Thursday, July 31, 2008

Trek to K2 Base Camp

Another dispatch from the K2 Tall Mountain trip with Karhu ambassador Dave Watson...

The “Rest Day” today was a trek to K2 base camp to visit some friends. The team hiked about an hour and one half across the glacier to get to K2 base camp. They had heard from the porters that an American was trekking in to base camp. It turned out to be fellow Everest summitter and former teammate, George Dijmarescu who had arrived at K2 base camp. When Dave called into the weekly radio show, they were hanging out and drinking coffee with George and two sherpas he had with him – all part of the team that summitted Mt. Everest with Chuck and Dave in 2004.

The radio show call-in was excellent today. The podcasts are usually available about a week after the show – go to the sponsor link, radio, Utah outdoors and pick the date you want to download.

Dan McCann was in the studio to tell the story of his fall. When asked what happened, Dan said that he was climbing amidst substantial rock fall and because of some moral issues, he was not attached to the fixed ropes. He is re-thinking those issues. Apparently there was a Korean team ahead of them and they were adding to the natural rock fall on the route. He moved off the fixed rope route thinking that it would be safer to be out of the “shooting gallery”. The route he moved onto was mostly hard ice, and he lost his footing.

Dan briefly described how he thought the injuries were more severe than they turned out to be and how the adrenaline of the situation clouded his perspective at that moment. He thought he had a broken arm, multiple breaks in the ankle, some broken ribs. The arm was not broken, but he has a torn ligament which is scheduled to be surgically fixed next week. In addition he had lost a lot of skin from his arm and experienced some blood loss from his face at the time. It was warm and he was climbing in a short sleeved shirt, so his arms were exposed and thus he lost a lot of skin. They asked him about getting out of the mountains and back to the USA including the hospital in Islamabad. He described how he got a Pakistani army helicopter ride back to Skardu, then a commercial flight to Islamabad and the hospital where he was checked out initially, before returning home to the USA.

Dave talked about the good skiing from Camp 2 and the on-air hosts relayed that Dan was really bummed to hear about that.

For more dispatches and info, see all the K2 Tall Mountain posts here or visit the K2 Tall Mountain site.

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Monday, July 28, 2008

Waiting for the Weather

Another dispatch from the K2 Tall Mountain trip with Karhu ambassador Dave Watson...

The team is still in base camp waiting for the weather to clear. The satellite phone connection was short and the info brief. The high-altitude porter has been dismissed as he needs to leave base camp to seek a remedy for some health ailments. He has been unable to climb or carry loads, so Andy, Dave, and Chuck have been carrying their own loads up the mountain to establish Camp 2.

Chuck described the river crossing that they need to do every time they go from base camp to the mountain or vise versa. When it’s frozen in the morning, they can walk across it, but later in the day, it’s a raging river - Class 5 whitewater conditions. The Austrian/Slovenian team has rigged up a Tyrolean traverse to enable the return crossing, but they are not going to be there for much longer, so the team doesn’t’t know what will happen when they leave. A Tyrolean Traverse is a mountaineering technique originally used to access isolated rock spires, that is also used to cross rivers. A rope or cable is fixed under tension high enough above the water to stay safe and dry, and the expedition members attach themselves to a pulley and a back-up carabiner and either pull themselves and their equipment across, or they can be pulled across by their team mates with a second rope, once the first climber has made it to the other side.

The team has been unable to get their laptop battery charged with the solar chargers so far. They’ve enlisted help from some electrical-savvy guys from other expeditions, but haven’t been able to store enough energy to fuel the computers. They have been able to recharge their iPods and small devices, though.

The plan is to hang out and rest for a day or two until the weather clears again. Then they will continue the acclimatization process.

For more dispatches and info, see all the K2 Tall Mountain posts here or visit the K2 Tall Mountain site.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Boys at Base Camp

Continuing the K2 Tall Mountain updates from Karhu ambassador Dave Watson this week...

The team returned to base camp today after spending two days acclimatizing at altitudes over 20,000 feet. They ferried loads of equipment to establish Camp 2. They slept in the Slovenian tent the first night and then, per a previous agreement with the Slovenians, they took down one of the Slovenian tents and put up their tent on a platform for the second night. They weather didn’t look good in the morning, so they decided it was time to descend, make the weekly radio call, and take a couple days off.

The weather is really warm and the snow pack is a lot less than normal this year. What goes along with that is that they are encountering a lot of rock fall. The highest risk is when they are moving up with other people ahead of them. Every step they take can potentially dislodge a rock that falls and potentially dislodges other rocks. The risk is greater on the ascent since there are other people ahead of them, but on the descent, they can choose to be last and carefully follow other teams down.

