This year Garrett Madison was back guiding K2 with his team.
Besides Garrett Madison, the other US climbers included Conan Bliss, Alexander Pancoe and Chase Allan Merriam.
Other climbers on the team – Jonathan Gupta, Rob Smith, Robert Richard, Rebecca Jane Ferry and Kenton Cool. Ukraine’s Oksana Litynska is also part of the team.
We kept up with their progress with this Diary…
“Today Chase, Becks, Jon and Rob flew from K2 Base Camp to Skardu on 2 helicopters with the Pakistan Army. The flight was spectacular, skimming low down the rugged Baltoro Glacier, where we had trekked up several weeks before. Leaving the cloud capped K2 behind us, we sped past the 3 summits of Broad Peak, before swooping right at Concordia. We strained our necks out the side windows as the soaring granite bulks of Cathedral, Trango and Uili Biaho zipped past. Sights we had taken days to approach and march past on the way in to Base Camp, as we each personally contemplated what lay ahead.
“Now we were completing the return journey, content with our efforts and the conclusion we all hoped for but knew was unlikely. Our entire team had safely and successfully climbed K2 to its summit and returned to Base Camp. Rarely are expeditions harmonious, safe and successful in their objective. However K2 2021 was just that. A small team of dedicated climbers were happy to commit despite uncertainty and no guaranteed outcome. The odds of summiting K2 in any year are low. At times in the lead up, the odds of this trip simply running seemed low. But problems were overcome, and the team assembled a week behind the original schedule.
“We acclimatized, ropes were fixed in stages and our Sherpa team worked hard. We had an extended wait of 12 days waiting for the right weather window. Patience was tested as other teams attempted Broad Peak while we waited.
“On 28 July all decisions were vindicated as we climbed steadily in the darkness, under a starlit sky. The sunrise lit the horizon like a band of gold as the sky lightened to reveal a sea of cloud over China. We reached the summit in windless conditions, and it was hard to believe the top of K2 could feel so benign. Relief was palpable and the whole team spent as much time on the summit as they desired in this unique place. Congratulations were exchanged, embraces given, prayer flags were strung out, photographs taken and quiet moments of contemplation had.
“The descent was as testing as the summit was benign. It felt that K2 wanted to remind us that attempting a climb was as serious an undertaking as ever, though we needed no reminder. Snow had been stripped off the lower slopes, removing the frozen bond that held the mass of rocks safely in place. It was a relief to get everyone to the base of the mountain the following day, and we walked down the glacier knowing we had been allowed to leave the clutches of K2.
“It is somewhat of a shock to find ourselves suddenly in Skardu, in the presence of strangers and unfamiliar sights, sounds and smells. Such are the ends of expeditions where intense shared experience and close communal living comes to an end, replaced by new encounters with those who have little idea of what has been invested or endured to reach a point meaningless to the majority, but absolutely worthwhile and so memorable to those who stand there. We have set foot on top of K2 and shall remember that for the rest of our lives.”
Rob Smith and the Madison Mountaineering K2 2021 team.
“Today the remainder of our members flew out of K2 base camp by helicopter and it’s just me left with our Pakistani and Nepal Sherpa team here in base camp. We’re going to pack up and head out the day after tomorrow with our mule train back to Skardu.
“Nice weather today but we decided not to go for Broad Peak due to the snow fall and high winds that had made the route seemingly very challenging and a very low probability of success. But we’re very happy with our K2 summit success and everyone getting down safely.
“Everyone is heading home now. We had a great expedition! We’ll be packing up here and heading down the in the next few days, back towards Skardu.
“All’s well here in Pakistan. Thanks!”
“Yeah, hey! This is Conan Bliss checking-in with Madison Mountaineering. Hey everybody! Woo!
We’re having a fun, relaxing recovery day here at base camp after a successful K2 summit two days ago. Woohoo! Yup, and today we gotta celebrate Kenton Cool‘s birthday. Yeah!! Yup, another young man in the group! Anyways, everyone’s doing very well.
Thanks again for following us on this amazing expedition. We’ll check-in with you later!”
