Our plan failed out of the gate. We had tried to wake up early but with our tent getting hammered by wind, it was difficult to melt snow for water and boil it for breakfast. Geoff, one of the most proficient snow melters that I know, proceeded to spill the water out of the pot twice and had to start from scratch each time. By the time that we emerged from our tent, David (Mexico), Semba (Japan) and Jason (Ireland) had already started down the mountain and Geoff was stuck trying to get the logistics for the day sorted out with Garrett. Torn between joining the fast threesome down the mountain and sticking around with Geoff, I chose the latter.
When Geoff and I finally made our way down the slope to rappel House’s Chimney, we found Rob debating over whether the orange or white line would be best to descend on. He went down first and found that the orange line was better because one of the pitons on the white rope had come loose but that the orange line had anchor points that required transferring over to the white rope mid-rappel. Geoff descended and agreed that the piton on the white rope would cause a pendulum if it came loose but realized that it could be fixed by removing the other pitons and freeing the rope entirely. Garrett knew that I could make the tricky switch between ropes mid-rappel, so I did so without any issue, to help free up the glut.
As Geoff worked to free the pitons, I began to move down the mountain to stay warm and I would remain alone for the remainder of the day. I continued my descent, stuck above a slower climber and below a Mongolian woman who seemed to be overmatched by the mountain. On descent, we try to limit one climber to each pitch of rope, a section between anchors, to avoid overloading the rope and breaking it. There was not much that I could do, other than maintain patience. While I’ve become more patient in my old age, additional time spent on K2 has a direct correlation to facing objective hazards, such as rockfall and avalanche, and I wanted off the mountain. The former is what concerned me, as the Mongolian woman seemed to be struggling with the rocky terrain, kicking loose rock down in the process. The fifth time that I heard “ROOOOOOOOCK!” and one whizzed past me, I turned up and yelled “Pull it together! Watch your footwork!” I doubt she understood the words but my tone got the point across.
After 3 grueling hours of patient descent, I arrived at C1 and found my Sherpa buddies on their way up! I spent about 30 minutes sharing Peanut M&M’s with Dendi, Siddhi and Tashi, while we rocked out to my mini stereo. With a little boost in morale, I said goodbye to my friends and started rappelling to ABC. It was hot and I was thirsty, and I soon found myself increasingly frustrated by the delays on the mountain. Efficient speed is critical on a mountain like K2 and the indecisive actions of other climbers was making that speed impossible. This thought festered with me as I reached ABC and hiked to BC, alone.
As I walked through the camps, I came across the abandoned Canadian camp. The frustrations of the day left me and I remembered our first return from ABC, when Serge was outside camp to greet us. He had held a giant bag of Werther’s Originals and handed each of us a couple as we passed. He was a good man and will definitely be missed.
Then, I was home.