Author Archives: Linda

Team continues upwards, Ericsson skis from 7800 meters

27 July 2010

[Editor’s note: I just found this post in my Drafts folder. Not sure why it never went up but I’d like to post it now for those who might not have seen it.]

K2 summit from our C4. It was this view of the summit, traverse, Bottleneck and Shoulder that made us realize a complete ski descent was possible.

Below Camp 4 – 7800m / 25,590 ft – With the summit of K2 rising above us, so close we feel as though we could have touched it, Frippe locked into his skis and dropped into the massive 45-degree face that stretches from The Shoulder at 8000m to below Camp 3 at 7100m. This big, beautiful face radiates down upon base camp and all the way to Concordia and makes every skier within miles fantasize about arcing fast steep turns across it. Of course, if it were that easy we’d have all seen it in the latest TGR film, but simply putting your boots on at this altitude makes you gasp for air and making two or three turns with a heavy pack would bring most hardcores to tears. I’m here to tell you that after three long, hard days of climbing Fredrik Ericsson earned every one of those awe-inspiring turns.

So before we go any further I should start by thanking our good friend, The Ripper Dave Schipper, for posting our progress live from the mountain. We hope he’ll still have the patience left to deal with our frantic, confused phone calls during one more summit push.

So yeah, assuming you’ve been following along you’ll know we left base camp a few days earlier based on a weather forecast from an acknowledged expert in Austria who pointed us to a sliver of a window on the 27th. The group that charged out of BC on the 24th could hardly have been stronger or more experienced. Out front was Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, an Austrian whose friendly smile and sisterly spirit hides her astonishing strength in the mountains. This is her fourth expedition to K2 and—after summitting Everest this spring without oxygen—if successful, will make her the third woman to summit all 14 of the world’s 8000-meter peaks and more importantly, the first to climb them all without oxygen. Huge respect.

Right behind Gerlinde was Fabrizio Zangrilli, a professional climber and guide for one of the two commercial expeditions attempting K2 this year. On his sixth expedition—four on the Cesen Route—few climbers have more experience on this side of the mountain than Fabrizio.

Of course, Fredrik, The Super Swede, was right up front with Gerlinde and Fabrizio, swapping leads and breaking trail. Just keeping up with those two is a huge feat in itself but to do it while carrying skis and wearing ski boots is a whole other level.

With a perpetual smile on his face, Ralf Duimovits—a highly accomplished German guide and Gerlinde’s life partner—first climbed K2 in 1994. Ralf is the only person on the mountain to have previously summitted K2. If he summits again he’ll be only the fifth person in history to have climbed K2 twice.

Kinga Baranowska arrived with the K2 and Broad Peak Polish Expedition 2010 and hopes to make K2 her eighth 8000-meter summit.

And, me—a bit slower than a lot of climbers but a little faster than most freelance writers. Did I mention devilishly handsome and passively courageous?

So if you’ve kept up with past episodes you’ll know that we battled high winds and driving snow that blasted us full in the face as we moved up the mountain from Base Camp to C2. From C2 to C3 was more of the same although with the benefit that the wind had scoured the snow from the ridge making the surface hard-packed, easy walking.

In the meantime, over on The Abruzzi Ridge, the crew that had planned to meet us on The Shoulder for a combined summit push had arrived at their C2 to find all but one of their tents either blown away or shredded. The Italians, Giuseppe and Sergio, immediately descended while nine other climbers bivvied below House’s Chimney in three tents in what sounds like truly miserable conditions.

Back on the Cesen, Frippe and I were super excited about moving from C3 to C4—a push that would take us from 7100m (23, 294 ft) to 8000m (26, 247 ft) in one long day. To climb that much at such a high altitude we reasoned the route must go straight up with no side variations and be fairly straightforward climbing. Gerlinde and Ralf told us to expect eight hours. I knew that with this crew it would be anything but leisurely and began to worry about the extra 140 meters (459 ft) of rope and gear in my pack for fixing The Bottleneck higher up.

Sure enough, the next morning as we were breaking down our tent, Gerlinde and Ralf blew past as if they were shot from a cannon. Several minutes later we dropped in behind them with Fabrizio and Kinga not far behind.

Trey Cook above Camp 3 (7100m).