“Yesterday our whole team stood atop the world’s 2nd highest peak, today we all reached base camp safely. We were very lucky with not even a breath of wind at the summit, clear views in all directions, and excellent route conditions. It was spectacular!
“In a season where most teams cancelled their K2 expedition plans due to Covid travel restrictions we found a way to make it happen thanks to great partners, persistence and a positive attitude. We had the mountain and route nearly all to ourselves compared to the last time I was here during a ‘normal’ season in 2019.
“Things went so smoothly and ahead of schedule once we arrived in Pakistan just over a month ago that I was nervous something unanticipated would stop us dead in our tracks…or worse. But the mountain opened its arms and welcomed us to the top, granting us a 5 day weather window to make our summit bid. Our Madison Mountaineering Sherpa / Pakistani team worked tirelessly with the other Sherpa team here and got the route fixing done, a major component of our success on K2.
“K2 is likely the world’s most deadly mountain with a ~25% death rate (deaths on attempt vs summits). K2 and Annapurna have traded places as the world’s most deadly peak in recent years…Currently only myself and 2 other climbers have reached the top of K2 three times (a Pakistani and a Nepalese Sherpa). I’ve never lost a client or staff member on K2, but I’ve seen others perish here. It’s a lot more rugged and dangerous than climbing Mount Everest to say the least. We’ve had a few ‘near misses’ with rockfall and avalanches but all okay so far.
“I’m grateful we are all down safe from our climb on the ‘Savage Mountain’!”
“100% of the team on the summit of K2 right now!! Congratulations all. You are half way there – Godspeed on the descent! Stay safe.”
“It was a beautiful day climbing up from Camp 2, clear skys, not much wind, and not many people on the route actually. We were the only team moving up. So, we had a great day climbing the Black Pyramid and got into Camp 3 here, about 24,000 ft., this afternoon. We’re just taking it easy, resting.
“Our Sherpa team, which was fixing lines today, was able to make it up The Shoulder through The Bottleneck, around the Traverse, and nearly up to The Bench on the way towards the final pitches to the summit. So that’s great news!
“I think the Pioneer team is going for it tonight and we wish them the best of luck and good conditions.
“Our plan is to rest here tomorrow and head up tomorrow evening. So our plan is to leave the evening of the 27th and hopefully get to the top on the morning of the 28th. Fingers crossed! I’m praying this great weather continues and these good conditions hold.
“Everyone’s doing well here in Camp 3. Thanks for following!”
“Our whole team’s up here: all nine climbers and most of our sherpa team, except for five of our Nepal sherpas who are up at Camp 4 (7681m/25,200ft.) tonight. They climbed up from Camp 2 to Camp 4 today and tomorrow and the next day they are going to work on fixing lines above Camp 4 in anticipation of our arrival.
“So, we had a beautiful day today, sunny skies, warm temps, almost too warm for us. But we got into Camp 2 around noon and have just been relaxing, enjoying the amazing views up here, and getting ready for some dinner and a good night’s rest. And then tomorrow, we’ll be off early on our way up to Camp 3 (7250m/23,800ft.).
“All’s well here, the team’s doing excellent, and we’re excited that more good weather is on the way and we’re headed up the route! We’ll check-in soon, thanks!”
“After a nice rest in base camp we’re off on our summit rotation! Heading up tomorrow to camp 1, and looking at a potential summit day of July 28th. Fingers crossed for good weather and route conditions!”
“The stormy weather seems to be passing at the moment, but still windy up high. We’re all doing well here in base camp, had a few showers today, and just going over our gear and our food, and our plan for our summit push which we hope to start sometime in the next week, but not sure when. It all depends on the weather forecast.
“So all’s well here in K2 and we’ll check in soon.”
“The Madison Mountaineering team has been enjoying some nice weather the last few days here in K2 base camp. The route is in to camp 4, our equipment is in place and we are ready to go for our summit attempt, but first we must ride out a storm beginning tomorrow.
“A significant amount of precipitation should fall the next few days and then some very high winds, followed by calm weather beginning ~July 25th. We are waiting and enjoying expedition life here in Pakistan !!”
