Fotis Theocharis was aiming for a Broad Peak / K2 double this summer.
But things don’t often go as planned.
Here is a diary of his journey…
“We woke up around 06:00. We had our breakfast. Today is the last day of hiking and finishing in Askole village and then final destination for our day in Skardu. We started with Jerry Gore with slow and steady steps to enjoy the scenery. After about an hour of walking I see the horses stopped, I say traffic congestion from the horses!. However the congestion was due to the river being inflated and we had to get all our stuff out of the horses, pass holding rope from the rocks side in the river, where we had to take off our shoes and go through all our materials through this process. Horses had to go through another dangerous slippery trail without being loaded. This whole process lasted several hours. Then we got to the point where the cars were waiting for us. At this point I gave away mountaineering equipment. @salewa Greece will be worn quite a bit in baltoro Glacier. We ate lunch at Askole. When it was about to leave suddenly I see the whole village lined up outside our cars observing the dispute between drivers and organizer, the drivers wanted the fare up for Skardu three times…. Around there were too many little kids, went bought several packs of cookies and I distributed them. If I’m going to keep anything from this mission, it will be the smiles from the kids… Just outside the village, a landslide had become and the road was cut off. Other cars had come from the other side to pick us up. So we left the other cars, got our hands on things, walked through rice and streams to get to the other cars. As we sat on Karakorum’s spoiled road suddenly forward we faced some rocks that had fallen, we went out and started cleaning the road… I believe it’s easier to climb to K2 than access the road from skardu to Askole without something unexpected. Many times my soul went to ′′ Koulouri “! Tonight finds us at the hotel in Skardu, troubled, without hot water to take a bath. At night in my room I had two huge sersenas and I was chasing them to kick them out of the room, time went 03:00 to sleep…”
26th – 29th July
“I’m at camp 3, trying to take off my mountaineering uniform and go to sleep. I slept about an hour and about 06:00 in the morning I got ready and dealt with the elevation gap that I’m leaving for BC K2. He tells me wait for us to go together. I tell him I’m leaving. So I took my backpack and went downhill. I gradually started doing the rapels (breakdown), luckily it was morning even the snows were hard. After an hour I arrived at camp 2, there I found a Belgian climber waiting for his friends from Camp 3. He offered me cookies and we discussed what happened and didn’t climb to the top. Then dropped him off and moved on to Camp 1. My backpack full of stuff, very heavy. But despite the fatigue I didn’t understand anything. I reach camp 1, drink water and eat one last piece of a bar of cereal. It is now evident in camp 1, snow has melted from high temperatures and the rocks have appeared where they are ready. Going down very carefully, trying on the rocks to step like a cat so I don’t cause stone. From the rappels with the rope some stones come off and fall next to me whistling. Fatigue and stoning puts my mind working on red, intense stress not to get any stone on my head. Just above the crampon point is now a small waterfall the rope has been cut and a ′′ clone ′′ left of three. I’ve set the device (bucket) for rappels but I only have it as insurance without putting pressure on and coming down with arms and legs, just as we climb. Finally getting to crampon point, that’s where a bastazo from BC was waiting for me, he had come with a coca cola and cookies. We sat there for about three hours waiting for Ali (altitude vastazo) coming from camp 3. All the while we sat we watched stones fall. August is not suitable for large mountains, snow melts quickly from high temperatures and there are intense stones. Ali then came and we continued up to BC K2. It’s awesome how the scenery changed in a few days from the heat. (greenhouse effect?) Maybe). Getting to BC K2 the climate wasn’t the best. What had happened? Due to the death of my friend Rick Allen, the mission manager canceled the mission to K2. And all the altitude and customers came down from the mountain. Before my arrival three customers left pretty angry at the situation. So an attempt / hope in K2 went ′′ for a walk “. The only company that didn’t peak in K2 and Broad Peak only two customers peaked the first Summit push, using several bottles of supplementary oxygen, where one left with frostbite despite which for all the effort to climb and descent used about 7 bottles of oxygen! My day at BC K2, was full of conversations about mountains, missions, travel agencies / services. At first I felt sad, angry but then I left those feelings and had beautiful thoughts and new dreams!
The mountain is reinforcing character!
Waiting for the bastazos to come to leave BC K2 and take the way back… About two months here, climbed both mountains K2 and Broad Peak, slept in their arms, felt various emotions, new experiences. No peak, but as I’ve learned in my life, the top is just a moment while the whole process of getting to the top is the experience!
I feel happy to be at peaks of people’s hearts!!!”
