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 American K2 2009 Expedition: Everest Summiter George Dijmarescu The Summit push part two


Copyright© Billy Pierson

 
Not one single time this year did I have a close call with rock falling, compared to last year when my group had several very close calls.
Once I was climbing with Mingma and Rinjing just below C1, I was climbing above Rinjing when a rock the size of a football went just inches by his left cheek. Since he only saw it in the corner of his eye, he didn't even have a chance to be scared.
The second incident happened above C2 when we were coming down. With Rinjing down climbing above, with me in the middle and Mingma below us.
We were very tired being pinned down in C2 for two days and two nights by a vicious storm. As we came down, Rinjing somehow dislodged a big rock that passed me without my even noticing it.  It started rolling, bouncing and gaining speed, the big boulder landing just one meter from Mingma, crashing on the rocks below and shattering into a dozen pieces.
With such velocity and weight, Mingma would never have survived
the impact of what seemed like a terrestrial meteorite.
We were lucky, once again.
 
 
But that was last year on Mt. K2.  This year the snow and ice kept the loose mountain together. Climbers felt safe in that regard.  I did too.
At the time we learned that the weather on Aug 4 would be favorable for a summit push, we were readily prepared for the challenge, although the meeting we had in regard to the teams' collaboration did not bear much fruit. Along with the majority of climbers I proposed that we have the two sherpa and perhaps other climbers in position to help fix at least the bottleneck.  The idea was swiftly rejected by some without taking the time to analyze the benefits of it. The display of Ego was noticed by most of the climbers and in one of my previous dispatches I gave a fair warning of "I told you so." 
I offered my idea based on serious consultation with Mingma and Pemba, the two strong Nepali Sherpa, who assured me they were willing to do it if a couple of other climbers would assist in carrying the ropes and hand to them.  It was a generous and brave gesture, confident of their strength, fitness, and skills.  They were just as disappointed by the rejection.
I discussed it with Dave and told him that once in C4 everyone will be out for themselves.  The experience taught me that above 8000m this always happens--subzero temperatures make the body cold, the mind numb,
judgment impaired, and decisions based on a natural instinct for survival
will lay the ground for the inevitable.  
 
 
I always said that the success of Everest summits is largely based on the help of sherpa. There they fix the ropes on the entire mountain, ropes that we all jumar on, most of the time, all the way to the summit.
"If and when I return to K2 I will bring four sherps with me"  said Christian, the Austrian "sky-walker" and speed climber.
Chris, as we called him, never climbed with sherpa, but for K2, Chris understood the importance of having them around.  I thought this was more than a compliment, coming from a guy who is clearly one of the fastest on the mountains.
Chris was also one of the staunch supporters of the idea of having sherpa fix the bottleneck one day ahead of the summit day.
 
 
At the time of our meeting, the Japanese team had not decided whether or not they would join us for the summit push, and the next day one of their members became seriously ill and had to be airlifted from BC. Assisting the evacuation, the Japanese team delayed their departure from BC by a day, and knowing their pattern of climbing we knew they wouldn't be on the summit push with us.
Dave and I left BC just before noon on Aug 1 and made it to C1 relaxed and without any event.  But it took us 5-6 hours to get there due to the slushy deep snow and of course a bright sun made it all the more difficult for us to proceed. Sergei and his Pakistani partner were there in C1 and resting. Vasili and Max were to catch up a day later, and did. The two young Kazachs have seen plenty of K2 before, although none of their earlier K2 attempts were successful.
 
The next day the mountain was getting more crowded.  Santiago and his Pakistani partner would arrive on the same day as the Kazachs.
On the Cesen route the International team along with Gerlinde were aiming for the same Aug 4 summit day. Occasionally we'd listen to the common radio channel to learn of their progress. Chris, the BC manager who was in charge of communications for all K2, was doing an incredible job. He always spoke clearly and with a crisp understanding of the situation.
"Not too bad for a Canadian" he said when the climb was over.
Chris was also serving the entire K2 BC and in several instances he helped patch things up for us when our other resources were not working, including personally walking to our camp to pass on information to our base. Chris was a great asset this year.
We thank you so much, Chris.
 