“Our sherpa team has finished carrying all of the equipment, oxygen, ropes, tents up to Camp 4 and fixing lines to Camp 4 on K2 and they’re all back in base camp now. So, we’re resting here in base camp and there is a storm perdicted to develop starting tomorrow. Big snowfall starting tomorrow over the next few days and then some very high winds up to 100km per hour near the summit.
“So, our plan is to hunker down here in base camp for a few days, let the storm pass, and then, hopefully, we’ll have some good weather the last week of July starting the 24th or 25th and we can plan for our summit attempt.
“We’ve been following the teams making their summit attempts on Broad Peak today and fingers crossed for them. Wishing them the best of luck and a safe descent. We’ll wait to see how that all plays out for them. But all’s good here in K2 base camp and we look forward to checking in soon.
“ABC to C-2, fixed by Pakistani team.
C2 to above black pyramid (top of couloir) pioneer team fixed on 8th July.
From that point Madison Sherpa team have fixed upwards to camp 3 on 9th July.
Today Madison Sherpa team have opened the climbing route up to camp 4!!!
Fixing team members names.
1. Siddhi bhadur tamang.
2. Dorjee gyalen sherpa.
3. Pasdawa sherpa”
“We are here in K2 Base Camp and weather is great. It’s beautiful day and we’re just resting up.
“Our sherpas are up on K2 on the Abruzzi Route finishing some load carries to Camp 3 and Camp 4 and some rope fixing as well and getting Camp 4 all stocked up with our equipment for our summit push which we hope do some time in late July.
“It looks like after the next couple of days of good weather there will be some snow, a lot of snow actually, and some high winds for a few days. So we are gonna let that storm system pass through and then hopefully by around July 24th we’ll have another patch of good weather enough to make a plan for a summit attempt.
“So everyone’s doing well here, we’re just resting up, admiring the views. We’re watching a few climbers make their summit push on Broad Peak right now. They’re going up to Camp 3 and probably going for the summit tomorrow. So it will be fun to watch their progress.
“But, all’s well here in Pakistan on the Baltoro Glacier and we’ll check in soon. Thanks!”
“Hello, this is Garrett calling in for the Madison Mountaineering K2 and Broad Peak expedition. Today is July 13 and yesterday we got down from our first rotation on the Abruzzi Ridge of K2. We spent five nights in total above base camp: one night in Advanced Base Camp (ABC), two nights in Camp 1, and two nights in Camp 2 at about 22,200 ft.
“We’re back in base camp and it’s stormin’! It’s snowing, windy, and we’re hunkering down to stay warm. Hopefully good weather’s on the way; we could use some sun and some warmth. But everyone’s doing well here, we’re staying entertained with books, movies, board games, and just resting up and enjoying some GREAT food. So, we’re very comfortable here and looking forward to some good weather in the days ahead.”
“Our 2021 K2 team is back at base camp after a successful 1st rotation with 2-nights at C1 (6065m) and 2-nights at C2 (6700m).”
“Today is July 10th, and today we climbed from Camp 1 up to Camp 2 on the Abruzzi Ridge – about 22,000 ft. or almost 6700m.
We had great weather – beautiful sunny day today, awesome views all around. The team is doing great, and we’re really enjoying this first rotation to acclimatize, getting familiar with the climbing route, and spend a couple of nights up here at Camp 2, and then we’ll be heading down to rest in base camp.
The sherpa team is doing great – they pushed up to Camp 3 and above yesterday. So they’ve made great progress on the route, and they’re gonna head down tomorrow and take a little rest. Looks like we’re going to take some high winds coming in a few day’s time, so it will be good to go down to base camp and rest for a bit and then revisit the upper mountain.
So all’s well here on K2, we’re enjoying ourselves, and having a great time here in Pakistan.”
“First rotation on K2 is underway!”
“We had our puja ceremony today, it was a wonderful way to begin our climbing.
“We will head up to ABC on our 1st rotation tomorrow and plan to climb to Camps 1 & 2, spending 2 nights in each camp. The weather looks good and everyone is doing well. Our Sherpas are also heading up to work on fixing the route.
“The cell tower in Concordia is down so the Internet hasn’t been working the last couple days.
“We’re excited to get up on the mountain and become familiar with the route and hopefully have some nice views!”