“Dawn on the 05:30th of 24/7/21, am I the only Karakorum expeditions company to attempt the second window of weather for summit push. The manager will give me two bastazos to move things back up to camps. We started with positive energy and mood. Arriving at crampon point (5100 m) (spot where we put the special nails on our shoes to start climbing the mountain) one man tells me he feels exhausted and can’t keep going. I tell him go rest. Immediately loaded things up. (supplemental oxygen, food etc). My backpack weighed over 17 pounds. The other bastazian Ali also had extra weight. Originally the goal was to go to camp 2 (6162 m) to sleep. We arrived relatively early despite the weight. Thanks to the good acclimatization of the previous days. During our stay at camp 2, olive steadily snow to have clean water to drink. At night we slept relatively well but unfortunately the base of the tent was not straight but lightly tilted. I also used an aluminum blanket so we don’t get soaked underneath. The morning of the next day we started for Camp 3. Overall I was feeling healthy and strong. We arrived at camp 3 with enough heat. the strong sun combined with the reflection in the snow melted us. Cleaned our tent and sorted things out. Same day I learned that a recent friend of mine passed away in K2, shocked me… The schedule was to rest and on the same day night to head upstairs. At Camp 3 (7030 m) there were several people but no one wanted the same day to go for the top. So I chose to go next day in the evening so I’m not alone on the day of the climb but there are people around for more safety. I didn’t sleep well at night, stage base made me feel like a final (sigma). On 26/7 I’m trying to drink enough water, eat good and rest the best I can. Ali told me he doesn’t feel good to join me in trying to top, he feels leg pain. At 19:30 I’m getting ready, wearing my feather uniform, preparing my backpack (three bottles of oxygen, 2.5 liters of water, cereal bars, wireless, satellite phone, extra battery for lens, sponsor flags and a fleece) .. The reason I got three bottles of oxygen is that I’ll be alone with no altitude bastazo and I want to feel as safe as possible. 20:00 starting for the top, in front of me people I pass until I reach the first one ahead, is Saulius from Lithuania, together we open steps. Until we reach 7300m there is no rope. From there then they find a rope and I keep trying to get it out of the frozen snow. Up to 7500 +/- with enough difficulty pulling with zumar and in several places the snow is deep and making it difficult for me to pull out the rope. After 7500 m +/- it’s not strong at all, the snow is frozen and the rope doesn’t come out. I’m ahead with Saulius at 7600 on a slope with about 40 +/- degrees. As I move on to some places I listen boom. Until at one point a little close to a serak place I can see a snow slab breaking along with a subcooked sound. I don’t like this at all Saulius communicates via radio with the rest of the climbers waiting back. In front of me the serak, on a slab of snow that has formed a huge crack. I feel like something is wrong. Behind are some Russian professional skiers with snow skiers in the backpacks. They take the avalanche test on the spot. The snow is extremely unstable and deep. Between the first Summit push and now there have been snowfall days. We have all decided that it is extremely dangerous to continue with these conditions. In addition that the rope did not exist. On the slope we went one by one per 20 meters and too slow to not create an avalanche. At 7300 m where there is the supposed camp 4 we all sat together to rest. Then we arrived at Camp 3 visibly upset but at least we paid attention to our safety. The mountains are always there!”
“Woke up with various thoughts. I had my breakfast. Everyone wants to go to K2, this is impossible, not enough room. Also no ropes over camp 4. Some just want to go up to Camp 4 for the experience. I think the season for K2 is a bit over. Can’t all this world fit into Camp 1 and 2. My attempt to climb to K2 might not be the best option. Lots of people, lots of space, ropes are not ready, weather window is volatile enough. Today the weather bulletin says sun in K2 and is closed by clouds! This afternoon I will decide how to move from tomorrow. There will be an update on my page. It’s the last week of our mission and we must act!!!!!
* Together with Captain Kassim, Liaison officer we are monitoring the developments…”
“Tomorrow I start the climb to BROAD PEAK!!!”
“Another day in BC K2. Cloudy and a little chilly. Mountains above 7000 m are closed from the clouds. The sun somewhere makes its appearance. Our body warms us, because my mind will burn with many thoughts. K2 or Broad Peak? The helicopter for our friends didn’t come today either…”
“Stress is obvious to all of us. While we shouldn’t normally think as customers, the basic things. Had a briefing with our mission manager. Something doesn’t suit me right for the whole organization. However, I am taking my measures!!! I only have one chance, I will strive for the best but as safe as possible for climbing and descent. Today is celebration day for Muslims Happy Eid. They made a pineapple flavored cake and Nutella, we had a beautiful moment of joy with the bastazos, fixing team and son of the bereaved Ali Sadpara (winter k2 2021), Sajid.”