The climbing turned out to be sustained 45-degree climbing over snow and loose rock with old, badly damaged fixed ropes and sketchy anchors that kept everyone honest. Straight out of the gate I was feeling a high-gravity day and passed our tent to Frippe who added it to his already heavy pack. I also passed 60 meters of rope to Fabrizio who carried it for the next three pitches until I had eaten a bit and was feeling stronger—lifesaver. The wind still blew like crazy but the sun came out for the first time in several days which made everyone feel a whole lot better. Until it went down.

Gerlinde, Ralf, Fabrizio and Kinga between C3 and C4. All smiles after the sun came out.

From the back of the line Fabrizio shouted over the wind for a halt. “It’s still 250 meters (820 ft) to The Shoulder and it’s going to be dark soon.”

Our summit push that would ideally have started at 10:00 or 11:00 that night had relied on us reaching The Shoulder early enough to pitch our tents, brew up and rest for a few hours before starting for the summit. Clearly, that dog would not be huntin’ on this push. And since there was no place to pitch tents on the rocky face we were climbing, and going down was not an option, the decision was made to continue.

An hour and a half later, just as it got completely dark, we all pulled up to a small shelf in the face about 100 meters (328 ft) below The Shoulder and started hacking tent platforms out of the ice. The wind that was forecast to have dropped still screamed and to be quite honest, after 12 hours of climbing I was completely wasted and happy not to hear any discussion about a summit push that night. However, judging by the strong effort the Super Swede made in chopping out the platform I have no doubt that he would have gone for it if any of our crew had suggested it. As it were, our window never really materialized and with snow, wind and limited viz forecast for the next few days Frippe had to settle for an epic ski descent of close to 3000 meters (9842 ft). Darn the luck.

Fredrik Ericsson skiing below The Shoulder. Rock solid with a heavy pack at 7800m.

We’re back in BC now sitting out bad weather days that has kept us from charging batteries and updating the blog. On his way down Frippe found that the wind and snow had changed conditions dramatically–much less snow, way more exposed rock–since his last descent from C3 less than two weeks ago. This makes us wonder if the route will hold until we can get back up again. If not, Frippe’s ultimate goal of skiing a complete line from the summit of K2 to base camp will not be possible and all our efforts over the past two months will have been for nothing. However, the snow in the forecast will surely make a difference and if we can just get lucky with a window sooner rather than later…

But for now, we wait. August is notoriously unkind to K2 climbers and all we can do is hope for the best and be patient. So not easy. The weather in northern Pakistan this summer has been the worst in 20 years with torrential rainfall killing more than 300 people and hundreds of thousands losing land and property.

The Koreans have packed up and left as have the Italians: Giuseppe, Sergio and the guy who never said anything. On the other hand, two experienced Kazakhs have just arrived, already acclimatized from climbing in the Tien Shan range, and we’re hoping they’ll be a strong addition to our team. The two Americans, Dave and Adam, are making solid progress but have yet to spend a night in C3 so are still a day behind the current summit group. The Poles have flights scheduled for the 17th and will need a window soon if they want to make it. Frippe and I are intent on staying until we get the job done but we’re down to our last jar of Nutella. The two of us can suffer through a lot but running out of Nutella? Now that’s a game changer.

/Trey Cook

The Ski K2 Expedition would not be possible without the visionary support of Dynastar, Tierra, Osprey, Hestra, Scarpa, Grivel, adidas Eyewear, Primus, Brunton, Exped, ATK Race, Ortovox, Garmin, Honey Stinger and Jamtport.

To learn more of Fredrik Ericsson’s past expeditions and about his quest to ski the world’s three highest mountains check out http://www.FredrikEricsson.com.

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9 August 2010 K2 Update

This morning a memorial service was held for Fredrik at the Gilkey Memorial,
just below basecamp.

Trey made it back to base camp after a dangerous and challenging descent.
Though little has been published of the descent’s difficulties I’m sure
Trey’s safe exit from the route came from the efforts of the competent and
committed climbers around him. Thank you.

Stu from Field Touring Alpine has kept me up to speed on what is happening
around basecamp. It is raining heavily in base camp and looks like it may
continue for a while.

The trek out is about 60 miles (100K) along the Baltoro Glacier to a small
village named Askole. From there it is another 60 miles by jeep to the first
‘modern’ town of Scardu. From there it is possible to get a flight to
Islambad or take a two day bus ride along the Karakorum Highway. Ground
travel may be compromised by heavy rain, floods and road wash outs.

