Brian's K2 Dispatch: Made it to Skardu!

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So, after some very interesting events as of yesterday morning I made the flight to Gilgit along with Ben, Lhapka, Tsering and Mike from our combined expedition. As well as Benny, Peter and Javier from the Dynafit Broad Peak expedition. (cool group of guys as well)

We were running down the gateway to get to the bus that took us to the commuter plane in order to make the flight. In the end, they were delayed a couple minutes and we ended up sitting on a very stuffy plane for about 15 minutes before we endeavored to fly.

I felt a bit bad being on the flight actually as Garth Miller had given me his seat as he was traveling with Nikki-his partner in crime that will be trekking into base camp with us. As Garth had a secured seat on the flight and Nikki was going stand by as was I, they made the commitment to fly together or not fly at all. So, when it was time to board-and that passed, and still no word on whether or not she might be added to the flight Garth handed me his boarding pass and I made moves to get myself on the plane. In the end, there was an empty seat next to Ben-which could have been Nikki's-and hence why I felt a little bad to get on the flight.

The flight was relatively short and extremely short when compared to the bus ride that would have covered the same distance. Flight, 50Minutes. Bus ride to cover the same distance, 30 hours!! Yeah, it is tough country up there and no doubt I was glad to miss some of the "interesting" experiences that you get doing the KKH route. I think that most would agree that it is something that everyone that is headed to the Northern Region should do at least once, but really, ONCE is enough and seeing as I had done it both ways on my 2007 Expedition I was not feeling the need to relive it again.

After the 50 minute flight that took us past some beautiful scenery including Nanga Parbat-that unfortunately I could not get a great shot of as it was obscured by clouds- we made a bumpy landing in Gilgit. This left us with a 5-7 hour bus ride down the Gilgit River Valley and up the Skardu River Valley! All in all, it went by rather quickly and I did my best to get some great footage-but I fear that as in seasons past that viewing said footage could cause seizures at worst and nausea at best! Fortunately I don't suffer from Motion Sickness, but apparently some of the other members were not "enjoying" themselves as Ben recommended to Mike that closing your eyes was a great way not to experience at least part of the trauma.

The ride in included some tea in a green garden in Gilgit, as well as a nice lunch at a Government owned restaurant/hotel a little over mid route. I think that I slept for the majority of the ride as I had slept very little the night before due to my anxiousness to get on the road and my fear of sleeping through my alarm and not being downstairs to catch the shuttle to the airport.
One thing that I had forgotten about the drive, possible due to the fact that part of our drive in 2007 had been made during the night hours, was that the road is incredibly exposed to overhanging boulders the size of other cars and small houses-and maybe even a double wide trailer or two thrown in there as well. Now, it would not be so bad if these boulders were stacked, or leaning on one another, but instead they are in fact poised to strike and essentially pressed into the "dirt" hills that the road is carved out of.

It is not uncommon after a big rain for the steep hills above to spill down debris that covers the road with any number of types and sizes of rock that can make the road a bit bumpier than usual, or even make it impassable or cause a bus or truck to lose control. In 2007 on the return trip to ISB I had the good fortune of riding in the very first front seat next to the door and sitting close to the Bus Driver. I could not decide which was worse, having a potential front row seat to my own demise, or finding myself starting to doze and looking over to see the bus driver doing the same. He spoke no English and I not enough Urdu to really impart anything, but each time I pulled his sleeve to help keep him awake we would both laugh a bit....somewhat with humor and somewhat with and understanding that we were in the perilous journey together. Fortunately this most recent jaunt on the KKH was truly without concern and went by rather quickly.

The plan for tomorrow is to take the next step and procure a jeep ride to Askole-the end of our mechanized advance. From there on it is a 100K (62mile)+ hike to the Broad Peak Basecamp!
When Mike asked Fabrizio and Ben at breakfast this morning if that was worse than the KKH-I believe the answer revolved around there being a significantly larger "pucker" factor in the jeep ride compared to the KKH bus ride. Hopefully we will find it laid back and without incident.
The rest of the group is slated to arrive over the next day. It looks as though the direct flight that the rest of our members was supposed to arrive on today might not make it as it is raining in Skardu this morning and as the pilots are on visual control (no radar yet at this airport) then they do not even attempt to land if the weather is less than perfect. So I would give that a less than 20% chance of happening.

Chris and Rob are on the Bus to Skardu via the KKH-(so Rob gets to experience it all!)-along with the Liaison officer. They should, after their 30-36 hour trip arrive in Skardu as late as 3 am tonight/tomorrow morning. We wish them luck!

Well, I am headed back to the Concordia Hotel at which we are staying, which by the way has an amazing overlook of the River and surrounding peaks of Skardu and was nice to revisit as we stayed there in prep for the 2007 K2 Expedition, to help Fabrizio and Ben start sorting the group gear down to 25Kil ( about 50 lbs) or less loads for the porters. That and help Fabrizio sort and repack his AMPLE amount of gear that looks very much like I would imagine it would should one of the barrels that usually keep it in check had exploded due to coming to altitude!
Wish us luck and you can start checking out the gabcasts as I've finally figured out the details there to start posting and did my first today! Love to all! B

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