July 8, 2018
The weather today was stunning. Absolutely beautiful. We can see for miles from our tiny perch at 19,700. The mood at camp today is somber as we learn more about yesterday’s accident. That additional information had led to a rope controversy. Apparently the cause of yesterday's fall was rope failure.
Route fixing (anchoring rope along the climbing route) on big mountains is an interesting arrangement. Generally one team takes responsibility and the rest of the teams either lend labor to the fixing effort or pay the responsible team for the use of their ropes. This generally works well, assuming everyone is compliant, unless the quality of the rope is questionable, which it currently is. 'Korean' rope is commonly used on Himalayan and Karakoram peaks. It is lightweight and cheap and generally suitable on routes like the south side of Everest where there is little rappelling. K2 is different, though. Nearly everyone rappels and commits their full weight to cheap, lightweight rope. Plus, the rope on K2 often rubs against sharp rock, further compromising it. It doesn't make sense to use low quality rope in a no-mistakes environment. Further, the new Korean rope, which has been in place for only two weeks is already fraying, making everyone question its quality. Thankfully we brought 4 miles of legit climbing rope so the plan is to re-fix the route above camp 1. Although this is a lot of work for the Sherpa team, it is the safest solution.
Having a plan but remaining flexible is key to a safe and successful climb on any mountain, so the current - revised - plan is for the Sherpa to leave camp 1 early tomorrow morning and begin re-fixing the route to camp 2. Mingma leads the route fixing efforts for our team which calms my stress a bit. Aside from courageous, Mingma is always calm and serious which I appreciate, given his responsibility.
If the weather cooperates and route fixing goes well, we will be at camp 2 tomorrow.