.
Our trip to C2 went smoothly, but at the foot of the House Chimney, Dave decided to free-climb the technical rock crux. I was ahead of him when I noticed his climbing moves. Dave did not give me any warning he was going to try to free-climb the chimney--I guess that's how he is.
I got my SLR Nikon ready and started to take pictures of his various positions, he would raise his head, smile or even wave.
I always thought Dave was a smooth rock climber, his moves always calculated and crafted using his own climbing style and skills. He touches the rock a lot, feeling it.  But now, with heavy ski gloves and fingers numbed by the chill of Mt. K2, his tactile skills were severely impaired, so he was wiping the snow off the rocks and pulled on them higher and higher. To be safe, Dave had his ascender (jumar) clipped onto one of the fixed ropes and was advancing it for security. He topped out the chimney without any faulty moves.
"Dude, you just free-climbed the House Chimney. Congratulations, Mr. House", I said to him, referring to Mr. House, an American K2 pioneer who eventually discovered the crack and climbed it. It would become, forever, the way to the top on a route that was called the Abruzzi Ridge or Spur.
Dave offered a smile in exchange for my compliment.
Dave free-climbed the House Chimney with his Karhu skis strapped on his back pack. Perhaps no one ever free-climbed the chimney with skis on the back or free-climbed it since its first ascent.
But skis are intended to do what they are designed to do, ski on them, and Dave was carrying them to ski K2 from the top, a feat no one has ever accomplished.  In talking with Christian, who is an acquaintance of Hans Kamerlander, he said of him, "His skis are still on the shoulder" (C4).
This year two other daring climbers came to conquer the same feat, but early in the season one of them, Italian Michele Fait, fell on the Cesen route and was fatally injured.  Fait died perhaps in a matter of seconds, his body was retrieved and flown out of the mountain.
In the beginning I thought this was bad luck and hoped Dave would give up the idea.
But Dave was not deterred.
 
 
"Dude, you have a good camera, this will bring sick shots from the mountain, I know it's heavy but I'll help carry it," Dave told me more
than once.  I knew my Nikon SLR was capable of getting perhaps the best pictures on the mountain but its weight was a serious deterrent.
However it was the only camera I had with me, so I had no choice but to take it with me as high as I would go.
In C2 we tried to be as comfortable as possible, we eat and stay hydrated. The night was calm and we rested comfortably.
The night sky is filled with heavenly lights of the obvious Milky Way stream, with its myriad of stars, beacons across the sky. The display of light was magical. Away from city lights the starry night sky becomes as inspiring as it was for the Egyptian pharaohs when they decided to build the pyramids.
We were however in a less hospitable place to be much inspired by this beautiful display of light.  I look only for signs of weather.
The cloudless sky was a good sign that we may get a break and climb the next day without tiring in high winds or storm.
When I departed C2, and in the first hour into the climb, I was already tiring. Then slowly the body adjusted itself to the grueling effort and higher altitude.  I finally got my rhythm and climb to C3 without any problem.
The camp sat right next to a large crevasse, so being careful not to wander around was a must.
 
P
( Dave climbing just above C3)
 
The Kazachs had an early start and I was grateful the trail was broken for me. Stepping onto a broken trail is a huge advantage.  Being first, in front, is very tiring. But the two young men were not deterred. They would get a break from time to time waiting for Sergei, the Russian K2 veteran, and when he got close by, they would continue their march.
The two sherpa, Mingma and Pemba were also ahead. The almost featureless landscape to C4 was never ending. I had not gotten this far on K2 before, and the sherpa were saying it would only take 2.5 to 3 hours to C4.  The snow was very deep and it seemed to take an eternity til we reached a big steep wall guarded by a very long crevasse.
 
