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News

2010-08-12

9 August 2010 K2 Update

This morning a memorial service was held for Fredrik at the Gilkey Memorial, just below basecamp.

Trey made it back to base camp after a dangerous and challenging descent.Though little has been published of the descent´s difficulties I´m sureTrey´s safe exit from the route came from the efforts of the competent andcommitted climbers around him. Thank you.

Stu from Field Touring Alpine has kept me up to speed on what is happeningaround basecamp. It is raining heavily in base camp and looks like it maycontinue for a while.

The trek out is about 60 miles (100K) along the Baltoro Glacier to a smallvillage named Askole. From there it is another 60 miles by jeep to the first´modern´ town of Scardu. From there it is possible to get a flight toIslambad or take a two day bus ride along the Karakorum Highway. Groundtravel may be compromised by heavy rain, floods and road wash outs.

David Schipper
Outdoorlabs.com
720.231.3698

 

2010-08-06

K2 Update

Early this morning I was woken by a call from Trey´s girlfriend. ´Frippe was killed...´

The bottom of my world fell out. Facts and information are impossibly inaccurate at this altitude so I got started making my way through the grim channels to find out where the truth was. With the help of Field Touring Alpine and my friend and guide Fabrizio Zangrilli I was able to get most of the story straight.

Some of what he reported was first hand knowledge while at camp 4 and part was from his conversation with Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner who was with Fredrik when he fell.

At about 1:30 AM Trey, Gerlinde and Fredrik left camp 4 at about 8000m to move to the summit. The weather was less than the good forecast but it was also supposed to improve during the upcoming day. Fabrizio and a few other climbers elected to remain in camp 4 to see what happened with the weather.

Several hours later, as the three climbers reached the base of the bottle neck, Trey decided to return to camp 4. He arrived back at about 5:30 AM in low visibility and high winds.

According to the conversation Fabrizio had with Gerlinde, Fredrik was fixing rope to the rock in the bottle neck above her when he lost purchase and was unable to arrest his fall. This happened some time between 7 and 8 AM. Later it was determined he fell about 1000m and did not survive.

Weather was said to become more challenging as time passed and Gerlinde´s safe return to camp 4 was aided by climbers that had stayed at camp 4.

By evening of that same day the remaining climbers made their way back to camp 3 at 7000m. All the tents left at 3 were ´thoroughly ruined´ by rock fall and ruck sacks were needed as shields from the constant rain of rocks. Gerlinde reportedly continued down to camp 2 at about 6400m. All will make their way to base camp tomorrow with the hopes the colder night temperatures will reduce rock fall. They will be safe when they are at basecamp.

It is almost impossible to get the facts straight in these situations as each version is a blend of facts and perspective. It is also difficult to understand the situation without being there. I give my most sincere condolences to Frippe´s parents, family and friends. I have no words to express my sorrow. This information in an effort to help you understand the details - though they can only tell part of the story. Everyone I have had contact with, both on K2 and off, said he was liked by everyone at base camp, that he brought a positive atmosphere everywhere he went.

You will be missed, Fredrik by all of us fortunate enough to have known you. I will remember you with the memory of beautiful Chogolisa in the background.

Chogolisa (mountain) is right across the glacier from the Cesan route

Chogolisa (mountain) is right across the glacier from the Cesan route

Frippe´s body is resting at about 7000m. It seems like retrieval would be exceptionally dangerous.

Additional information can be seen on Gerlinde´s site www.gerlinde-kaltenbrunner.at.

David Schipper
Outdoor Labs
720.231.3698

 

2010-08-04

Camp 3 Update K2 Cesan Route

Today´s call showed up on my cell phone while I was having coffee before another day at the Outdoor Retailer Show. Trey and I chatted for 7 minutes with excellent clarity and the most relaxed conversation so far.

´Today was a crazy beautiful day...´ said Trey. Inside the tent the temperature was over 40 degrees Celcius (Over 100F) during the heat of the day. There is a common misconception that high altitude climbing is super cold and frostbite is lurking everywhere. Though this is true a significant amount of the time there are also times with intense sun, little wind and uncomfortably hot conditions. Yesterday was a hot one.

