After the numerous delays waiting for aircraft to actually fly, team members to actually arrive and tracks through landslides to actually exist, I finally arrived at base camp yesterday afternoon, 1 July, seven days after leaving Skardu. Most of the team, our Sherpas and army of porters stayed at Broad Peak base camp last night, but I wasn't prepared to wait one more day thus forged on to K2 base camp along with a couple of Sherpas and six porters.
Earlier yesterday, just 5 hours from reaching Base Camp (BC), we caught our first sight of K2 at the junction of the Baltoro Glacier at Concordia. The fact that the mountain is only visible after one day's jeep drive and six day's trek adds to the whole allure and mystery of K2.
Unlike seeing it for the first time ever last year, this time my reactions were more muted. It isn't a mystery for me this time. I know how sustained steep those sides are; know the precarious locations of the camps, and know how dangerous it can be... my reaction this time was full respect - and we're here with a job to do.
It was good to arrive at BC a day before everyone else and gave us time to establish an area, set up some tents and say hi to other team members here, although some - the Pakistan/Italian team and the Greeks - were up at Camp 2.
One is never quite certain who will be here - although www.explorersweb.com admirably keeps the adventure community informed on what is happening in theatres of the world as best they can.
So we have the ten man Pakistan/Italian K2 60th anniversary team; three more Italians are also here, the two Greeks, a small Polish team and our international team - although half of our team only arrive in a week. We hear there's a couple more small teams coming also.
Our 'international team' of 12 is, in reality, a collection of mini-teams under one umbrella, who will all do their own rotations, before coming together for a summit push. I will be climbing with Canadian Al Hancock, as per last year; the three Nepalese Sherpanis who are bidding to become the first Nepalese women to summit the mountain; another group consisting of two ladies from New Zealand and China who are attempting Broad peak first; and, finally, the other four Americans. With our 12 Sherpas, we are obviously a strong and self sufficient team, but will co-ordinate with the others, particularly the Pakistan team - who fixed lines to C2 - on line fixing and eventual summit push.
Due to the later arrival than Al and myself anticipated, the two of us will aim for two rotations now - the first a C1 and C2 commencing in a few days time, weather permitting, then a second C1, C2 and touch C3 some time after. It's tight if there's an early summit weather window, but if we have good weather the next two weeks do-able.
I am still puzzled why some climbers decide to come later than mid June for such a serious challenge; where internal flight delays are common; and where weather windows are few and far between. It may just be sufficient time for a late July summit push but mountain weather rarely goes along with schedules. Last year our best weather was 15 - 22 July and we weren't ready. This year we are already late for an early weather window, but we just hope nature is on our side.
Otherwise, the first phase is over and, above all, I have completed it in good health, feeling fit and strong. Roll on phase 2.