“The Madison Mountaineering K2 – Broad Peak team of 9 climbers (USA, UK & Ukraine), 10 Nepal Sherpas, 4 Pakistani high altitude porters, and 10 Pakistani base camp staff arrived yesterday after our 100 km / 70 mile trek in.
“We’re settling into base camp and glad to be here! All of us are on climbing permits for both peaks, fingers crossed for good weather and route conditions!”
“Our plan is to take a few more rest days here, do our Puja ceremony, and get ready for our first rotation up to Camps I and II. Everybody’s doing well here, we’re just so happy and grateful that things worked out for us to come to Pakistan and go on this expedition. We got to base camp in record time and things are going great.”
Rob Smith – “So yesterday we left Goro 2 camp on the Baltoro Glacier pretty early and made our way up to the head of the glacier, got our first views of K2, which was really exciting, and then we passed the Godwin-Austen Glacier, saw Broad Peak, Gasherbrum IV, and made our way all the way to Broad Peak base camp. So, a long day yesterday, but well worth it!
“Today we had a short hike it beautiful weather from Broad Peak base camp up to K2 base camp and that’s where we are tonight, which is really exciting to be here so soon, the 3rd of July.
“Everyone’s feeling well and really excited for the upcoming expedition and we’ll check in again soon.”
“Today we trekked from Urdukas camp (4034m/13,235ft) to Goro 2 camp (4285m/14,058ft) on the Baltoro Glacier. It was a rainy day; it started raining last night and cleared up a little bit during the day today. It was cool and cloudy, which was actually really nice for trekking – not too hot.
“We got into Goro 2 camp here and just had a nice dinner. We can see some of the surrounding peaks: Masherbrum, G4 and we’re looking forward to trekking up through Concordia (4570m/14,993ft) tomorrow. Hopefully, it will clear and we’ll get a nice view of K2.
“Everyone’s doing well here. The team’s excited to be working our way up the glacier towards base camp and hoping for some good weather!”
“Today is June 30th and today we trekked from Paiju camp up to Urdukas camp on the Baltoro Glacier. We had a wonderful day! It was hot and we did find one glacier pond to jump in and cool off late morning. Had lunch in Khoburtse and then made our way up to Urdukas camp here by the afternoon.
“Great views today of the Trango Towers, Nameless Tower, … so many beautiful peaks here, just very spectacular! Very special to be here. We had a wonderful dinner of fresh chicken with rice and curry and fresh tomato cabbage onion salad.
“Tomorrow our plan is to leave at 7:00 AM and head up to Goro 2 camp (4285m/14,058ft) out in the middle of the Baltoro Glacier.
“Everyone’s doing well here, we’ve been having great weather so far – its a little bit hot until the clouds form in the afternoon. But we’ve all doing well. Looking forward to another great day trekking tomorrow on our way up to K2 base camp.”
“Today is Tuesday, June 29th and we had a great day trekking from Jhola camp to Paiju camp today along the Braldu River. We had lunch, made it to camp, relaxed in the shade, and then had a nice dinner, watched the sun go down with the light changing on all the surrounding peaks. Now we are just getting settled in for bed.
“Everyone’s doing well and we’re excited to be on our way to K2 base camp. We’ll probably arrive there in four or five days. We are enjoying the trek, the scenery, and the good company with all of our Pakistani and Sherpa friends.”
“Today’s June 27th and we are in Skardu, Pakistan. We flew from Islamabad this morning. Had a beautiful flight – smooth and great views of mountains on both sides of the aircraft.
“Landed in Skardu and we’ve been organizing equipment and getting all packed up for our journey by jeep tomorrow to Jhola camp (3151m/10,338ft). The road has been improved since the last time we were here two years ago. So instead of driving only to Askole, we should be able to drive further to Jhola camp, which is normally the first camp on the trek to base camp.
“So, we are looking forward to an early breakfast tomorrow, starting the jeep drive by 07:00 AM. Hopefully it will be good weather and we get to Jhola camp by the evening time, can set up camp, and start trekking the next day.
“We’re happy to be here, our sherpa team is here, our Pakistani team is here, and all of our other climbers from America, Britain, and the Ukraine are all here. We are excited to be in Pakistan and begin our expedition!”