David Schipper
Outdoorlabs.com
720.231.3698

K2 Update – August 6

Early this morning I was woken by a call from Trey’s girlfriend. ‘Frippe was killed…’

The bottom of my world fell out. Facts and information are impossibly inaccurate at this altitude so I got started making my way through the grim channels to find out where the truth was. With the help of Field Touring Alpine and my friend and guide Fabrizio Zangrilli I was able to get most of the story straight.

Some of what he reported was first hand knowledge while at camp 4 and part was from his conversation with Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner who was with Fredrik when he fell.

At about 1:30 AM Trey, Gerlinde and Fredrik left camp 4 at about 8000m to move to the summit. The weather was less than the good forecast but it was also supposed to improve during the upcoming day. Fabrizio and a few other climbers elected to remain in camp 4 to see what happened with the weather.

Several hours later, as the three climbers reached the base of the bottle neck, Trey decided to return to camp 4. He arrived back at about 5:30 AM in low visibility and high winds.

According to the conversation Fabrizio had with Gerlinde, Fredrik was fixing rope to the rock in the bottle neck above her when he lost purchase and was unable to arrest his fall. This happened some time between 7 and 8 AM. Later it was determined he fell about 1000m and did not survive.

Weather was said to become more challenging as time passed and Gerlinde’s safe return to camp 4 was aided by climbers that had stayed at camp 4.

By evening of that same day the remaining climbers made their way back to camp 3 at 7000m. All the tents left at 3 were ‘thoroughly ruined’ by rock fall and ruck sacks were needed as shields from the constant rain of rocks. Gerlinde reportedly continued down to camp 2 at about 6400m. All will make their way to base camp tomorrow with the hopes the colder night temperatures will reduce rock fall. They will be safe when they are at basecamp.

It is almost impossible to get the facts straight in these situations as each version is a blend of facts and perspective. It is also difficult to understand the situation without being there. I give my most sincere condolences to Frippe’s parents, family and friends. I have no words to express my sorrow. This information in an effort to help you understand the details – though they can only tell part of the story. Everyone I have had contact with, both on K2 and off, said he was liked by everyone at base camp, that he brought a positive atmosphere everywhere he went.

You will be missed, Fredrik by all of us fortunate enough to have known you. I will remember you with the memory of beautiful Chogolisa in the background.

Frippe’s body is resting at about 7000m. It seems like retrieval would be exceptionally dangerous.

Additional information can be seen on Gerlinde’s site http://www.gerlinde-kaltenbrunner.at .

David Schipper
Outdoorlabs

Chogolisa from 7000m on Cesan

Trey and Fredrik back at Base Camp

Just a short update from Fredrik and Trey: They are back at Base Camp all safe and strong. They will be ready for a second try as soon as the weather allows (earliest in 5-6 days). A post will be up soon!

Ski K2 – summit push daily updates

Monday 26Jul10

I just got a call from Trey. They are at 7800m or about 200m short of their day’s goal. Apparently there was very little snow covering the crumbly steep rock between three and camp four so the going was more technical, exhausting and slow than they had hoped. When there is nicely consolidated snow or even hard packed, almost ice, it allows efficient steps to be places because the snow supports the weight of the climber as they step up. When a thin layer of snow covers rock, especially loose rock, it is hard to see where to place your foot and tiresome regaining your balance as your footing crumbles under the weight of your step.

Trey’s voice conveyed exhaustion and insignificant, but evident breathlessness. After a brief pause he delivered the difficult news that they were no longer in a safe situation to attempt the summit tomorrow. The summit push would have begun at 10:00 PM tonight and last through the following day. But the terrain kept their pace slow and they ended up camping at least an hour below the usual camp four. Having arrived at 8:00 PM it would certainly take several hours to dig out tent platforms, grab a few minutes rest and brew enough snow to cook tonight and hydrate for tomorrow’s huge efforts. They had simply run out of time.

The weather was windy all day but it has subsided and they will enjoy a beautiful full moon tonight at 7800m.

‘I am totally wasted…” were Trey’s first words over the time-delayed satellite connection. ‘It took us 12 hours to cover the ground that should have taken us eight,.. and we are still at least an hour from the shoulder. The snow cover was thin and the climbing became technical because all the snow was scoured off by the wind…. We don’t have time to brew up and begin our summit push by 10:00…. So we are not going to the summit….’ Trey has some amazing endurance aptitude and is capable of suffering a great deal. To hear him use superlatives in his description – I knew it was real.

