one.
The mountain I came to climb looks fabulous, with so much snow on its slopes.  Some see it as a positive thing, others not. I think the rock fall will be less. It is warm here in BC, I had a good night's sleep and felt rested. The biggest surprise is how small the number of climbers are here for K2 compared with last year. I think there are just over 30 climbers with only a few more who are due to come. There is only one large group going to the Cesen route and most are climbing on the Abruzi Spur. I will probably climb on the Abruzi since I know the route quite well up to C3.
I will rest for another day and then will carry up some loads. This will help with my camp's preparation as well as acclimatizing my body to the height I want to climb. As I rest, I will come to meet some climbers from other groups and countries. It should be a good year for climbing here on K2.
A message for my family: Shiny I did not forget you are 29 months today, July 8. I love you, I miss you, I will be back asap.
George Dijmarescu
Godwin Austen Glacier
K2 BC.


Earlier: 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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