Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Base camp!

It is great to eventually be at our our base camp in the Charakusa valley. I think it is easily the most beautiful base camp I have ever stayed at. Situated on the moraine alongside the Charakusa glacier below K7 and directly across from K6, there’s no shortage of amazing views. It’s just a massive play ground for alpinists and rock climbers, amazing!
Base camp in the Charakusa Valley - a room with a view!

The journey from Skardu to base camp was fairly uneventful. The jeep ride up to Hushe first along the Karakoram High Way and then up the Hushe valley was bumpy and dusty, but went by fairly quickly. Once in Hushe we sorted all the gear into 25kg loads for the porters to set off with the next day. The locals in Hushe were all so welcoming and friendly towards us. It is a real shame to hear how few expeditions and trekking groups have passed through this year since the terrible attack at Nanga Parbat and everyone is keen to assure us of our safety in this valley. It really is having a big effect on the local communities and a reason why most of the village men turned up hoping to be chosen as porters to take us into base camp.

The view down the Hushe Valley and the wheat fields
One of the many bridges we crossed on the drive up to Hushe
The local kids muck in to help unload the jeeps

The two day trek from Hushe with an overnight stop at Saicho was so hot, but a 4.45am start yesterday got us to base camp before the worst of the heat and let the porters easily get back to Hushe that day. It is the middle of Ramadan at the moment so everyone is fasting - no food or drink between sun up and sun down. I am truly amazed by how the porters managed to carry the loads through the heat with no water, it certainly made me and Jon feel a bit awkward stopping for drinks and eating around them.

Porters heading out of Hushe with Mashabrum in front
Which way are we off to Jon?
The porters heading up to Base Camp on the second day
Walking alongside the Charakusa glacier (photo – Jon Griffith)
Ali, one of our cooks, chilling with the porters before they head back to Hushe
Jon taking a chilly dip in a glacier pool below K6, yes it was very cold!!

Today we headed up the Charakusa glacier to have a look at Link Sar, there’s no need to go anywhere to look at K6 as it dominates the view from base camp. Although you can’t get to see much of Link Sar, it was good to have a look around and try to take it all in, it really is an impressive valley with massive granite pillars and big alpine faces everywhere, so much to do! Jon thinks everything is a lot drier than last year which is a bit of a shame, but nothing to worry about and it is great not having to suss out the approaches with Jon’s knowledge from last year. The only annoying thing is we seem to have arrived towards the end of a really good weather window, but hopefully it will last a couple more days to allow us to get out and start the acclimatization over the next few days.

Jon dwarfed by the massive north face of K6
At the head of the Charakusa glacier trying to get a view of the summit of Link Sar, its somewhere back there! (photo – Jon Griffith)

Friday, 26 July 2013

Days in Skardu

Jon and I have spent the last couple of days in Skardu, the small mountain town most expeditions heading into the Karakoram start from. Set along the banks of the massive Indus River which flows from the heart of the Karakoram down the entire length of Pakistan to the Arabian Sea, Skardu is a dusty place with the man-made irrigation systems breathing green life into the otherwise rocky and barren landscape.

Landing in Skardu on after the flight from Islamabad
View from the hotel down towards the river
The mighty Indus River, flowing all the way through Pakistan to the Arabian Sea
Jon taking an afternoon stroll down along the Indus
Today we visited Ghulam’s (our agent, Blue Sky Treks & Tours) house and went over the food our that Ali, our happy cook, has bought for our next seven weeks in the Charakusa Valley, adding extras and getting rid the unwanted bits. Let’s just say there is going to be a lot of rice being eaten in the next couple of months! A whirlwind tour of Skardu this afternoon buying up last minute supplies and getting our trekking permits for the approach finished the day off before hurrying back to the comfort of fan cooled rooms to escape the heat, the sun is so powerful here, so hot.

 Ticking off the expedition food (photo - Jon Griffith)
Jon and Ali going through the food
Wandering through the bazaar in Skardu
Tomorrow we have an early start and a six hour jeep ride up to Hushe, the small mountain village at the end of the road. From Hushe we will start the two day approach to our Base Camp in the Charakusa Valley and eventually get to see our objectives, Link Sar and K6. After all the ups and downs of the last few weeks of organizing the expedition we’re both pretty excited to be off and seeing our objectives soon.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Pakistan bound!

Well we are eventually off!

As I write this Jon is already in the air somewhere and I will be flying out this evening to Islamabad to meet up with him in the morning.  We'll hopefully be flying straight up to Skardu to get all the final stuff sorted and then start the approach to the Charakusa Valley which will be our home for the next 6 weeks or so right under Link Sar and K6, our objectives for the expedition.

It feels like everything has been against us so far with this trip and I'll be completely honest that I was loosing motivation for it in the last couple of weeks.  The terrible terrorist attack on Nanga Parbet base camp put a lot of doubt on the trip and in my head.  Luckily we had time to make a sensible rather than rushed decision and it has taken time and a lot of chatting through with family and loved ones as well as friends with a lot of experience of the area for me to get it clear in my head that I still wanted to go.  Thank you to everyone who has listened and chatted to me about this for the last few weeks, it was a big decision to make and I'm happy I'm making the right one and that my family and friends understand why I am still going.

For a knowledgeable article on the back ground and politics behind some of the unrest in Pakistan have a read of Steve Swenson's blog http://steveswensonsblog.blogspot.fr/2013/06/attack-on-climbers-in-pakistan.html

Eventually after missing our first flights last Saturday (due to a lack of Visa) and wasting a lot of time at the Pakistan High Commission in Bradford I received my Visa on Monday and the psyche is back!

I'll be e-mailing updates back as regularly as possible which will get posted on here and on The North Face's new local news page here http://localnews.thenorthfacejournal.com/category/united-kingdom/