The plan is to rest for a day or two, and if the weather is right, head back up on the mountain. They will head for Camp 2 with a plan to establish Camp 3. They want to spend a night at Camp 3 before the summit attempt. Without high-altitude porters, the team is carrying the gear and it’s taking a couple of trips for each stage. Their high-altitude porter has been under the weather.

The team is happy to be back in base camp with their cook preparing good and appetizing meals. Ishmael has cooked in high-end restaurants before and is very clean and creative (he’s even been carving vegetables into decorative shapes for them!). They had a meal centered around yak today. The cooks for the various expeditions have pooled resources to buy and share some fresh protein sources for the teams. They will be eating yak for a while, but there are plans for fresh lamb in the future!

For more dispatches and info, see all the K2 Tall Mountain posts here or visit the K2 Tall Mountain site.

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Dan's a Lucky Man

Good news this morning on Dan McCann’s status since his return to the States:

Dan’s mom reports that Dan is back home and has been checked out for his injuries. The news is much better than expected! His ankle is sprained, not broken. He has damaged tendons and/or ligaments in his thumb, but the arm is not broken. He does have a couple cracked ribs. His left arm took the brunt of it, and is very swollen and abraded. He has a lot of healing to do, so all your best wishes and prayers are needed and appreciated.
Click for all dispatches from the trip:

For more info, please visit: K2 Tall Mountain

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Back In Base Camp

Continuing the K2 Tall Mountain updates from Karhu ambassador Dave Watson this week...

The team is back in base camp after a couple days on the mountain (Broad Peak). They climbed to Camp 2 and then back to Camp 1 to spend the night. Their tent at Camp 1 is on the ‘Perch’ which is on top of a pinnacle and gives them a bird’s eye view of their surroundings. Chuck said it has the feel of a big wall bivy and is just awesome. Tent sites at Camp 2 are in short supply, so they have teamed up with a Slovenian expedition to share their tent and/or site. Their climbing schedules are such that they should be able to alternate which team is at the site.

Everyone is feeling well, except their high-altitude porter, who is feeling a bit sick. Interestingly, the high-altitude porter is the son-in-law of Karim, who was the sirdar (or sardar – the native leader of the porters) on Chuck and Andy’s expedition to Shipton’s Spire.

The weather has been good so far. It’s really warm during the days and the glacier is melting in base camp. When the sun goes down, they quickly get into the down gear. They need to move a few of the tents to accommodate the changing surroundings. The Marmot Lair (an 8-person tent) has a list due to the melting, but it is a great base camp shelter. So far, it has been a staging area for gear, a storage area for gear, a place to hang out, and a makeshift hospital.

So what’s next? They will take a rest day at base camp then head back up the mountain for two days at altitude. Dave is getting his skis ready to take up on the mountain. They will try to stay two days at Camp 2 with a carry of some gear to Camp 3 (7,300 meters). Then back to base camp. They all want to spend a night at Camp 3 before making a summit attempt.

Broad Peak from base camp:

Click for all dispatches from Dave's trip:

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Monday, July 21, 2008

Rescue on Broad Peak

A bunch of new dispatches coming this week from Dave Watson and the K2 Tall Mountain Expedition in Pakistan. The wires have been quiet for a little while following a scary fall and injury to Dan McCann, one of the skiers on the trip. Dan is safe and healing following a rescue pretty high on the mountain by the rest of his teammates. We’re wishing safe travel in the mountains for all of them. Here’s the July 6th post from Dave on

On July 3, Linda received a call from Chuck about 11 am EST. “How’s it going?” she asked. “Not good,” he responded.

They were at base camp and in the middle of a rescue scenario. Dan McCann took a fall on Broad Peak and sustained serious injuries. He fell about 500 m (1,500 ft.) and stopped on one of the few patches of soft snow on the mountain – 50 m (150 ft.) from a 3000 ft. drop off the side of the mountain. Chuck, Dave and Andy managed a high altitude rescue of Dan, lowering him some 3000 ft off the mountain, no small feat, when every snow anchor has to safely sustain a working rescue load. The accident happened around noontime, and they were back in base camp by about 7pm.

There, they were met by a doctor from the Iranian expedition who helped to take care of his injuries. It appears that he has injuries to his arm and ankle and possibly some ribs, lacerations on the face and arms, but no life-threatening injuries. A helicopter airlift was scheduled for the next morning to evacuate Dan to Skardu.

The team was up again after a few hours sleep to prepare the Landing Zone for the helicopter and share some time together while they waited for the helicopter to arrive.