The heat prompted a lot of movement on the mountain. Avalanches and rock fall could be heard all day. Luckily, actually purposefully, camp 3 is in a very safe aspect and there is very little chance of avalanche danger. Trey and Frippe were surprised late in the afternoon when a grapefruit sized rock flew through the top of their tent. Noone was hurt except the tent´s feelings.

Frippe and the other climbers from camp 2 rolled into 3 at about 11:30 AM. The trip up was uneventful and the warm conditions were appreciated over high winds of last week. I should apologize to Ralf for misspelling his name. Until now I had been using an ´o´ instead of an ´a´. We should be good now.

Trey was positively enthusiastic about the way things are shaping up for the summit attempt. The weather could not be better, the team is feeling excellent and this mountain appears to be showing some compassion.

Tomorrow´s departure is scheduled for 5:00 AM with a goal of being in camp 4 at 8000m on the shoulder by 3:00 PM. Then as midnight nears they will start their huge day toward the summit.

In the rarified air of summiting K2 it is interesting to suggest that the real crux is yet to come for Frippe. Reaching the summit of this stunning peak has proved impossible for many climbers. It is a funny mix of timing, determination, and a great deal of luck. I find it hard to wrap my mind around the notion of then hopping onto skis and skiing through the traverse and bottle neck above the shoulder.

When pressed to make predictions on conditions and outcome of skiing success Trey simply said they won´t know until they get there. The snow below them is looking good but the upper section below the summit is an unknown.

One of the things that makes altitude climbing occasionally compared to a drug, the part that is both terrifying and addictive, is the need to fully commit. There is a need to push to edge and dance along its fickle edge. Trey and Frippe are fully committed and it is that focus and drive that makes these remarkable men who they are.

More tomorrow as time and satellite phone connections permit. All the best boys!

David Schipper
Outdoor Labs
720.231.3698

 

2010-08-03

K2 Update 3AUG10 - Call from Fredrik and Trey on K2 Cesan Route. First ski descent.

I just got the latest from Frippe at C2.

As I was standing in line to enter the Outdoor Retailer Show in Salt Lake City UT my phone rang with the familiar 88.... prefix. A few days ago Trey had emailed me from base camp to see if I was up for another round of summit/ sat phone reports. I haven´t heard anything from him since but I did see a bunch of emails jumping around talking about sat phone challenges.

It was weird, in a way, to be inside the air-conditioned epicenter of the Outdoor Industry knowing my friends were attempting a great achievement in the real outdoors. How many other stories of courage and tenacity were floating around the minds of people standing near me? Who, in street clothes, has accomplished the greatness the marketing people in this building are trying to sell?

It took several tries to understand Frippe´s explanation that Trey had left a day early and was in camp 3 even though he was calling from camp 2. Through long voice delays I learned Trey left a day early so he could get to camp 3 and take a rest day up high while the rest of the team. Fabrizio, Rolf, Gerlinde and a Canadian named Megan were at 2 with Frippe at 6400m.

Frippe´s climb from base camp to camp 2 was made in warm temperatures, low winds and scattered clouds. Tomorrow´s forecast calls for more clouds but reasonable temperatures and wind, with some snow possible. Summit day, or the 6th, is calling for great weather - warm, low wind and clear skies.

Tomorrow the group from camp 2 moves 3 while takes a rest day. Thursday everyone moves to camp 4 at 8000m on the shoulder. Then Friday (most likely late Thursday night) everyone moves to the summit. If they reach the summit by 2 PM on Friday Frippe will have to waste little time getting skiing. In our time zones that translates into 3 AM in Moab, UT and 11 AM in Sweden and France. If it takes him 6 hours to descent he may very well be using his headlamp for the last several hundred meters.

The snow on skiers right was good from 7800m down - very skiable, Frippe said about his ski descent from last weeks summit attempt. The climbing was difficult from all the rocks on the other side but the skiing was good. The terrain above the shoulder - to the summit - looks good but that remains to be seen.

So the weather, team and everyone´s health looks good. If this mountain shows the slightest kindness they may be able to pull this off. Tomorrow is another day.