(Querban, Santiago's climbing partner)
 
The rope was fixed on the wall but that was days before. Since Mingma and Pemba were first,  Pemba fixed that rope, and because he was the only one who ventured that high on the Abruzzi Spur, he was ahead trying to lead us to the shoulder. I slow down when I notice there was a problem.  The sherpa were wandering around but not upwards. They went right, then the middle, then left. Nothing.
On the far left a ramp offered a way over the crevasse but it was too far off the route that Pemba had climbed before as well as nearly vertical blue ice. At one point Mingma almost fell into the crevasse. He began to complain that the pressure of the rope after the fall  must have injured his chest.
There was no other choice now but to try the ramp on the far left. Pemba took his ice axes, screws and a rope provided by the Kazachs. Like  a spider spinning his web, Pemba climbed, leaving the yellow tether line of rope behind him. He climbed to the top of the wall and moved the existing rope anchor, facilitating our climb. We were stuck for almost two hours, a mere 30 minutes from C4.  Again the sherpa with their strength and skills
facilitate our upward progress.
When I got to C4, Dave was waiting for me with his camera ready.
 
"Camp 4, buddy," he exclaimed laughing.
Not knowing what to expect, arriving in C4 is very dramatic. The last pitch is between 65-70 degrees and you can't see the camp until your head is literally above the top of the steep wall. Then, there it is, another mountain
 
I thought, the entire pyramid with its infamous bottleneck at the foot of it, the traverse and then the summit dull ridge with its very prized crown summit.  I thrust my ice axe once more, pull up and drop on my back, exhausted, Dave's camera was filming my pitiful state of exhaustion. He was laughing at the dramatic way I was displaying my state of fatigue.
I was not faking anything.
I was totally spent.
I lie down in the snow and stare at the cloudless sky. I just did not want to see this "other mountain" I'm supposed to climb the next day, in the dark.
It took me several minutes to get my breathing normal again, then, I look again.
"My God, Dave, this is another mountain.
 
 
 
He laughed.
I noticed Mingma and Pemba busy preparing the platform for our temporary shelter, they'll use our tent along with Mr. Kim, the Korean wonder man, the man without hands, lost in a climbing accident on Denali.
An occasional cloud makes the "other mountain" ahead disappear. I wanted to see the details of the bottleneck, the immensity of its scale made me judge incorrectly its steepness and difficulty.  But the bottleneck was the part that looked easy, above it was the not less infamous "traverse" with the killer towers of the serac that collapsed last year while climbers were under it. First it broke the ropes the climbers had fixed for a safe descent and once more, taking several climbers with its boulders down into the abyss. The description given by eye witnesses was too graphic for publication. I was going to stand under this same gigantic serac and I was going to take my own chances, just like they did last year.
 
(Upper part of "the bottleneck", "the traverse" and "the serac" and a dark blue sky.
 
Maybe I was hoping the weather would not be so hot, for obvious reasons. The top part of the mountain looked smooth, so I thought that may be a good thing, having easy ground at the end of the upward journey will help preserve the energy for descent.
I turned my attention to the routine, getting into the camp and ready for the chores of high camp, hydrate, eat, rest.
High altitude food never appealed to me, so I asked Munna, our cook, to have several plastic bags filled with chicken and mutton packed.  The bags were frozen, so all we had to do was immerse them into hot water, then enjoy. We were on the last portion, implying that one attempt will be possible.
The two sherpa and Mr. Kim found our food innovative and very tasty, I remember Pemba would hand feed Mr. Kim since he had no hands to help himself, like a chick bird he'd open his mouth and, food delivered. The nutritious food would offer a delayed boost of extra energy, the slower digestion would enable us to keep the precious nutrients in our bellies longer.
 
The sun was getting closer to setting and the display of light, along with the shadow of the summit pyramid projected to the end of my visible horizon, it offer a photo-op I can't resist.  Fainted beacons of the rainbow's color spectrum. The highest peaks and in particular the neighboring Broad Peak, G I, G II  and G IV were lit in a warm evening sun glowing like a jewel that they are.