We discussed a few snow issues and recon options they were considering for tomorrow but the meat of the conversation was over when he told me they were not going to attempt the summit. Its hard to explain the mix of feelings accompanied with the decision to retreat. It is the knowledge that every bit your survival is in your hands and the odds are unclear at best – that the ‘never give up’ attitude has little relevance here. Always present is the possibility that the season may afford another summit try and that things will go better then. But noone knows.

How do you rev down the most prominent focus in your life? Doubt lingers differently between the time before the decision is made and after. There is a constant question of whether it was the right call…. Then these entrepid climbers look for the opportunity to do it again at the next weather break. It has been said more than once that climbing big peaks is primarily a mental game. I’d say so.

If there is recon done up to the saddle tomorrow (8000m or camp 4) it may delay their return by as much as a night but most likely they will be back in base camp by the evening of the 27th.

Over and out,

David Schipper

Ski K2 – summit push daily updates

Sunday 25 july 10

Today’s call came from 7100 meters elevation or camp three. Trey and Frippe sounded solid, coherent and motivated. Our conversation was brief to save satellite phone costs but they gave me the low down on their day’s climbing.

The route from camp two, a snow filled ledge about 3 feet wide, to camp three starts with a short steep section around some rocks then follows an unrelentingly long ridge to the steep slopes of camp three. The wind blew at about 60 kph or just this side of being too strong to stand up for most of the day. The temperature was manageable but both climbers opted to wear their warmest 8000m gear to fend off the wind chill.

As they neared their day’s objective, the wind eased off. With any luck they were afforded the stunning view down to base camp, across to Broad Peak and past Concordia to the haunting slopes of Chogolisa. Most conversation about (rightfully so) K2 revolve around the challenges of climbing this peak but the views are truly magical.

At this point our climbers have gone from 5000m at base camp to 7100m at camp three. Tomorrow they will move from three to camp four to gain the coveted altitude of 8000m, with about 600m remaining to the summit. With any luck the winds will not have deterred the Abruzzi Route teams and there will be enough strong climbers to help make the summit as a team. It isn’t possible to see from Trey and Frippe’s route to the Abruzzi so they will not know until tomorrow’s arrival at the convergence the two routes, the ‘Shoulder’ , how things are going on the Abruzzi.

Tomorrow’s forecast is for moderate winds and temperatures with some clouds. The terrain is steep snow but if it remains scoured and consolidated the altitude alone will be the challenge. Rolf and Gerlinde, Fabrizio, and Kinga are camping at camp three with our boys and plan to move to four tomorrow.

Pakistan is about 10 hours ahead of the US (Central Time) and 3 hours ahead of Chamonix and Sweden. The best time to cheer for the summit from Texas will start at 2:00 PM on the 26th (assuming a midnight departure on the 27th) and the best time in Chamonix and Sweden will start at 9:00 PM on the 26th. Pretty much from here out send everything positive their direction possible.

All the best amigos, DS

Camp 2 – summit push daily updates

Trey and I have been climbing together since 1991 and were together on his last attempt on K2 in 2007, on the same route. Here is what he said on his call today:

It took them seven hours for move the 1200m elevation from base camp to camp 2. After 3 days of heavy snow at base camp and reported strong winds up high, the route was surprisingly free of dangerous snow build up and was scoured down to hard, great climbing snow. Still the princess of alpine climbing seldom concedes all and provided a strong ‘ refreshing’ wind from the summit.

Its typically a good strategy to skip camp one on the summit push because it was established early on the acclimatization schedule. As climber’s bodies adapt to less oxygen and are able to perform at higher altitudes the night saved at camp 1 will shorten the summit push – needing less days to be up high.

Tomorrow’s efforts will bring them from camp 2’s elevation of 6350m up to 7100m and the steep slopes of camp 3. As we spoke Trey said three others I knew were with them: Fabrizio Zangrilli, a German couple I remember from 2077 named Rolf and Gerlinde, and a Polish gal named King I have not met. Excellent company at those altitudes!

During our brief call I was reminded of how difficult it is to survive at that altitude. Trey’s conversation showed shortness of breath and his mental acuity was not dangerously compromised but definitely altered. There was constant coughing in the back ground.

After tomorrow’s trip to camp 3 they will move to camp 4 located on the relatively flat terrain of the lower shoulder and the likelihood of meeting several climbers taking advantage of the same weather window on the Abruzzi Route. Mark your calendar for July 27 as the day they will move from the highest camp, to the summit.

David Schipper