/David

 

2010-07-31

Team continues upwards, Ericsson skis from 7800 meters

24 July 2010

Below Camp 4 – 7800m / 25,590 ft

With the summit of K2 rising above us, so close we feel like we could have touched it, Frippe locked into his skis and dropped into the massive 45-degree face that stretches from The Shoulder at 8000m to below Camp 3 at 7100m. This big, beautiful face radiates down upon base camp and all the way to Concordia making every skier in the area fantasize about arcing fast steep turns across it. Of course, if it were that easy we’d have all seen it in the latest TGR film, but simply putting your boots on at this altitude makes you gasp for air and making two or three turns with a heavy pack would bring most hardcores to tears. I’m here to tell you that after three long, hard days of climbing Fredrik Ericsson earned every one of those awe-inspiring turns.

Trey climbing above C3 (7100m)

Trey climbing above C3 (7100m)

So before we go any further I should start by thanking our good friend, The Ripper Dave Schipper, for posting our progress live from the mountain. We hope he’ll still have the patience left to deal with our frantic, confused phone calls during one more summit push.

So yeah, assuming you’ve been following along you’ll know we left base camp a few days earlier based on a weather forecast from an acknowledged expert in Austria who pointed us to a sliver of a window on the 27th. The group that charged out of BC on the 24th could hardly have been stronger or more experienced. Out front was Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, an Austrian whose friendly smile and sisterly spirit hides her astonishing strength in the mountains. This is her fourth expedition to K2 and—after summitting Everest this spring without oxygen—if successful, will make her the third woman to summit all 14 of the world’s 8000-meter peaks and more importantly, the first to climb them all without oxygen. Huge respect.

Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, Ralf Duimovits and Fabrizio Zangrilli on their way top C4

Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, Ralf Duimovits and Fabrizio Zangrilli on their way top C4

Right behind Gerlinde was Fabrizio Zangrilli, a professional climber and guide for one of the two commercial expeditions attempting K2 this year. On his sixth expedition—four on the Cesen Route—perhaps no one has more experience on this side of the mountain than Fabrizio.

Of course, Fredrik, The Super Swede, was right up front with Gerlinde and Fabrizio, swapping leads and breaking trail. Just keeping up with those two is a huge feat in itself but to do it while carrying skis and wearing ski boots is a whole other level.

With a perpetual smile on his face, Ralf Duimovits—a highly accomplished German guide and Gerlinde’s life partner—first climbed K2 in 1994. If he summits again he’ll be the fifth person to have ever climbed K2 twice.

Kinga Baranowska arrived with the K2 and Broad Peak Polish Expedition 2010 and hopes to make K2 her eighth 8000-meter summit.

And, me—a bit slower than a lot of climbers but a little faster than most freelance writers. Did I mention devilishly handsome and passively courageous?

So if you’ve kept up with past episodes you’ll know that we battled high winds and driving snow that blasted us in the face as we moved up the mountain from Base Camp to C2. From C2 to C3 was more of the same although with the benefit that the wind had scoured the snow from the ridge making the surface hard-packed, easy walking.

View of the summit and the Shoulder from our C4

View of the summit and the Shoulder from our C4

In the meantime, over on The Abruzzi Ridge, the crew that had planned to meet us on The Shoulder for a combined summit push had arrived at their C2 to find all but one of their tents either blown away or shredded. The Italians, Giuseppe and Sergio, decided to descend while nine other climbers bivvied below House’s Chimney in three tents in what sounds like truly miserable conditions.

Back on the Cesen, Frippe and I were super excited about moving from C3 to C4—a day that would take us from 7100m (23, 294 ft) to 8000m (26, 247 ft) in one long day. To climb that much at that high altitude we reasoned the route must go straight up with no side variations and be fairly straightforward climbing. Gerlinde and Ralf told us to expect eight hours. I knew that with this crew it would be anything but leisurely and began to worry about the extra 140 meters (459 ft) of rope and gear in my pack for fixing The Bottleneck higher up.

Sure enough, the next morning as we were breaking down our tent when Gerlinde and Ralf blew past as if they were shot from a cannon. We dropped in behind them with Fabrizio and Kinga not far behind.