More to follow

Earlier: Summit Push. Part One: The light of my headlamp is facilitating my upward progress, I just left C4 alone, Dave is due to start any moment. I am taking it easy hoping he will catch up soon, the path is straight up and I am about to make the first turn. The Kazach climbers Max and Vasili have started ahead with Sergi, the Russian veteran who is on his 4th K2 summit attempt, one more light is visible about 100 m (yards) ahead of me. The almost full moon is shining on the icy slopes of K2, stars are in the zillions. The windless night gives me a sense of luck, I'm feeling lucky.
Then, it's dark.
 
Sudden darkness is something unwelcome, but at 8000 m, is very dramatic. The hard snow under my boots gives way, I am falling like an eternity, then stop. The light of my headlamp and the moon and  stars are all gone, I try to move but can't. Panic and an adrenaline rush reach my inner core. I manage to rip the Oxygen mask off my face. My body is jammed into a crevasse, the backpack is keeping me hanging. My right leg is jammed against one of the walls, the left is hanging with nothing under it. My right elbow is slightly above my head, I am still holding Lakpa's ice axe in my right hand. My breathing has gotten fast and heavy, I could feel my heart beating faster. I am scared I will fall even deeper.
I've fallen in the crevasse before but never over my head, now I don't even know how deep I am.
I try to jam my left knee on the wall but without  success, the crack is too narrow. I pulled on the ice axe but the soft snow above offered no support, in fact the shaft of the axe came at my head. I reached my arm over the shaft and have it under my armpit. I rest for unknown number of seconds, then I pulled on the ice axe.  The lights came on. I could see the myriad of stars. What a wonderful view.
Now that I know I am not so deep, I could relax for a while. Having my right leg jammed against the wall was crucial, I pushed on it along with my right arm and came to see even the Moon. My head now is just above the rim of the crevasse. The tightness of the crevasse is keeping me from breathing normally. I try one more time to get out but fell in above my head  again. Once again the Moon is gone. My head is tilted back and I am once again staring at the stars. Will I fall even more? My physical energy is draining fast. Still holding the ice axe, I pulled once again. Success. Once again my head is above. 
I could see a climber about 60 yards ahead, resting. 
"Heyyyyy!!" I yelled, "here!"
His headlamp turns down toward me, he could definitely hear me.
"I need help, I am in the crevasse".
The light moves again. It seems the climber is turning down but then stops, it seems, and starts to climb again. I turn my head down looking to see if my partner, Dave, was coming. I could see his head lamp still near the tent. Dave was too far away to hear me and a good 15 minutes from my cage.
Okay, George, if you want out of this ice cage, you will have to do it yourself.
The snow and ice that fell on the back of my neck was melting and I started to feel cold.
I thought I'd rest for a minute and then try to put all my energy into a bold all-out move to get out, just like a rock climber puts all his energy into a bold move in order to overcome a difficult obstacle.
I wished I had the second ice axe handy but it was strapped on my backpack.
Leg muscles are very powerful and in mountaineering we use them more than any other muscles. Still with the right crampon jammed against the wall, I pushed as hard as I could ever push; it worked. Perhaps filled with adrenaline but gripped by fear and panic, I wasn't very effective in getting full power behind my leg. With my left hand freed and my chest  above the crevasse I could at least breathe normally. I swung my ice axe and tried to use it as the tool it's made for, an anchor, but the soft snow offered no purpose. I tried again in a different place, again and again with the same result. No ice, no hard snow and you are out of luck. I grabbed the middle of the axe shaft and slammed it through the soft snow.  The shaft went deep into the snow, I pulled back and, success, the technique worked. With only my hips inside the crevasse, I started to feel life again.
I decided not to stand up, I was afraid the snow would collapse, so I kept my entire belly on the snow and crawled and crawled in a swimming motion for about 2 meters (yards). When I thought it was safe I stood up, still breathing very hard.
I look back to see what the fuck was that.
And there it was, my guardian angel.
The luck was in the shape of the crevasse, it was not vertical but at an 80-degree angle;   looking down on it reminded me of a sherpa saying:
"You fall down on it, you will go all the way to America."
Well, that would have been great for me, getting home so fast.
I can't imagine the death climbers die when they fall in the crevasse. I would prefer an avalanche instead.
I regained my climbing composure quickly and as I kept on climbing I remember the acclimatization trips and in particular the trips to ABC. Dave would always come behind me and I always found the soft bridges in the glacier that would sink me to my hips and fill my boots with icy water. In one instance I almost fell under the ice of an icy pool of water, and that was scary. The weight of my body seems always to be too much for the bridges, and Dave had many laughs at my misfortune. What is it this year that I found all the holes that existed on K2?
This year is my second attempt on K2.
Last year's tragedy of 11 deaths largely overshadowed the success of its multiple summits, and I was glad I was not on the summit push with them. This year is different, with fewer climbers and lots more snow.
The rock fall last year was something I would remember for the rest of my days. This time, no rock falling at all.