“Woke up this morning, went to breakfast and see Fahad who had arrived at midnight. His hands have been damaged by frostbite. We are all happy that everyone is now in BC K2 alive!. During the day various discussions about wrong handling and lack of organization. Trying to see what plan we can do at K2. K2 is neither Everest nor Broad Peak. There are few camping seats and an excellent degree of difficulty, which if anything similar to Broad Peak happens, the tragedy will be certain. I’m surprised that there are people who simply first mountain was Everest and came to ′′ conquer ′′ K2. Some don’t have an ice route but not a rock leader even to an easy degree of difficulty. They believe that with money they can do anything and safely. This proved not to be the case (see. Broad Peak). Two people will leave our mission by helicopter.”
18th -19th July
“Woke up to Nana Mouskouri’s song, ‘ Away to Kathmandu ‘. Then had my breakfast with Jerry and Jordi. Unfortunately things didn’t go so well for trying to climb Broad Peak, lots of errors and poor logistics management on the part of the organizer company. I hope this will be a lesson for K2. Although as far as I know it takes a lot of work there too. Glad I didn’t even get into the climbing process with the background of the mistakes made in the effort of the other climbers. Night turns into nightmare, tragic moments, tragic figures. It was dark and there were still people on the edge before the top. They were stuck. Stuck (waiting) at the scene because two different accidents happened, fell into a crevasse (ice fault) two people at different time trying to release them. A Russian woman and a Korean. The Korean before falling while she was already down the Russian woman wanted to pass, was told that they should first release the Russian woman, he insisted on passing and died… News from one moment was good and the next moment the worst. You didn’t know what to believe Some were crying. Jordi was ready to rescue.
“All night the conversations what might have happened, the mistakes, the fact that there are our friends up there was sad and none of us slept for a second. We’re all together, customers, some bastazos, BC staff in a stage with a wireless. At 05:00 in the morning we had the information that a helicopter was coming to the rescue, Jordi was already ready, he still wanted three people. Got ready in my uniform and backpack and waiting for the helicopter. Couldn’t sleep thinking some people are in danger. We had to act. Eventually we learn that they are coming down (finally half truth and that). We learned that the helicopter would finally arrive at 09:00 (finally we didn’t have to)…. we did see some flashlights coming down. About 07:00 I get a message on my satellite system from Fahad that he slept outside at 7800 m and needs oxygen and water. With him are people from the fixing team. They are also overwhelmed… They are already 15:00 and have not even reached camp 3. Their return is extremely slow. We are afraid… At 18:47 I get a message that he is at camp 3. They are all well but completely tired. There are some bastazis and they have taken them oxygen, water and food…
“We saw some of our own people were coming down from the mountain for BC K2. We were waiting for them. Strong emotions were created from all the tragic history of attempting to climb. Late afternoon arrived Saeed who had climbed to the top. His wife was looking forward to him and when she saw him she ran to hug him. How beautiful to be loved and eagerly awaited!!! Now at BC K2, we are waiting for Fahad. Who was going to get them here tomorrow… At dinner we were all awake with our faces clearly overwhelmed.
“Sadly the Broad Peak situation was not the only thing we have been concerned about. On the morning of 19/7 one comes and tells us that three people (HAP) are in K2 and spoke via radio about a large avalanche between C3 – C2 and then communication went missing… some people went to check the situation there. Luckily everything is fine!
“On the afternoon of 19/7 come some gasped from BC K2 but from another company that an elevation gap (HAP) has broken its appendicitis! Immediately went to the spot. Paula came who is a doctor. Finally she had kidney colic. (He didn’t drink enough water and did heavy work). The necessary instructions and recommendation for hospitalization were given.”
“I woke up better than I was the day before. Thinking about getting dressed to start straight for camp 3, it’s my spontaneity, but instantly something like that would be completely dangerous. Opening up my tent, sunny, hot weather. Outside listening to the mission manager talking to the radio with the fixing team. They’re out of rope, they didn’t do proper calculations. I learned they would come down below to cut from easy rope track pieces to take it with them to fir extra. Thinking it was better to stay here in the end! One reason I don’t like commercial missions is that you ′′ hang ′′ on to the fate of the fixing team. Maybe in the future I will try lower peaks, untouched. After all, the creation or adventure of a new route is nothing else. Then while I was at the Internet site, I saw someone coming down the mountain. It was Jerry Gore, feeling tired so he decided not to attempt to go higher. Later in the afternoon, I saw several coming down, I learned that a vastazos was in bad shape, he was hit by altitude disease and was taken down. During dinner I encouraged Jerry with positive thoughts and that he made the right decision. Told him we going together after K2. When I went to bed in my tent I saw one coming down the mountain, I heard it was Jordi, coming down like a rocket. What had happened I didn’t learn…”
“Supposed to be starting for Camp 2 Broad Peak today, feeling better but not summit push. I am alone in Basecamp of our company. Everyone left for summit push. In the morning I ate an omelette and bread. My will is so strong but protecting my health more important. I’m staying at BC K2. To fully recover then my goal is K2. We talked with the manager and he said the best thing to do is try Broad Peak after K2. I may feel sad but I’m here and counting!!!”
