The usually long return journeys from expeditions often have very different emotions. The feelings of accomplishment and success can often be mixed up with sheer fatique laced with the challenge of having to face the real World again. For K2 2013, there is of course no success to celebrate and, on the contrary. with two fellow climbers being killed in an avalanche at Camp 3 on the night that us and 30 other climbers planned to be there, a great deal of sadness, realization and gratitude.
K2 is steep - from the moment one leaves ABC (Advanced Base Camp) on the Abruzzi Ridge it is full on 60 degrees or more snow or mixed ice/rock slopes, with regular 90 degree rock bands to climb. It is committing with no quick and easy descents off the mountain. It is prone to rock fall. The camps are squeezed in on tiny breaks from the steep slopes and are strewn with trash and human excrement. The weather is notoriously unpredictable.
Tragically, as was proved this year, it is also highly dangerous. Unpredictable weather and the threat of storms is one thing; deep, unstable and avalanche prone snow appears to be even more of a challenge and danger. With the exception of 2012, no-one has summited K2 from Pakistan since 1 Aug 2008 - when 11 climbers lost their lives in a single day - for mainly this reason. Sobering statistics indeed.
On the other hand, its remoteness, mystery and danger seems to gain an even greater draw on those who venture to witness its foreboding steep and exposed slopes. And I am no different, With a number of necessary amendments that will, I believe, enhance the chances of a summit success and minimize the risks, I too will be back again in 2014 - the 60th anniversary of its first ascent.
But that's for next year. For now my mind is on the K2 expedition just complete - the stunning scenery of the Karakorum, the warm and hospitable people of Baltistan and the camaraderie of the team mates on the mountain, And of course the defining incident of which being the avalanche that killed Marty and Denali - and, though of lesser importance in this tragedy - wiped out all of our oxygen and kit at Camp 3 thus rendering any further summit attempt impossible. It simply wasn't meant to be this year; but it is tragic that the deaths of two great climbers needed to take place to demonstrate this.
And it is this that I will be reflecting on primarily as I head back to the New Forest in the UK for some well needed rest and recuperation. Thank you greatly to my sponsors Thuraya and Xtralink - whose communication systems bought our story, challenges and tragedy to the World; to Marmot, whose clothing worked superb on the mountain; to California Chiropractic Center and MEFITPRO, for getting me into the best possible shape prior to the start - and who I will be visiting shortly for some repair work!
And thank you hugely to everyone who followed or who sent messages of support, it was truly appreciated.
All the best