Earlier: Meeting in base camp: Word has it that Mt. K2 may offer us an opportunity to climb its crown in the next 6-7 days. It may be the only true opportunity this summer season. Will I think twice, no of course. For the last couple of nights we had snow here in BC, but the daylight warmth makes the snow disappear in a matter of just couple of hours. The dry atmosphere sucks up all the moisture and the snow evaporates. The nights were of course warm, I slept soundly, still in love with that IPod my brother landed me. All the good weather, supposedly good and in between, will hopefully come together so this window can save our efforts and enable us to go home summiters.
 
We are at our limit with food resources. Knowing this would happen, we made efforts a couple of weeks ago to get fresh food supplies from Hushe, and waited and waited. As I sat down outside this morning, soaking in some morning sun with my buddy Dave, I noticed two porters making their way toward us. As they came closer Dave called one by his first name. "These are ours," I added.  "Saved by the bell," Dave added.  Laughing, we slapped a high five and continued drinking our Coke. We don't try to be educational role models here.  At home, I hate Coke and scold Lakpa, my wife, when she gives Coke to Sunny, my daughter. But here things are very diffrent, Sunny, you will understand it when you grow up. In Baltoro, Coke is King.
 
This morning we also hoped we'd get at least a wave good-bye from the two Spaniards who departed BC to return to their normal lives, but it didn't happen. I'll miss them of course. Life here in BC is quite boring sometimes and we do all we can to stay busy, even if it means taking pictures of our surroundings at different times of the day. The display of colors, sometimes magical, makes the whole difference. Mt. K2 and its summit are all that's on our minds now. I am psychologically prepared to climb this mountain, and I know this may be the last time I will have the opportunity. I realize that in my case there are other summits to climb, and looking after my two wonderful kids is the challenge I can't  avoid.  But dads do what they're supposed to do.  "When there was war, fathers went away for a long time," said Dave.  I agreed, admitting that was a different time, but parents will always be away from them for various reasons.  The trick is to have the kids not miss them as much. And being on summer vacation, my kids are staying quite busy and having fun. Happy swimming Sunny and Shiny.
George D, K2` BC Baltistan

Update; Today July 31: After the meeting yesterday it was generally agreed that Aug 4th is the best day for the summit. The only group disagreeing with this plan were the Japanese. We will see if they will trust our forecast or stick with theirs. The meeting was held at an international group camp, just below ours. The main points were time of summit attempt and how we will work together to facilitate the best summit scenario, providing and fixing ropes, marking the route with wands. The vast majority of the climbers are on the Abruzzi route with unknown number of climbers who will reach C4 from the Cesen route. The meeting was conducted quite democratically but one Russian and two Kazachs who also attended, perhaps laughing at our way of doing things, ended up walking out of the meeting, perhaps having their own approach of climbing to the top.
I proposed (after consulting with my partner, Dave, Mingma Sherpa, Pemba Sherpa, Gerfried, and Chritian) that it will be best to have the ropes fixed one day ahead of summit push, at least at the bottleneck. The entire group using the Abruzzi route supported my idea. However, sadly we had upfront and categoric rejection from the Cesen route climbers and in particular the leaders of the two groups.
I thought it would facilitate everybody's climb with regard to timing, effort, and safety.
The two sherpa, Mingma and Pemba, agreed that they would climb ahead of us from C3 and fix the bottleneck, then get back down to C4 waiting for their boss, Mr. Kim. I pleaded the case knowing sherpa's strength and loyalty as well as their technical climbing skills.
I could see an EGO larger than Mt. K2 and frankly I was quite disappointed with his rejection.
In the end I hate to say, "Told you so."
As I came back to my camp, I discussed with my partner Dave that we don't really need the Cesen Route climbers at all, we only need our own and that's what we will do.
As Gerfried put it: "I don't care if I will be the last to summit this mountain."
And I think most of us agreed with his statement.
Today we will be in C1 and we hope to be at the top on Aug 4th.
We need your prayers.
Thanks
George D.
K2 BC, Baltistan reporting for Everestnews.com, the only reliable source of mountaineering information.