“Couldn’t get up, tendency for vomiting, dizziness and extraordinary weakness. Didn’t eat breakfast. Afternoon I ate a handful of rice and a small bread-pie. In the afternoon I was drinking water so my body wouldn’t dehydrate. Guess the altitude disease hit me with time delay. Melted all day on stage like I had a hangover from bad hangover…”
“I had a restless sleep at night. Woke up this morning with my lips glued, sunburned because I only put lip balm without sun protection… had my breakfast. Today the weather is better with partial sunshine but with plenty of wind.”
“Woke up to the sound of falling snow on my tents. Soon I got up and went to the dining room for breakfast. Today we had briefing on how everyone would move up the mountain (Broad Peak). My shot moving straight to camp 2 in the next few days. Akbar will be with me who will help me achieve the goal, thanks to the bastazos and fixing team, it is more likely to become the top. In the evening we had various conversations about climbing style etc.”
“Up at 04:35, melted snow to drink water but also to take with me. I ate two frozen cereal bars. Outside it was strong air. I wore my clothes and the storm mask too. I got my Piolet and started coming down, Paola was close to me. When I found the steady ropes, I continued by myself, with repeated rappels passing through Camp 2, Camp 1 to the end of the slope. Continued myself through the glacier as the BC K2. Glacier is supposed to be marked with ′′ hoodies ′′ (stones on top of the other) so you don’t get lost. But in a glacier that melts the trail of the course is never the same!!! My acclimatisation is over and I’m ready for summit push.”
“My toes, been frozen all night. I wore the double boots and for a very long distance my fingers were frozen. In the morning I was very cold. Arms and legs all frozen, didn’t want to stop to get the biggest gloves out of the backpack. My rotation backpack is Gregory Alpinisto 50 L, very easy to use and hard-headed. Me and Paola have one elevation gap each, unfortunately today one of the two vastazos got sick so I carried all my stuff so I wouldn’t force the other with more burdens. Continuing to Camp 3, up to a certain point I notice there are no steady ropes anymore and we must continue. Taking out my Piolet (mountaineering hoe) and with slow steps I reach the supposed camp 3. There were no scenes ready for our company, so we digged and cleaned the space to set the tent. After a while Rick came, I layered my substrate on a snowy pedestrian and sat gazing at the beautiful view at 7000 m. I didn’t sleep well at night, they warm up. I didn’t use supplemental oxygen.”
“05:30 departure from BC K2 to Camp 2 camp in Broad Peak. This time I had enough cereal bars and food. I got my own gas tank to melt snow and drink enough water. At low cost companies you have to be ready for any unexpected in logistics. With me is Paola from Finland, mother of two kids about my age. Strong and with discipline. We will find Rick and Jerry at camp2. We reach the point where the steady ropes start and this time I don’t use them until Camp 1. A few minutes stop to rest at camp 1 and continue to Camp 2. route moves in a snow field alternately between rocks. The presence of a previous avalanche makes me not complain at all and notice everything around me. Arriving at camp 2 found an almost flat surface to sleep on stage. My sleep was good. Alone on stage, melting snow, making food and thinking about tomorrow.”
“Today the day washed clothes in the glacier river 🥶 (my hands froze). One of the unexpected things of the day was laying on stage, someone ′′ parked ′′ outside two yaks, something between cow and ox with plenty of hair. Then they took one and took it to the river and in front of me his massacre happened. I said I will never eat meat again! Then went to get my backpack ready for tomorrow going for the last acclimation at Broad Peak. Specifically the goal of tomorrow’s Camp 2 6300m.”
“Day of rest and relaxation, basically we never relax. Cleaned up my tent.”
“Woke up around 07:00. The body battery on the clock says 100 %! Had enough sleep probably the best night of sleep I’ve had so far on mission. Opened the tent door, all white, it had snowed about 7 cm of snow. With snow you can’t see dirt (trash in the mountains).”
“I am at K2 Base camp after three nights spending at Camp 1 on K2.”
“At Broad Peak Camp 1”
“I have reached K2 Base Camp.”
