Rest Day at Base Camp

July 4th, 2018

Happy Independence Day!

Unfortunately there won't be any fireworks to celebrate with at base camp.  Instead, we spent the day developing a plan for our first and only acclimatization rotation.  Climbing a big peak requires several laps - or acclimatization rotations - from base camp to successively higher camps on the mountain.  During a rotation, climbers will generally spend one or two nights at a higher camp before returning to base.  This routine stresses the body by depriving it of oxygen, and the body responds by building incremental red blood cells which will carry the additional oxygen needed to survive at elevation.  

K2 is dangerous.  There are many objective hazards like rockfall and avalanche that we'd like avoid, and the longer we are on the mountain, the more likely we are to encounter these hazards.  So, we've decided to limit our acclimitization rotations to just one climb to camp 2.  While this isn't ideal in terms of allowing our bodies to develop more red blood cells, it is prudent in terms of avoiding risk.  And I'm all about avoiding risk.  

The general plan is to leave base camp in two or three days, depending on weather, and to spend two nights at camp 1, two nights at camp 2, and then return to BC.   As we talked about the plan, and the idea of climbing to camp 2, I could feel my palms get sweaty and nervousness rise in my stomach.  But I am going to stick to my agreement with myself and only focus on one day at a time.  Today, all that I have to do is relax and eat at base camp.  I'm confident that I can accomplish those two things. 

Ibrahim at K2 Base Camp  photo:  Muhammad Ibrahim

Ibrahim at K2 Base Camp

photo:  Muhammad Ibrahim

The population of base camp is shrinking slightly.  Now that we are settled and everything is running smoothly, Muhammad Ibrahim, who coordinated our trek and base camp organization is leaving.  We're all going to miss his gregarious smile and spontaneous dancing.  To return home, Ibrahim will trek for three or four days, over the 18,323 foot (5,585 meter) Gondogoro Pass.  Some of my team mates have traveled over the pass before, and were amazed when Ibrahim said that he's do it in running shoes.  The tenacity of the men who support climbers in the Karakoram is astounding.  Ibrahim's eyes lit up and he became more animated when he talked about returning home and seeing his wife and five children for the first time in months.  It is so humbling to me to learn about the people who live and work in the Karakoram, and conversations like the one today with Ibrahim make me want to always be thankful for every moment in my life.