Trip Start Mar 23, 2012
35Trip End Apr 22, 2012
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Where I stayed
Hira and Bishnu went off on a recce to the camps further up the glacier. There was a flurry of activity after breakfast, when everyone decided to do their washing in the stream. I washed one item but saved up the rest for the quiet days to come. Wet clothes soon adorned every rock, bush and bit of line strung between tents. Some pitches looked like a giant game of cat's cradle.
Washing bodies seemed popular too - Simon, Rob, John L and others discovered what they called a plunge-pool. This bit of glacial melt-water had ice round the edge and Simon's thermometer registered it at 6C - a whopping 2C more than air temperature.
There was much whinnying and yelping and apparently shrinkage of manhood as they braved the cold water. Thankfully it was not visible from the main campsite. Naked bottoms from afar was quite enough. By all accounts Abdul jumped in too, wearing his long-johns for modesty.
Up above camp, a short, breathless distance uphill, was a loo-with-a-view. Someone, possibly even from Shipton's expedition in the '30s, had built a small wind-break wall next to a rock feature. There was a pit flanked with flat stones and some ingenious person had stuck a tent-peg as a loo-roll holder. There was even some fossilised toilet paper, which might indeed have dated to Shipton's day. The view over the Karakorum on all sides was fantastic.
Further over, above base camp, there were three piles of rocks. One had been left by the Japanese expedition
The second pile of stones had an aluminium shovel hammered flat and attached to it. It was for the Russian climber Igor Benkin, who died high on the mountain in August 1996. You can read about the Russian expedition here.The third memorial had no plaque anymore. Akbar claimed it was a Dutch memorial, but I can find no evidence on the internet for a Dutch fatality on K2 at all, let alone on the north side. It seems more likely to have been built for the Spaniard who died of exhaustion in 1994 or three South Koreans swept away in an avalanche off the North Ridge in 2004. It was a lonely place to end up in; beautiful, but lonely.
Robin and Simon went for an explore further up the valley, where they found a glacier and another grave, and John L went up the hill to meet Hira and Bishnu coming back down. On the way down, John felt the call of nature and ducked down behind some rocks. Hira suddenly started yelling to him to get up
It was Annmarie's birthday, so I mentioned it to the chefs, Tendi and Abdul, whom I swore to secrecy. Actually, given that Tendi's first language is Nepali and Abdul's is Uygher and both of them thought I was saying "cigarette" instead of "secret", it is not surprising that it somehow leaked out. What is amazing is that they managed to create a wonderful coconut and meringue cake with chocolate topping in a desert at nigh on 4000m, on a two ring heater, and despite having no common language between them. I'm impressed.
During the afternoon I had another long chat with Akbar, who has a good sense of humour (when he isn't stressed). He was telling about his feisty two and a half year old, who beats up boys twice her age, and his younger daughter and baby son. It was good to learn a bit more about him and to discover more about his Uiger background.
We all dressed up for dinner - the theme was the Eton Boat Race or Henley Regatta. I'd brought a little black headband with a rose design as a token gesture, but I was totally outclassed by Chris's willow hand-made straw boater and David's cardboard one (plus paddle made from a walking pole)
Undaunted, Charles had arranged a pub quiz. We were divided into three teams: we (Mo, Chris and Nigel) were the Axe and Cleaver, the others were the Beijing Arms and the Cock and Bull. Nigel was the go-to man for quiz questions. It was a good laugh and amazingly our team won a snickers bar each.
It was a late night for us all, as we didn't get to bed until about 9.30. Sleep, as usual, remained elusive. High altitude insomnia sucks.
Chinese Base Camp: 3900m.