The climbing turned out to be sustained 45-degree climbing over snow and loose rock with old, badly damaged fixed ropes and sketchy anchors that kept everyone honest. Straight out of the gate I was feeling a high-gravity day and passed our tent to Frippe who added it to his already heavy pack. I also passed 60 meters of rope to Fabrizio who gave it back three pitches later after I had eaten a bit and was feeling stronger—lifesaver. The wind still blew like crazy but the sun came out for the first time in several days which made everyone feel a whole lot better. Until it went down.

From the back of the line Fabrizio shouted over the wind for a halt. “It’s still 250 meters (820 ft) to The Shoulder and it’s going to be dark soon.”

Our summit push that would ideally have started at 10:00 or 11:00 that night had relied on us reaching The Shoulder early enough to pitch our tents, brew up and rest for a few hours before starting for the summit. Clearly, that dog wouldn’t be huntin’. And since there was no place to pitch tents on the rocky face we were climbing, and going down was not an option, the decision was made to continue.

An hour and a half later, just as it got completely dark, we all pulled up to a small shelf in the face about 100 meters (328 ft) below The Shoulder and started hacking tent platforms out of the ice. The wind that was forecast to have dropped still screamed and to be quite honest, after 12 hours of climbing I was completely wasted and happy not to hear any discussion about a summit push that night. However, I know the Super Swede would have gone for it if any of our crew had suggested it. As it were, our window never really materialized and with snow, wind and limited viz forecast for the next few days Frippe had to settle for an epic ski descent of close to 3000 meters (9842 ft). Darn the luck.

We’re back in BC now sitting out bad weather days that have kept us from charging batteries and updating the blog. On his way down Frippe found that the wind and snow had changed conditions dramatically since his last descent from C3 less than two weeks ago. This makes us wonder if the route will hold until we can get back up again. If not, Frippe’s ultimate goal of skiing from the summit of K2 to base camp will not be possible and all our efforts over the past two months will have been for nothing. However, the snow in the forecast will surely make a difference and if we can just get lucky with a window sooner rather than later…

Fredrik on the way down from C4 Photo: Tommy Heinrich

Fredrik on the way down from C4 Photo: Tommy Heinrich

But for now, we wait. August is notoriously unkind to K2 climbers and all we can do is hope for the best and be patient. Not easy. The weather in northern Pakistan this summer has been the worst in 20 years with torrential rainfall killing more than 300 people and hundreds of thousands losing land and property.

The Koreans have packed up and left as have Giuseppe, Sergio and the guy who never said anything. On the other hand, two strong Kazakhs have just arrived, already acclimatized from climbing in the Tien Shan range, and we’re hoping they’ll be a strong addition to our team. The two Americans, Dave and Adam, have yet to spend a night in C3 so are still a day behind the current summit group. The Poles have flights scheduled for the 17th and will need a window soon if they want to make it. Frippe and I are intent on staying until we get the job done but we’re down to our last jar of Nutella. The two of us can suffer through a lot but running out of Nutella could just spell disaster.

/Trey Cook

 

The Ski K2 Expedition would not be possible without the visionary support of: Dynastar, Tierra, Osprey, Hestra, Scarpa, Grivel, adidas Eyewear, Primus, Brunton, Exped, ATK Race, Ortovox, Garmin, Honey Stinger and Jamtport.

 

2010-07-26

I just got a call from Trey. They are at 7800m or about 200m short of their day´s goal. Apparently there was very little snow covering the crumbly steep rock between three and camp four so the going was more technical, exhausting and slow than they had hoped. When there is nicely consolidated snow or even hard packed, almost ice, it allows efficient steps to be places because the snow supports the weight of the climber as they step up. When a thin layer of snow covers rock, especially loose rock, it is hard to see where to place your foot and tiresome regaining your balance as your footing crumbles under the weight of your step.

Trey´s voice conveyed exhaustion and insignificant, but evident breathlessness. After a brief pause he delivered the difficult news that they were no longer in a safe situation to attempt the summit tomorrow. The summit push would have begun at 10:00 PM tonight and last through the following day. But the terrain kept their pace slow and they ended up camping at least an hour below the usual camp four. Having arrived at 8:00 PM it would certainly take several hours to dig out tent platforms, grab a few minutes rest and brew enough snow to cook tonight and hydrate for tomorrow´s huge efforts. They had simply run out of time.

The weather was windy all day but it has subsided and they will enjoy a beautiful full moon tonight at 7800m.

