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Monthly Archives: June 2017

K2 Base Camp

I finally reached base camp on Sunday 25th of June. It was a long hard journey to reach this place which is nestled far away from civilization. Of all my travels, this is the most remote place that I have ever been to and also indeed the most beautiful as well.

On Everest, the nearest village (Gorek Shep) is 1.5hours walk away where u can have a lodge to stay, warm food, wifi and mobile reception. From EBC, one can even call for a heli which will transfer us safely to Kathmandu. Here, however there is a vast contrast. The nearest village is at least a 3 day walk away. There is absolutely no mobile / wifi and heli rescues are far and few in between due to the low number of trekkers/climbers in the region as well as the fact that there is no commercial heli services available. All heli rescues have to be done via the Paksitan air force due to the sensitive nature of the region and they are rarely called due to the red tape and high costs involved. So this is isolation at its extreme.

Unlike Everest base camp where one cannot see Everest until he’s halfway through to camp2, K2 looms high above the K2 base camp. Its somewhat daunting and scary to see something so massive keeping a guard on all those wanting to climb it. To the north there’s K2 and just to the opposite side, there are the 3 massive peaks of broad peak. We stand humbled between these 2 8000ers every morning when we arise from our tents. We have been lucky to have caught a good glimpse of K2 as we approached BC as from my understanding, K2 is almost always shrouded with clouds. It was an indescribable feeling gazing upon its lofty peak as I tried to decipher the different routes that had been used by climbers from the south side (Abruzzi ridge, cessan route, central rib, magic line, western ridge). It was difficult enough getting to base camp via the tough relentless trek on the Baltoro glacier. When I saw K2, I was engulfed by an overwhelming sense of an insurmountable task ahead. I was wondering how in the world I was going to get up there. Admiring the beauty of the mountains from below when you know that you’re not trying to climb it far differs when you know you’re trying to reach the peak. The beauty of the mountains turns to fear.

Getting to base camp wasn’t easy at all. The ride from Skardu to Askole took us a good 7h and wasn’t the safest of travels. There were landslides along the way which had to be manually cleared and certain segments of the route were winding over the edge of cliffs with boulders perched precariously atop just waiting to slide off. The 2 way traffic on a one way road also made things much more interesting. There wasn’t a dull moment on the jeep ride to Askole.

In Askole, our loads had to be divided into 25kg packets for each porter to carry. It was a mess splitting the loads as all the villagers looking for a job had gathered around our campsite and there had to be police presence to prevent things from getting unruly. I sure was glad that I didn’t have to be the one segregating the jobs amongst the porters.

Our trekking route was as follows:

Askole (3100m) -> Jhola (3200m) -> Paju (3400m) -> Urdukas (4150m) -> Goro II (4300m) -> Broad Peak Base Camp (4800m) -> K2 base camp (4980m)

This was the longest purest form of trekking I had ever experienced. 6 days trekking over 65km of unadulterated trails over the massive Baltoro glacier in the most rugged terrain and unforgiving weather ever. There was rain, sun, hail, snow along the way in and the numerous ups and downs on the slippery icy slopes didn’t make this trek one bit easy at all. However it was all worthwhile. It was one of the most beautiful treks that I’d ever made. The highest concentration of the highest peaks in the world was located in the region and I was glad to have witnessed them first hand.

After 5 days of walking from Askole just before reaching Concodria, the first glimpse of K2 came in sight. As my Sherpa, Kami, said his prayers I muttered my own. Kami had broken his arm from a falling rock just below camp 1 in 2015. He had to be evacuated and underwent a surgery to fix the fracture. As he was probably humbly requesting K2 to grant him safe passage this season, I was muttering the same in my head too. K2 was a gigantic sheet of ice and snow rising from below our feet to high above any other peaks in the area. It was the sole mountain that dominated the background of the entire scene. The weather was perfect. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. It was as though K2 had stood guard in the exact position for thousands of years daunting over all the life forms that had the privilege to witness its splendor. It was an amazing but absolutely terrifying feeling that I was going to attempt climbing this massive peak in a few weeks.
We have been resting for the last 4 days in base camp waiting for a weather opportunity to make our first acclimatization cycle on the mountain. The sherpas have already fixed ropes to camp1 but there is too much snow at the moment to make any further progress on the mountain. There will be 28 people (Pakistanis, porters, sherpas and foreigners) attempting K2 from the Abruzzi ridge and 32 people attempting K2 from the Cessan route. The biggest expedition on the Abruzzi is us, Dreamer’s Destination and the biggest on the Cessan is Russel Brice’s Himex team. We will be fixing the routes independently on either route and will combine our efforts from above camp 4 when the 2 routes meet.

