On Tuesday 2 July we went up Broad Peak for an acclimatization rotation.
Why another mountain acclimatization rotation?
You may ask yourself whatfor I do an acclimatization up the mountain when I have raved about this pre-acclimatization thing. Well, while this really works wonderfully, it can – for now, and in my opinion – not yet fully replace a mountain acclimatization for an 8000m peak, simply because you do not manage to get the same time and altitude exposure with the generator as on the mountain. After all, you do not want to spend 24 hours per day in the tent or with a mask ;).
So at least one acclimatization rotation on the mountain is still on the list in case of an 8000m peak. But I am pretty sure that in the near future it will be possible to fully acclimatize at home and go straight for the summit of an 8000m peak.
Start of the acclimatization rotation
We started on Tuesday with a direct ascent to Camp 2 at around 6200m. Things went beautifully and the pre-acclimatization clearly worked as planned as I arrived quite easily at Camp 2. After one night in Camp 2, we continued up Camp 3 at around 7050m. Things got a little bit harder now as there was alot of snow and I carried in exchange with Max one 200m rope which weighs six kilogramm. As I am not a Sherpa let me tell you that I could feel that additional weight at this altitude ;). But still, we arrived at Camp 3 before noon and could enjoy the afternoon sun.
After some rest, we started out at 19:00 further up towards the summit. For myself, I had pretty much decided not to go to the summit as I had summited anyway already in 2017, but just go to 7500m which should be enough as acclimatization for K2, while not unnecessarily wasting energy for my main goal K2. But I felt I would ultimately decide on the way up.
So conditions were in the beginning similar to what they were two years ago. Honestly, my motivation was not exactly large to begin with as the summit section at Broad Peak is long and tedious and does not offer really interesting climbing sections. Thus, arriving at 7500m around 22:30 I did indeed decide to turn around as I felt continuing would be rather detrimental to saving forces for K2. I was back at Camp 3 before midnight and then enjoyed a very good night with good sleep. I am pretty sure I could have continued to the summit as my acclimatization felt good, but I was not motivated and did not want to waste energy.
The next day, I was now waiting for the other members to come down. Max, Anja and the Sherpas had continued towards the summit. Information was not really clear and finally one Sherpa who had returned early told me that the team had summited only around 11:30. So instead of going down myself immediately I now decided to stay on in Camp 3 in case things got slower and help might be needed.
Max came back to the camp in the early afternoon and told me that conditions had been pretty bad and exhausting, and that the summit itself was in a whiteout, so no nice pictures, no great view from the summit. At that point, I have to admit, I felt indeed not sad that I had turned around at 7500m ;). One more member finally came back at 19:00 which means a 24hour rotation for the summit section which is very very long.
Congrats to Max for summiting Broad Peak!
Having waited this long this meant another night at 7000m which I had not planned but everybody was back safe in Camp 3 which is the most important thing.
Today then we got up around 6:00 in the morning, packed our stuff and started the hike down.
Max and I went down until around 6800m, shortly under Camp 3 and then waited a bit.
Taking the fast way down 😉
I have a little confession to make. I have brought my paraglider to this expedition and now of course I wanted to use it to fly down the mountain instead of walking down for hours. But it was a bit of an experiment as the air is very thin at this altitude and I was not really sure how well the takeoff would work. Thinner air means less lift which in turn means you have to run faster for takeoff. Not the easiest thing to do on an 8000m mountain ;).
So we waited for the mountain wind – coming from the back – to die down and hopefully come from the front, helping our takeoff. At this altitude, a takeoff would become even harder with the wind from the back.
After an hour wait or so the wind from the back had died down and we had zero wind. Still not what I would call good conditions but we had waited long enough.
Max went first and had a great takeoff. I had helped him a bit with holding the glider so it could not slide down. Now being along and no one coming along I had to find a way to fix the glider so it would not slide down on the snow. Luckily, there was a little bag with some equipment in it just where we had stopped, so I simply put it on the middle of the glider to fix it while I was sorting the lines and preparing takeoff. After some tedious minutes everything was ready and I removed the bag.
I prepared myself for takeoff, waited two or three more minutes hoping for some thermal updrafts from the front, but as they were not coming I simply decided to give it a go like Max. And I was really amazed how well the takeoff then went! Three or four steps and I was in the air! Amazing how well these mountain wings fly nowadays!
Big thanks to Ralf Reiter from Airsthetik for your help and advice before the journey which wing to choose! I am flying the XXLite 2 from Ozone, with 16 m2.
What followed then was simply an incredibly beautiful flight in the amazing Baltoro environment, looking over to K2, back to Broad Peak, and down to Concordia, Baltoro and Godwin-Austen glacier as well as Broad Peak Basecamp.
And a mere 10 minutes after takeoff I landed to the side of our camp, what normally would have taken a four hour walkdown!
I am still blown away by this beautiful flight, so is Max!
Check out the pictures from our acclimatization rotation and the video from the flight.
The video from the flight:
And well, now you can probably guess what my / our plan is on K2 ;).
We will now have probably around three rest days in Broad Peak Basecamp before moving to K2 Basecamp. First, two members will do another try at Broad Peak summit and we will of course wait for them, and tomorrow or after tomorrow another team member for K2 will fly in with the helicopter.
I am feeling very well so far. Acclimatization went very well, I will have a good rest now, the glider worked very well, and at K2 I hear that the rope fixing teams already reached Camp 2. We will still have to work out a bit our strategy as there are many teams at K2 this year, but me being a notorious optimist I feel that this should overall help as there is a lot of force and push at K2 then with all these people and Sherpas.
I will write on the weekend a bit more about the potential K2 strategy, which routes are probable (Nicolas, to answer your question then), and about basecamp life.
Until then, I wish you all a great weekend!