´I am totally wasted..." were Trey´s first words over the time-delayed satellite connection. ´It took us 12 hours to cover the ground that should have taken us eight,.. and we are still at least an hour from the shoulder. The snow cover was thin and the climbing became technical because all the snow was scoured off by the wind.... We don´t have time to brew up and begin our summit push by 10:00.... So we are not going to the summit....´ Trey has some amazing endurance aptitude and is capable of suffering a great deal. To hear him use superlatives in his description - I knew it was real.

We discussed a few snow issues and recon options they were considering for tomorrow but the meat of the conversation was over when he told me they were not going to attempt the summit. Its hard to explain the mix of feelings accompanied with the decision to retreat. It is the knowledge that every bit your survival is in your hands and the odds are unclear at best - that the ´never give up´ attitude has little relevance here. Always present is the possibility that the season may afford another summit try and that things will go better then. But noone knows.

How do you rev down the most prominent focus in your life? Doubt lingers differently between the time before the decision is made and after. There is a constant question of whether it was the right call.... Then these entrepid climbers look for the opportunity to do it again at the next weather break. It has been said more than once that climbing big peaks is primarily a mental game. I´d say so.

If there is recon done up to the saddle tomorrow (8000m or camp 4) it may delay their return by as much as a night but most likely they will be back in base camp by the evening of the 27th.

Over and out,

David Schipper
Outdoor Labs
720.231.3698

 

2010-07-25

Today´s call came from 7100 meters elevation or camp three. Trey and Frippe sounded solid, coherent and motivated. Our conversation was brief to save satellite phone costs but they gave me the low down on their day´s climbing.

The route from camp two, a snow filled ledge about 3 feet wide, to camp three starts with a short steep section around some rocks then follows an unrelentingly long ridge to the steep slopes of camp three. The wind blew at about 60 kph or just this side of being too strong to stand up for most of the day. The temperature was manageable but both climbers opted to wear their warmest 8000m gear to fend off the wind chill.

As they neared their day´s objective, the wind eased off. With any luck they were afforded the stunning view down to base camp, across to Broad Peak and past Concordia to the haunting slopes of Chogolisa. Most conversation about (rightfully so) K2 revolve around the challenges of climbing this peak but the views are truly magical.

At this point our climbers have gone from 5000m at base camp to 7100m at camp three. Tomorrow they will move from three to camp four to gain the coveted altitude of 8000m, with about 600m remaining to the summit. With any luck the winds will not have deterred the Abruzzi Route teams and there will be enough strong climbers to help make the summit as a team. It isn´t possible to see from Trey and Frippe´s route to the Abruzzi so they will not know until tomorrow´s arrival at the convergence the two routes, the ´Shoulder´ , how things are going on the Abruzzi.

Tomorrow´s forecast is for moderate winds and temperatures with some clouds. The terrain is steep snow but if it remains scoured and consolidated the altitude alone will be the challenge. Rolf and Gerlinde, Fabrizio, and Kinga are camping at camp three with our boys and plan to move to four tomorrow.

Pakistan is about 10 hours ahead of the US (Central Time) and 3 hours ahead of Chamonix and Sweden. The best time to cheer for the summit from Texas will start at 2:00 PM on the 26th (assuming a midnight departure on the 27th) and the best time in Chamonix and Sweden will start at 9:00 PM on the 26th. Pretty much from here out send everything positive their direction possible.

The Ski K2 Expedition would not be possible without the visionary support
of: Dynastar, Tierra, Osprey, Hestra, Scarpa, Grivel, adidas Eyewear,
Primus, Brunton, Exped, ATK Race, Ortovox, Garmin, Honey Stinger and
Jamtport.

 

2010-07-24

This is from David Schipper:

Trey asked me to work as their translator for sat phone calls on their summit bid.
Trey and I have been climbing together since 1991 and were together on his last attempt on K2 in 2007, on the same route. Here is what he said on his call today.

It took them seven hours for move the 1200m elevation from base camp to camp 2. After 3 days of heavy snow at base camp and reported strong winds up high, the route was surprisingly free of dangerous snow build up and was scoured down to hard, great climbing snow. Still the princess of alpine climbing seldom concedes all and provided a strong "refreshing" wind from the summit.