The logistics for the evacuation couldn’t have gone any better. He was off the mountain and on his way to more medical help in less than 24 hrs. The Global Rescue Service, with help from Karakorum Magic Mountains, managed to get him on one of the two flights each week (weather permitting) out of Skardu and then the same (or next) day on to Islamabad, where he received more medical assistance at a hospital. The last news was that flights were being arranged back to the states for the following day.

After a day of packing Dan’s personal belongings to send out with porters for shipment back to the USA, the team was formulating plans for their next steps. Another day of rest was needed by all, so the plan was to go back up Broad Peak the day after that, weather permitting. They have established an advanced base camp at Camp 1 with the help of the high altitude porter. They will climb toward Camp 2 (6,200 meters) and then return to Camp 1 to spend the night to acclimatize and start to work their way up the mountain. If the mountain doesn’t feel right, they will retreat to base camp and move on to K2. If everyone feels strong and the weather cooperates, they will continue the climb on Broad Peak.

At Chuck’s request, Linda contacted Brian Block, the fifth team member planning to join up for the K2 portion of the expedition, to inform him of the situation. He expressed his concern for Dan and also confirmed that he will not be joining the team due to exciting work opportunities. At his point, he would have to fly on the 5th of July and return by August 4th for a work commitment, leaving only12-14 days on K2, which… would be nice for trekking but not realistic for climbing the peak.

Click on the K2 Tall Mountain label to see all the dispatches from Dave's trip:

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Escaping the Village

It might be 70 and sunny out today, but in the Southern Hemisphere winter is quickly getting underway. Telemark instructor and guide Tom Gellie sent us this trip report from a recent tour in Australia to enjoy…

Charlotte Pass Village is a small alpine resort located in the heart of the Snowy Mountains, Australia. The village is completely snowbound during winter and only accessible by oversnow transport. It is surrounded by gnarly looking snowguns and at its peak can accommodate 600 guests. It’s the perfect place to work if you like that real community feel, and it’s my home during the Australian winter – only a stones throw away from what I believe is the best backcountry terrain in Australia.

(Tom Gellie heads out on the first tour of the year. Photos courtesy of Tom Gellie.)

I teach telemark and alpine skiing here and wash dishes to help with the airfare back to Canada each year. Last weekend my good friend Olivier and I managed to escape the village and head out for our first tour of the season. It has been a slow start for snow down here and earlier in the week we finally got 50cm so were keen to get out there. The weather on Saturday was bluebird with only a few clouds rolling in. We rolled out of bed, put the skins on and were off to ski Mt Clarke and Mt Northcote.

Mt Clarke has some nice steep, granite flanked chutes that are always great to get the adrenaline going. The snow looked very firm and wind packed from the storm but was surprisingly fantastic... almost spring-like. We both dropped in and enjoyed our first decent turns for the winter. One of the biggest differences with touring in Oz as opposed to most other countries is the low avalanche danger. We have a very stable snow pack due to the common above-zero daytime temps and below-zero night temps. This doesn’t come without a cost though as the snow conditions often become very icy.

(Snow starting to fill in the terrain.)

With the first run under our belts it was time to enjoy a ham and cheese sandwich and fresh fruit in the warmth of the Australian sun. From Clarke we skinned up the ridge and through Moraine Pass to Mt Northcote. There were some difficult spots along the way where we experienced some very icy sections. I’m sure we must have looked more like Bambi learning to walk rather than competent skiers.

(Oliver dropping in.)

On top of Northcote you get a great view back to the southern state of Victoria, still green with no snow cover, and the rest of the Main Range all white and treeless. We both smiled and agreed it was well worth the hike and nice to have escaped the village. The Northcote bowl is wide, open and asks to be skied fast. Leaving nothing but a couple of ski tracks, we made our way back to Charlotte Pass to enjoy ourselves a cold Aussie beer. It was great to be back skiing the Main Range of Australia, the place it all started for me, and I can’t wait for next weekend. I hear there’s a half-meter forecasted!

(Tom threads it through the granite.)

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Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Dog Days

There’s still some summer corn to be harvested here in the PNW, but the dog days of summer are on us, with backpacking trips on the coast and summer biking tempting even the most intrepid skiers. Firing up a little stoke for a Tuesday morning is Dog Days 08, a mid-winter edit from Karhu skier JT Robinson and friends at Vertical Integration.

We might be in the thick of summer, but each day gets us back closer to powder again.

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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Still Skiing in the North Cascades

Despite the high summer heat wave that fell over the weekend, there’s still skiing in the Pacific Northwest. Karhu engineer Eben Sargent shared a couple photos from XCD skiing last week on the Forbidden Tour.

(There's still clean snow up high on the glaciers. Photos by Eben Sargent)

Long summer days, golden light, smooth corn (a couple suncups), and green valleys below… what could be better?

More photos from Eben here.

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