Once again we are back to the comfort of BC food, warmth,
mild temperatures and a good night's rest. My first trip to C2 was one
of enjoyment. The weather was on my side, only a mild wind and overcast
clouds that kept me cool. I made the trip up along with Mr. Young, a
Chinese climber whom I managed to communicate with, although marginal
English on his side and non-existent Mandarin on mine made it pretty
difficult. Being a chain smoker, Mr. Young at every rest stop would
light up, extinguish one, then light up again, and on and on. It
reminded me of some Nepalese Sherpa and Tibetans, smoking even at 8300
m. Amazing that this happens, but it does.
Camp One was comfortable except for the night coughing
and vomiting of some Japanese climbers who were hiking on the same
schedule as mine. The Japanese climbers conditions worsened at C2 when
they decided to go down. It was my fifth time up the House Chimney, the
most technical feature just below C2. The additional snow made the
climbs so far much easier.
At C2, I met once again Mr. Kim, a Korean climber with an impressive
climbing resume despite his severe handicap, both of his hands' fingers
were amputated after a climb on America's Mt. Denali.
His right hand has enough gap to just barely grab a pen to write. Both
of his hands have metal parts that makes up for his palm. The different
skin colorations indicate complicated surgeries and Mr. Kim did not
hesitate to mention the name of the Ankorage surgeon who at least gave
him some function of his hands.
He went on saying that he managed to climb the House Chimney without the
help of his two sherpa, Mingma and Pemba, but up high when heavier
mittens were necessary he would have a hard time changing his mechanical
ascending device, the so called jumar. Mr. Kim brought with him two
Nepalese sherpa with whom he had climbed in the past, in just a couple
of months, Daulaghiri and Everest. I hope to get more time with Mr. Kim
and hopefuly he will share with the world his inner drive to challenge
the toughest mountains of our planet. Frankly I am fascinated with his
story and I am sure many share the same fascination.
It has snowed in C2 overnite and the wind rattling the tent made the
night a sleepless one. Once again my brother Claudio's Ipod saved me
from my restlessness. Thanks brother and yes Claudia (his daughter) I
had to listen to Hanna Montna as well and Jonnas Brothers, all because
your music is here as well.
On the way down I made good progress with Dave and we got to BC before 5
PM. Party tonite said Dave, we plugged the Ipod into his "Micro cube
speaker" that can blast music all over the BC. We had complaints that
our evening movies were too loud.
On the micro cube Dave has a sticker saying, "Drop cliffs not bombs".
Life has come back to normal and if Americans claim that Coke is evil,
here Coke is the best, We brought 15 bottles from Skardu and boy is Coke
a great drink, yes it is. Our non alcoholic beer taste like shit. These
folks don't even know how to make an alcoholic drink! Dave and I
promised ourselves that once back in Islamabad we will rent one of their
two McDonalds for a half day and eat about 12 big macs each, Sorry
Indians, beef is great.
Ropes are fixed only to C3, and the weather forecast is unreliable, at
best. Looking up at K2 from my bed is indeed something you want to see.
George Dijmarescu reporting from K2 BC, exclusively for Everetnews.com
Earlier: 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
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
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
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
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.
Godwin Austen Glacier
Earlier: George Dijmarescu
reporting from Skardu exclusively for
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
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
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