Its typically a good strategy to skip camp one on the summit push because it was established early on the acclimatization schedule. As climber´s bodies adapt to less oxygen and are able to perform at higher altitudes the night saved at camp 1 will shorten the summit push - needing less days to be up high.

Tomorrow´s efforts will bring them from camp 2´s elevation of 6350m up to 7100m and the steep slopes of camp 3. As we spoke Trey said three others I knew were with them: Fabrizio Zangrilli, a German couple I remember from 2077 named Rolf and Gerlinde, and a Polish gal named King I have not met. Excellent company at those altitudes!

During our brief call I was reminded of how difficult it is to survive at that altitude. Trey´s conversation showed shortness of breath and his mental acuity was not dangerously compromised but definitely altered. There was constant coughing in the back ground.

After tomorrow´s trip to camp 3 they will move to camp 4 located on the relatively flat terrain of the lower shoulder and the likelihood of meeting several climbers taking advantage of the same weather window on the Abruzzi Route. Mark your calendar for July 27 as the day they will move from the highest camp, to the summit.

The Ski K2 Expedition would not be possible without the visionary support
of: Dynastar, Tierra, Osprey, Hestra, Scarpa, Grivel, adidas Eyewear,
Primus, Brunton, Exped, ATK Race, Ortovox, Garmin, Honey Stinger and
Jamtport.

 

 

2010-07-23

Why?

"Dead man in Camp 2. Bulgarian." Lakpa’s news was such a surprise we had a
hard time believing it. For one thing the last three days of warm sunny
days and nights without a breath of wind couldn’t have been more perfect.
Base camp had been a virtual ghost town with all climbers taking advantage
of the good fortune to move up the mountain. No, it couldn’t be true. I
didn’t even know there was a Bulgarian in base camp. But you don’t argue
with a woman who tells you she’s a lama.

Just the day before Frippe and I had been descending from Camp 3 at 7100m
(23,294 ft). My frostbitten fingers were warm and snug in the warmest
8000-meter mittens money can buy and Frippe was skiing the route for the
first time in clear visibility. Stopping to chat with other climbers on
the route and filming Frippe as he made turns in the warm sun gave me the
feeling of being on a peak in the Alps rather than the cold, isolated K2
of our previous trips. So much so I wouldn’t have been surprised if a
monoskier with stretch pants and a helmet cam had skied down behind him.
K2 was revealing her softer side but it was a face I knew better than to
grow too fond of.

Base camp is a small community and news travels fast. It seems as though
Petar Unzhiev arrived in BC less than a week ago, parking up with the ATP
crew whose permit he was on. Like every other climber he saw the
extraordinary good weather and couldn’t resist getting up the mountain.
Within three days of arriving in base camp, Petar, along with his HAP went
directly to Camp 1 on the Abruzzi rather than making the usual stop at
advanced base camp. The next day, instead of following the normal rules of
acclimatization and returning to the lower elevation of base camp the team
climbed to camp 2 at about 6700m (21,982 ft) where others on the route
reported that Petar began experiencing problems. However, they assumed the
HAP was watching out for him. That night, those whose tents were pitched
next to Petar’s heard labored breathing—not uncommon at 7000 meters
(22,966 ft) where the air pressure is less than half that at sea level.
Again, they assumed the HAP that they believed to be in the tent with
Petar would call for help if needed. As it turns out, after pitching the
tent and brewing up, the HAP had returned to base camp without telling any
of the others at C2.

Fredrik Ericsson climbing towards camp 3 at 7100m. Photo: Tommy Heinrich

Fredrik Ericsson climbing towards camp 3 at 7100m. Photo: Tommy Heinrich

It is believed that Petar most likely died from high altitude cerebral
edema, or HACE. As explained in the three high-altitude medical books that
he had with him, but apparently hadn’t gotten around to reading, HACE is a
swelling of the brain commonly caused by climbing too high too fast.
Petar’s death is a tragic loss yet Frippe and I are already planning our
next trip up the mountain. If the weather cooperates, we’ll leave base
camp on the 24th and hopefully make our summit push on the 27th. There has
been heavy snowfall and strong winds up high over the last two days which
is cause for concern and may push our plans back a day or two. In any
case, I can already imagine the sanctimonious outrage in forums and
message boards across the ‘net labeling us foolish, selfish, irresponsible
and suicidal.