“We are on our way from Urdukas to Goro II.”
“Unfortunately today we stayed at Urdukas Camp due to morning snowing that porters refused to move to Goro II.”
“I have reached Urdukas Camp.”
“We are at Paiju Camp going to Urdukus Camp.”
“8am in the morning, it’s our breakfast time. Going down to the lobby, eating, and waiting to get started. At breakfast I met a couple from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saeed Al will try the same program as me and his wife Nayla, aspires to become the first UAE woman to climb Broad Peak.
“After breakfast I was waiting in my room to get called to leave, our schedule is to go to Askole – Jhola Camp. Door knocking, I say finally, I open and he tells me today our transition is cancelled, we will leave tomorrow! The reason is that we are waiting for liaison officer from Islamabad to get the permits we need for the mountains. Unexpected things are common in missions. So I didn’t lose my mood. After this we have arranged to go to nearby Satpara lake which is located at an altitude of 2626 m. We took some pictures. It was time to go back, the well known trio now, we decided to walk back to town but before that we went for a walk higher so we could get a little more altitude to help our acclimation.
Finally liaison officer came, tomorrow we will start moving. In shaa allah they say here too (let’s see if it works).”
“Morning wake up found me in the toilet, why did I want the cold water bath! It’s rest day and prep day because we’re supposed to be off to the mountain tomorrow. So again the trio (Fotis, Jerry, Rick) we went shopping at the Skardu shops. Shopped the latest essentials needed for shipping needs. We went to the mobile phone store to pick up the local SIM card to get in touch with our own people. The afternoon finds me in my room sorting the bags, some will go straight to Base Camp and one will follow me on my way to base camp. Lots of things to settle and get things sorted because the weather is forecast to rain at low altitude and snow higher. All ready, feels good that tomorrow we will start…”
“The hot water supposed to be 9 to 12 in the morning was cold and unfortunately for the next two days I had a stomach issue, the problem here is the lack of essential elements. Took my bath, washed some clothes on hand and then left along with my other two companions for a walk to town so we could see and explore the shops.”
“Oh my goodness, oh my god what a road this! Have you seen what collided cars look like at the luna park huh but no colliding yet… OMG the road was closed and we had to wait for it to open. Me and Jerry decided to walk, walked two and a half hours until he found us the car and continued. We have seen closely the explosion that workers are doing to broaden the road and the machinery are constantly working.
“First impression I get so far, locals are very friendly even Pakistani army soldiers. We arrived after 15+ hours travelling at the hotel!!!
“An unrepeatable experience.
“The journey to Skardu is two days of driving through the Karakorum highway (KKH). It is considered the eighth miracle of the world. Watch various videos on the internet and you will understand…
“Wake up at 05:00 in the morning to load our stuff in the car. I sat in the front seat to take videos and photos. The driver of the car, a 25-year-old, who has two wives, one is 18 years old with two children already and the other woman of 15 years old. He told me he had two left to go.
“We arrived at Batta Kundi village. Together on the mission I’m with two other great, famous and true alpinists Rick Allen (with a Piolet award) and Jerry Gore with some very difficult climbs in the world.
“Jerry is diabetic and dedicates climb to Pakistan for his foundation Action4Diabetes.org. We’ll be all three alone together on the way to base camp. Others will come in the following days, because they have problems with flights through Qatar to Pakistan. At least I was lucky to catch and my flight was not cancelled.
“After eating we went for a walk in the village only we found ourselves on the opposite side to enjoy the view of the village from above… evening in our room while talking and laughing and having fun, we said time to lay down because in the morning we would wake up at dawn to continue our journey. As soon as I sat on the bed I got soaked, the mattress, pillow even the curtains next to me… the journey to K2 is not easy for the basics either.
“Arrival at Islamabad International Airport. Checking for Covid-19 using the rapid test method. Really unorganized, just took the test, and found a guy stamping that I was checked and left.
“Then found the employees from the office hosting the mission, they told me I’ll wait a while for two more customers to come so we can all go to the hotel… 06:00 was at the hotel! Same day in the afternoon we had a briefing for our transition to Skardu. It’s the town we’ll prepare our things for our departure to the mountain. Usually climbers go by plane to Skardu to save the inconvenience but we will drive. We came for adventure!”
“The moment I was waiting for has arrived. Since 2020 been postponed, months went by fast and 2021. came. Really how much effort did it take to get this far? What is it that we chase in the mountains? My mind is quiet… dreaming.
No matter how many mountain conquests we do, the real conquests are those of our own people’s hearts. Those who truly love us. I feel lucky to have people to love me, I believe it’s my best conquest.”