I don’t want to be ….
It’s the calm before that fierce storm and I’m ready! I’ve never been so ready to dance. Its been a life time of training, hard work, dedication, and commitment from all quarters personally but more importantly from family and a positive community to bring it all to this critical point on the greatest mountain on Earth; the mighty and beautiful K2!
So sitting in base camp, I can’t but be humbled on the eve of a summit push reflecting on the last rotation of 6 days of incredible tough, yet exhilarating climbing that sucked dry the life blood of my adrenaline filled veins. We left Basecamp on the 6th of July with heavily loaded packs filled with critical high altitude equipment needed to survive, my jaw still dragging along the glacier floor looking up in awe, knowing the statistics of the challenge ahead..it was frighteningly magical.
What a day to day dream of what could be, knowing I didn’t need a reason but just wishing the day to go on and on..I was free like a wild child. Several hours later, after negotiating the huge head wall arriving at Advanced Base Camp (ABC), I could only remember the shivering emotions of 2015; digging for days to salvage any remanence of my equipment after a ferocious avalanche struck and ended our climb even before our summit push got going. At ABC, staying here for the night “was I off my head”… I slept like a log.
Climb up to camp 1:
It’s the 7th July and 5am with a reasonable weather forecast giving the team a head start with a crisp underfoot up that 40% grade wall leading to camp 1. It’s a serious approach and your pretty committed but you’re also surrounded by the most beautiful range of mountains with Broad Peak to the fore. However, just after 4 hrs of climbing, sadly, K2 took its first life, living up to its title as the Savage Mountain. A comrade mountaineer and a guy I was eating butterscotch sweets with just two days prior, tumbled passed us, falling 1000 meters to his death….I was shook to my core, looking down seeing his lifeless body below…RIP Serge.
Checking and double checking my safety clippings in and out, we arrived at Camp One at 19.800ft and began kicking in platforms and lashing down storm proofing tents filled with oxygen bottles … not the most comfortable lay but then it’s K2. Boiling up snow for tea and adding the hot water to freeze dried Pad Thai mountain food was the evenings highlight. Two days at 19.800ft, my sleep was great & it was off to the next altitude, 21.500ft, however this route posed a whole new level of skill with huge vertical sections at this extreme altitude. It was savage but exciting climbing with higher and higher veins pumping with a rollercoaster of emotions.
Basecamp below was now a mere dot on the glacier.
Finally, there it was! A huge obstacle stood between me and my next camp, Famously known as “House Chimney,” a 60 meter vertical, three sided, knee knocking section filled with old ropes and a small flexible steel ladder that for some assists but for me was just an nuisance.. fuelled on a visual thumping heart rate at 20.790 ft it was a final 200 meter stagger into a welcomed Camp Two perched on the knife edge of the Abruzzi ridge.
Although tired and hungry, I was really strong and feeling very much in control of my physical & mental condition, even with the limited 50% oxygen available compared to 100% normally at sea level. This high camp was so exposed clipped in mandatory as a simple slip and your a gone, with only a large rock structure to the rear of the camp as avalanche protection it was just you at the mercy of Mother Nature and home for the next two nights.
Setting up the tent for the night:
Sleep was just alright with broken patterns brought on with symptoms of sleep apnea. Although these side effects are quite normal, my adoption to the higher altitude has been very positive after days of eating everything from dried eggs, dried chicken casserole & dried noodle soup.
Boiling up some water on K2:
What a great result there’s no science to back this up but I don’t believe that the body’s muscle memory recognises a return to altitude from previous expeditions. Setting off at 6am I returned back to basecamp retreating down that technical ridge line with enriched red blood cells of haemoglobin after 6 quality days on the k2.
Heavy load carrying:
Stashing my high altitude gear while depending allowed for a welcoming lightened load that added to a speedy rappelled return to what seemed like a 5* hotel at Basecamp.. and best of all i got a splash and dash needy wash on arrival … which is made up of a pan I got water and a bar of soap standing butt naked glacier style “it’s bad when you can smell yourself,” no joke!
So for now it’s all about rest, eating & repeat as we await a weather window that will allow for that elusive Summit in which we need 5 days of relatively clear days and nights for what Buzz Light Year calls “Infinity and Beyond!”
Basecamp looking up K2:
The attraction of this very different world gives you the power to be yourself. See…part of knowing where I’m going is knowing where I’m coming from. I don’t want to be anything other than what I’ve been trying to be lately. All I have to do is believe in myself and that’s peace of mind for me. I’m tired of looking around wondering what others think I need to do and who I’m supposed to be because finally I don’t want to be anything other than just me!
The perfect pose!!
I have to say, I’m so blown away by all the support and positive messages & prayers from all of you. It’s so uplifting! I am so proud to be Irish! So proud to be me!