Earlier: Weather phenomenon on K2: blue sky and cloudless.  Good news, but I am back in BC after three days of carrying the necessary things for the final summit push.
 
The high temperatures make a pleasant outdoor stay, with chairs and cameras--it's summer on K2 as well. In the night the loud cracks of the moving river of ice, the glacier, made me jump several times. We have moved our kitchen tent because of the big cracks in the glacier, but just when we think we have moved to a safe place, a new large crack has opened only 3 meters from the tent. Wandering around in the dark without a light can be very dangerous, a step in the wrong place can break a leg or worse, some crevasses are very deep.
.
The first three camps are fixed and with a stroke of luck our camp 4 tent was carried up by Mingma Sherpa, requesting the use of our 3-man tent for his Korean one-man team and his two Sherpa. Mr. Kim, the team leader, is a man determined to reach the summit of Mt. k2 despite the fact that he has no fingers. I admire this man (or anyone burdened by his injuries) who dares to challenge this mountain, having been severely handicapped after a climb gone wrong on Mt. Denali. Mr. Kim just climbed Dhaulagiri this Spring and many other eight thousanders. Now Mr. Kim and his two Sherpa, Pempa and Mingma are in position to attack the summit. They're in C4 today and tonight they will be the first to have a taste of what this mountain has to bring. Along with them there are two climbers from Kazakstan and one from Russia and the possibility of one climber from China, Mr. Yang. The rest of K2's climbers are in BC resting. I just hope the weather will be on their side. They need two good days to safely climb up to the summit and down to at least C3. Previously climbers from Austria and Spain have tried to push for C4 but took the wrong route and encountered crevasse and serac obstacles. They all turned around and descended to BC. In the dark it's very easy to the get wrong path, with the immensity of the snow field. Ropes weren't fixed nor traces of old ropes found. Pemba Sherpa marched toward C4 in the daylight and found the proper way to C4.
 
Mingma reported that he took more than 250m of ropes in order to fix the bottleneck, the crux of the route toward the summit. There is no doubting the strength of the two sherpa, but it will be up to Mr. Kim to push himself to perhaps his new limits. The two Kazachs have the necessary physical resources to get to the summit; the Russian climber, Sergey, is an old veteran who without a doubt has great skills to reach the summit. So we all sit and wait to see what this small group of climbers will do in the next 24 hours. In the meantime we get weather reports  of what this mountain will have in store for the rest of us. Yesterday, I spoke with Mr. Osaka, the Japanese team leader. He is a 60+ year-old man who told me that he is receiving daily weather reports from Japan and that from Aug. 1st to Aug 5th we may have a chance to reach the summit due to high atmospheric pressure. A few days of rest are a welcome break, replenishing our food resources and resting sore leg muscles. Patience is a must when dealing with K2.
 
A couple of Spanish climbers announced they are done with it for this year. Work and family commitments take priority and perhaps is the reason for giving up.

For my two children: I love you, I miss you, I wish you'd speak with me on the phone when I call and yes I wish you stop fighting each other.
 
George Dijmarescu
Godwin Austen Glacier, K2 BC, Balstistan.
Reporting exclusively for Everestnews.com

Earlier: 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 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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