Some of the accusations are fair—selfish, for sure—however most are not,
and as a person who is heading back up the same mountain that just killed
Petar perhaps I can provide some insight into what makes us want to put
ourselves at such risk.
While there’s certainly no question that this is a dangerous game we’re
playing, there’s nobody here with a death wish. Quite the contrary, you
could say that Frippe and I have a life wish meaning we want to squeeze
every bit of life out of every second of every day. And there’s just no
way we can do that if we’re not living, right?
For sure it’s sad when people die but it’s something that’s going to
happen to every single one of us. In the end, all that really matters is
what you do with the time between the day you were born and that
inevitable day of departure. Which is why we’re here. Many people see
mountains like K2 and are paralyzed by fear. “You can’t go up there; you
might get hurt or even die!” On the other hand there are others, like us,
who see big mountains and are empowered by the massive challenge, the
thrill of the adventure and the possibility we see in the impossible. To
act on this empowerment is to live, to turn our backs on it is to suffer a
slow, agonizing death.

Fredrik Ericsson skiing Photo: Tommy Heinrich

Fredrik Ericsson skiing Photo: Tommy Heinrich

In attempting to make the first ski descent of K2, without supplementary
oxygen, without Sherpa or HAP support, climbing in good style with respect
and admiration for the power and beauty of the mountain, Fredrik has the
chance to do something truly extraordinary in his life and I’m not simply
talking about the first descent. I’m talking about the incredibly rare
opportunity this man has to pursue his wildest, most heartfelt dream. Is
that worth the risk? In the end, there is only one person whose answer to
that question matters.

/Trey Cook

 

Postscript: Petar’s death is a sad loss and our thoughts and prayers go
out to his family. We hope in time they take solace in knowing that he
died doing something he loved in one of the most beautiful places on
Earth. As one climber told us after he came down from Camp 2, “It looks as
though he died peacefully. It looks as though he died … happy.”

The Ski K2 Expedition would not be possible without the visionary support
of: Dynastar, Tierra, Osprey, Hestra, Scarpa, Grivel, adidas Eyewear,
Primus, Brunton, Exped, ATK Race, Ortovox, Garmin, Honey Stinger and
Jamtport.

 

2010-07-15

Big lines and frozen fingers – Ericsson prepares for summit push.

Base of Cesen Route – 5100 m / 16,732 ft

Frippe’s voice over radio static, “I’m leaving Camp 2 now. I’ll leave the radio on. Watch for me.”

From the avalanche plain at the bottom of the route I looked through the 20x lens of the video camera, straining to pick up any sort of movement, even a ridgeline feature through the blowing clouds. Nothing but the occasional glimpse of dark rock on flat white but never a clear view of the steep rock band that Frippe was trying to find his way through. The same rock band that he’d downclimbed a week earlier, emerging with the conviction that the snow was just deep enough between the tightly spaced rocks to ski through. But a lot had changed since his last trip and there was no guarantee the snowpack was the same. Even worse, the clouds and wind had blown in overnight ending a 4-day run of sunny skies, obscuring the route and changing the snow conditions from soft to wildly variable. An error in judgment at this point could easily result in a 1000-meter tomahawk. The avalanche plain I was parked up on certainly wasn’t the best place to be but I’d rather be there than in Frippe’s boots, that’s for sure.

Fredrik ski couloir

Fredrik ski couloir

Three days earlier, Frippe had headed back up the route, climbing solo while I hung back at BC to see whether my frostbitten fingers decided to either heal up or fall off. After I thawed them out the dull grey skin halfway to the first knuckle on the last three fingers of my right hand looked as though it could go either way. Luckily there was no shortage of expert opinion around base camp.

The Polish doctor who thawed me out prescribed 250mg of aspirin and an hour in the Gamow bag, a compression chamber that simulates the air pressure, and regenerative effects, of lower—2103 meters (6,899 ft) to be precise—altitude.

To be honest, I think the Gamow exercise was more for the good doctor’s entertainment than for my own treatment but at that point I was open to just about anything that didn’t require scalpels or bone saws.