I will be setting out for my first acclimatization cycle soon. Will try to check in again in a few days time.

 
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Posted by on June 30, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

K2

This project has been 5 years in the making. I was invited to climb K2 by Khoo Swee Chiow just before I flew off to Everest in 2012. That idea had been planted in my head ever since. I couldn’t go with him that year as I was going to start work again in July 2012 and there was too little time to change plans. I was planning to go last year but due to the lack of sponsorship, my plans were foiled again. However this year, things seemed to fall in place and the man above seemed to be giving the green light.

It was a tough 6 months from Jan till June this year. I was looking for sponsors, training, working full time and sorting out permits, equipment and logistics for the climb all at the same time. It wasn’t easy. As one gets more senior at work, there seems to be a ton of more responsibilities and each time I tried to clear a certain duty, more fell on my shoulders. I was struggling daily to keep my head above water. Training to be a surgeon is no easy task. Never did I imagine that I would be at this stage in my orthopaedic surgical residency career and would be taking a break again to climb. I will be defaulted by another year to exit and complete my residency. But I realized that this was the last chance I probably had. This was a hurdle standing in my way before planning to start a family. There was a ton of resistance from work, family and my wife but as time went by, they realized that I had put my mind to it and I was serious about what I had committed to. They gradually became supportive as well. The last few months have also been a very spiritual journey for me. Unlike my journey on Everest, there isn’t a real reason as to why I should be sacrificing so much, working so hard and risking my life to climb K2. I have been asking myself why this strong attraction, why this much compulsion, why this need to climb. The more I thought, the more I realized I didn’t have an answer. However, the more I made time to think, reflect and pray, I have realized that this was something I have to do. It was more than just a hobby and a thrill seeking behavior. I couldn’t explain. However I hope to be able to articulate the reason as time goes on during the climb.

I’m currently in Skardu (2500m) in the Northern most Gilgit Baltistan territory in Pakistan. This is the last place with readily available wifi and mobile reception. We’ll be starting our 8h jeep ride to Askole (3300m) tmr and then starting our 6 day journey on foot to K2 Base camp (5000m). I arrived in Islamabad on the 14th of June and met the rest of my team before flying to Skardu on 16th June. We had a splendid clear day and got a glimpse of the massive Karakouram range and the mighty Nanga Parbat (the 9th highest mountain in the world but the 2nd most deadly of them all). We have been restocking the food items, packing and sorting out paper work for the last 3 days here in Skardu. My K2 team comprises of 2 Americans, 2 Icelanders (1 climber and 1 video/photographer), 1 Norwegian, 3 Chinese (who’re all trying to be the 1st Chinese to complete all 14 8000m mountains) and myself. We will have a support team of 9 sherpas, 4 Pakistani high altitude climbers and 5 cooks.

I will endeavor to update this blog if I can borrow satellite wifi from my climbing partners. Else pls see my personal fb page or climbeverest2012 fb page for occasional updates.

I will also be raising funds for 2 charities during this climb. I’ll be raising funds for the Home Nursing Foundation (HNF) as well as the Singapore National Stroke Association and fund raising efforts will go on till the end of the year. The details of my charity effort and the dedicated programes for which the funds raised will be channelled to can be found at https://give.asia/movement/no_mountain_too_high_1 (for HNF) and https://www.giving.sg/campaigns/no_mountain_too_high (for SNSA). Please spread the word and donate generously.

A big shout out to all those who’ve helped out in 1 way or another to have made this climb possible!

May this season be gentle on the climbers and may everyone be safe and successful on the mountain.

View of Nanga Parbat from the air. The deadly mountain which claimed 31 lives before it was first sumited in 1953. It remains the 2nd deadliest mountain in the world to climb.

View from Concordia Motel in Skardu. Beautiful snow capped peaks with the Indus river winding through the valley.

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2017 in Uncategorized