Slowly, Slowly (What's Urdu for That?)... Concordia, Pakistan

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August 15th 2019
Published: November 25th 2019
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First ObstacleFirst ObstacleFirst Obstacle

Heading to Broad Peak Base Camp we watched the French group pick their way across the glacier
Sleeping at: Concordia (Rest Day)

Sleeping Altitude: 4590m

Trekking Distance: 18.7 km

Day: 17

There were 2 big events today, the first reduced our party by 2 members, the 2nd could have taken out 2 more of us...

Event 1 happened within an hour or so of leaving Concordia enroute to Broad Peak base Camp (4600m). Chisato, Fernando, Anthony, Gen, Danny, Lynton, Juma, Ishpak (our kitchen porter) and I left at 0700, we picked our way along the moraine, the French group were ahead of us so we watched their progress with interest. Juma chose a similar route to them, reading the safest way to traverse a non existent trail. It wasn't massively difficult but you had to set carefully due to the ice and moving rocks. After we had cleared some challenging parts of the moraine we had some "riverlet" crossings to make- being very short I often needed to grab an outstretched hand to get across. We were all over when we then needed to jump down a rocky shelf. A couple of the group did it then it was Chisato's turn, I watched her jumping and her landing was really off, she rolled
Glacier MoraineGlacier MoraineGlacier Moraine

This was typical of the first couple of hours of walking
her ankle and let out a bit of a yell. It certainly rotated but not to the point of breaking (IMO), she got up, dusted off and continued on for another 15 minutes before stopping again. At this point she was in a fair degree of pain and it was starting to swell, she had to turn back to camp. She and Fernando were insistent that the group should go on, she and Fernando would slowly retrace their steps back to Concordia (they both have a lot of mountain experience). After some deliberation we all went on and they turned around. We would hear on our return to Concordia from Ian that he gave them his horse so that she could get back as she was completely unable to weight bear not long after we had left them (Ian had a rental horse because of his blisters and camera equipment and left Concordia after us with his personal porter/horseman). By the time we got back to Concordia Chisato was really distressed, ankle was like a balloon and elevated on one of our dodgy chairs, and Fernando was on the sat phone trying to communicate with their insurance company back in Spain.

In our absence a sat phone had been found but had no charge and no credit, kindly, the Spanish group had helped out with theirs while ours was charging on their generator (we didn't have a generator either). Fernando had to call Snowland's owner- Kamal to obtain credit, then his insurance company to try to organise some sort of rescue. It was very challenging- the reception wasn't good, the numbers weren't accurate and there was a language barrier or 3 to negotiate as Juma was with us. It took hours and hours and hours (in fact not until very late that night) for the request for evacuation to be approved and relayed to the Pakistani Army who have the only helicopters used for rescue. The timing for evacuation is dependent on a couple of things- 1. Cash up front- USD $15 000 and 2. The army schedule- rescuing tourists is low priority compared to their usual operations. So... while it had been approved no one knew when it would happen. The contingency was that they would remain at Concordia with Mary and her horse, Ian's horse and the horsemen and some porters/tents the following day and if the helicopters didn't come they would start the trip back towards Askole with Chisato on horseback until it could happen.

So..... back to the Broad Peak Base Camp trek.... we hiked on, the cloud still fairly low as the Godwin Austen Glacier emerged- a massive white, whipped ice glacier- very spectacular. We stayed up on the rocky areas and got into Base Camp at 1030-ish. We had carried packed lunches so refuelled here and rested. Danny, Gen and Anthony were very keen to keep going to K2 Base Camp (5100m) which was at least another 3 hours away. Juma was conflicted as he had planned only for Broad Peak BC. Lynton and I wouldn't be capable of getting to K2 BC and back by night fall so we reassured Juma we would be fine going back with Ishpak (who had been to this area last year). The guys were hiking very quickly so thought they would be able to do it safely so they headed on at 1100 with Juma. Lynton had a nap behind a partially sheltered stone wall and I just had a wander around, enjoying the vast space and partial sun. The base camp was utterly deserted
except for the telltale rubbish, empty jerry cans and a bed frame (!). Spotted a hoopoe- a bird, but no other wildlife. Had several cups of tea (thank you thermos) before Ishpak started getting antsy wanting to leave.

We hiked back in very nice conditions, the cloud lifted and it even got hot (probably not really but we were sweating). We were having a water break when Ian appeared, he kept going as he was very keen to photograph Broad Peak. By the time we got back to the difficult part of the moraine the cloud was getting dark again and it started to rain. We had been following cairns but all of a sudden they disappeared and we were right down amongst the very strong current glacial rivers. Impending doom feeling descended, no matter which way we went there was another river to cross and we were really off course. Ishpak at one point was throwing boulders into one section of the river to try to create a stepping stone bridge but it was too dangerous. Eventually we found another part that we could get across- as it was snowing! Very scary. Lynton was a pillar of strength as I was getting increasingly pale and quiet (ie scared to death). Eventually Ishpak got us up onto another high ridge (don't look down) and we saw Concordia. Got into camp not much after 1400. Very grateful to Ishpak (who probably shouldn't have been put in that position), I thought were lost for sure (2 more trekkers plus a porter down!). It was then that we learned about the events surrounding Chisato.

The brightest point of the day was the almost complete unveiling of K2, the sun shone and the clouds parted late afternoon. Concordia came alive with trekkers, porters, cameras and smiles in the late afternoon to see that very awesome spectacle that is K2.

And the guys?.... Well, it was almost dark by the time Juma and the guys got back- Juma was very, very relieved to see us and to see Chisato and Fernando. He had a lot of work ahead of him that night dealing with the phone and evac issues but never once stopped smiling. The guys said the K2 BC was great to get to, deserted as the climbing season was over, but they had made really good time and got to the memorial which they found all very moving. It is always a sobering experience to see tributes to dead climbers. They had been doing really well on the way back too until they got to glacial maze ( the one that we came unstuck in) and took ages to get out of.

Big Day.

Tomorrow .... Ali Camp

Additional photos below
Photos: 27, Displayed: 26


Broad Peak Base CampBroad Peak Base Camp
Broad Peak Base Camp

Lunch at the deserted base camp

Rapidly Descending Cloud Not 20 Mins LaterRapidly Descending Cloud Not 20 Mins Later
Rapidly Descending Cloud Not 20 Mins Later

This is where we got off trail
Just Before the Snow Off Track and Stuck In the GlacierJust Before the Snow Off Track and Stuck In the Glacier
Just Before the Snow Off Track and Stuck In the Glacier

The water running under the glacier was really fast flowing

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