Fabrizio and Chris from Field Tours happened to be visiting from Broad Peak and knowing the two carry a load of alpine experience with them I showed them the hand, asked what they’d do if it was attached to the end of their own arm.

“Got insurance?”

“Yes.”

“First chopper out.”

“What? You mean to, like, Skardu?”

“No. I mean to, like, home.”

“Hmmm… I think I’ll give ‘em a day or two and see.”

“Your fingers, man, but if you want to stay then hit the antibiotics. Amoxicilline if you’ve got it. Cipro will work but what you really want is a ‘cilline.”

Right then. One five-day course of Amoxicilline coming up.

Of course, it wasn’t long before word spread through the porter underground. Muna, Armand and Abbas’s cousin were the first to stop round.

“Pee pee.”

“No. No problems there. Problem with frozen fingers. Frostbite.”

“Pee pee on fingers.”

“Oh.”

Now I don’t know about most of you out there but I’ve done a pretty good job of avoiding peeing on my fingers for most of my 48 years and while I was open to suggestions on anything that would get me back up the mountain I thought I might have to draw the line at this one. Unfortunately, our ‘rest’ area happened to be in full view of the porters’ peanut gallery and the first time I returned without a dripping hand it was made known to me that this was not an option. There would be a post-relief inspection following all future ablutions.

Still looking for solid advice I called Frippe’s friend, Sven Christjar, a Norwegian physician and mountain guide based in Hemsedal, Norway.

“Blisters?”

“No.”

“Good. Without seeing it it’s impossible for me to say for sure but it sounds like Level 1 frostbite, not too severe. Take 300mg of aspirin a day, clean, bandage and keep warm. I assume you’re going back up so before you go, identify and eliminate the cause of the problem.”

Now that’s what I wanted to hear. Go the Viking doctor.

So I sit out three splitter days, take the antibiotics and the aspirin, pee on my fingers and watch the color slowly but surely return. I’ve decided to make a tentative foray back up the mountain wearing my killer 8000m mittens all the way from base camp and never, ever taking off the insulated trigger mitt liner that I’ve been wearing around base camp. I’ve also thrown half a dozen hand warmers into my pack. If that doesn’t work I’ll throw in the towel and descend. Game over.

But in the meantime I’ve got Frippe somewhere in the clouds attempting the impossible. “I’m leaving C2. Watch me.”

But due to the clouds I can’t watch anything except listen to the radio and hope for the best. Frippe is totally on his own. I scan the whiteout with the video camera, seeing nothing until finally I hear his voice on the radio—calm, cool, collected. “I’m through the rock band. Better than I thought. I’m on my way down.”

Down on the avy plain in the shadow of The Savage Mountain I punch the air and dance in circles. Frippe has unlocked two of the three major cruxes of the ski descent—a massive achievement and a major step towards the goal of skiing from the summit to base camp. The most difficult challenges—the narrow 60-degree couloir at 8300 meters (27,230 ft) known as The Bottleneck and, of course, just making it to the summit, a challenge that some of the world’s best mountaineers have failed to meet and that has taken the lives of many others—lie ahead but at this point I couldn’t be happier.

Gamow Bag

Gamow Bag

Back in base camp, we celebrate by scanning the weather forecasts and looking for a window. We’ve decided to pass on a far-from-ideal calm period on the 17th due to its 50 kph (31 mph) winds. We’re betting instead on a longer, better window forecast for the 23rd to the 25th. It’s a big gamble betting on a window 10 days away but after a lot of discussion we feel it’s our best chance.

In the meantime, we’ll head up for one last acclimatization trip, which will give me my second night at 7000 meters (22,966 ft) and Frippe his fourth. We’ll also see how my damaged fingers adapt: if all goes well, I’ll be ready for a summit push. If not, then my dream of climbing K2 is finished and Frippe’s quest to ski from the summit to base camp will be in jeopardy.

/Trey Cook

 

The Ski K2 Expedition would not be possible without the visionary support of: Dynastar, Tierra, Osprey, Hestra, Scarpa, Grivel, adidas Eyewear, Primus, Brunton, Exped, ATK Race, Ortovox, Garmin, Honey Stinger and Jamtport.

 


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