Tag Archives: Trey Cook

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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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

Big lines and frozen fingers – Ericsson prepares for summit push.

Fredrik skiing from camp 3.

Base of Cesen Route – 5100 m / 16,732 ft

Frippe’s voice over radio static, “I’m leaving Camp 2 now. I’ll leave the radio on. Watch for me.”

From the avalanche plain at the bottom of the route I looked through the 20x lens of the video camera, straining to pick up any sort of movement, even a ridgeline feature through the blowing clouds. Nothing but the occasional glimpse of dark rock on flat white but never a clear view of the steep rock band that Frippe was trying to find his way through. The same rock band that he’d downclimbed a week earlier, emerging with the conviction that the snow was just deep enough between the tightly spaced rocks to ski through. But a lot had changed since his last trip and there was no guarantee the snowpack was the same. Even worse, the clouds and wind had blown in overnight ending a 4-day run of sunny skies, obscuring the route and changing the snow conditions from soft to wildly variable. An error in judgment at this point could easily result in a 1000-meter tomahawk. The avalanche plain I was parked up on certainly wasn’t the best place to be but I’d rather be there than in Frippe’s boots, that’s for sure.

Three days earlier, Frippe had headed back up the route, climbing solo while I hung back at BC to see whether my frostbitten fingers decided to either heal up or fall off. After I thawed them out the dull grey skin halfway to the first knuckle on the last three fingers of my right hand looked as though it could go either way. Luckily there was no shortage of expert opinion around base camp.

The Polish doctor who thawed me out prescribed 250mg of aspirin and an hour in the Gamow bag, a compression chamber that simulates the air pressure, and regenerative effects, of lower—2103 meters (6,899 ft) to be precise—altitude.

To be honest, I think the Gamow exercise was more for the good doctor’s entertainment than for my own treatment but at that point I was open to just about anything that didn’t require scalpels or bone saws.

Trey inside the Gamow bag, big entertainment at base camp.

Fabrizio and Chris from Field Tours happened to be visiting from Broad Peak and knowing the two carry a load of alpine experience with them I showed them the hand, asked what they’d do if it was attached to the end of their own arm.

“Got insurance?”

“Yes.”

“First chopper out.”

“What? You mean to, like, Skardu?”

“No. I mean to, like, home.”

“Hmmm… I think I’ll give ‘em a day or two and see.”

“Your fingers, man, but if you want to stay then hit the antibiotics. Amoxicilline if you’ve got it. Cipro will work but what you really want is a ‘cilline.”

Right then. One five-day course of Amoxicilline coming up.

Of course, it wasn’t long before word spread through the porter underground. Muna, Armand and Abbas’s cousin were the first to stop round.

“Pee pee.”

“No. No problems there. Problem with frozen fingers. Frostbite.”

“Pee pee on fingers.”

“Oh.”

Now I don’t know about most of you out there but I’ve done a pretty good job of avoiding peeing on my fingers for most of my 48 years and while I was open to suggestions on anything that would get me back up the mountain I thought I might have to draw the line at this one. Unfortunately, our ‘rest’ area happened to be in full view of the porters’ peanut gallery and the first time I returned without a dripping hand it was made known to me that this was not an option. There would be a post-relief inspection following all future ablutions.

Still looking for solid advice I called Frippe’s friend, Sven Christjar, a Norwegian physician and mountain guide based in Hemsedal, Norway.

“Blisters?”

“No.”

“Good. Without seeing it it’s impossible for me to say for sure but it sounds like Level 1 frostbite, not too severe. Take 300mg of aspirin a day, clean, bandage and keep warm. I assume you’re going back up so before you go, identify and eliminate the cause of the problem.”

Now that’s what I wanted to hear. Go the Viking doctor.

So I sit out three splitter days, take the antibiotics and the aspirin, pee on my fingers and watch the color slowly but surely return. I’ve decided to make a tentative foray back up the mountain wearing my killer 8000m mittens all the way from base camp and never, ever taking off the insulated trigger mitt liner that I’ve been wearing around base camp. I’ve also thrown half a dozen hand warmers into my pack. If that doesn’t work I’ll throw in the towel and descend. Game over.

But in the meantime I’ve got Frippe somewhere in the clouds attempting the impossible. “I’m leaving C2. Watch me.”

But due to the clouds I can’t watch anything except listen to the radio and hope for the best. Frippe is totally on his own. I scan the whiteout with the video camera, seeing nothing until finally I hear his voice on the radio—calm, cool, collected. “I’m through the rock band. Better than I thought. I’m on my way down.”

Down on the avy plain in the shadow of The Savage Mountain I punch the air and dance in circles. Frippe has unlocked two of the three major cruxes of the ski descent—a massive achievement and a major step towards the goal of skiing from the summit to base camp. The most difficult challenges—the narrow 60-degree couloir at 8300 meters (27,230 ft) known as The Bottleneck and, of course, just making it to the summit, a challenge that some of the world’s best mountaineers have failed to meet and that has taken the lives of many others—lie ahead but at this point I couldn’t be happier.

Back in base camp, we celebrate by scanning the weather forecasts and looking for a window. We’ve decided to pass on a far-from-ideal calm period on the 17th due to its 50 kph (31 mph) winds. We’re betting instead on a longer, better window forecast for the 23rd to the 25th. It’s a big gamble betting on a window 10 days away but after a lot of discussion we feel it’s our best chance.

In the meantime, we’ll head up for one last acclimatization trip, which will give me my second night at 7000 meters (22,966 ft) and Frippe his fourth. We’ll also see how my damaged fingers adapt: if all goes well, I’ll be ready for a summit push. If not, then my dream of climbing K2 is finished and Frippe’s quest to ski from the summit to base camp will be in jeopardy.

/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
www.FredrikEricsson.com.

Slutty Behavior on the Baltoro

The Cesen Route between 5900m to 7000m. Note the ski descent crux sections above and below C2.

Camp 2 – 6350m / 20,833 ft

One of life’s simple pleasures is undoubtedly snow falling on a tent while you’re dozing inside, enveloped in a cozy, warm down cocoon. And oh, how quickly that pleasure turns to pain when the tent in question is perched at 6300 meters (20,669 ft) and the snow is being driven by a 40 mph wind and you’re feeling a desperate need to pull on your boots, wrap yourself in Gore-Tex and, like a chrysalis expanding its wings, emerge from your cocoon and move up to Camp 3. But for now you’re pinned and all you can do is snuggle deeper into your bag, listen to the snow on the tent and thank God for those simple pleasures.

Of course, we wouldn’t even have been up there if the forecast for the past three days had not shown sunny and clear—a big, bright sun icon that might as well have read, ‘Climb now!’

But the reality for the day, like the previous two days, had been wildly different with regular snow squalls, respectable wind and limited viz. Abbas, adventure chef and prince of the Baltoro, told us the Baltis have a name for summer weather like this. “Same word for woman who sleep with many different man. Nobody like these.” Guessing it’s the same word that my sister—the last and perhaps strongest line of defense for the dignity of women—uses when talking about those gals who seduced poor ol’ Tiger. Right then, we’ve got some seriously slutty weather happening up here on the Baltoro.

Fredrik cooking blåbärssoppa in the small yet high-tech expedition tent at camp 2.

And true to slutty behavior we were easily lured from the tent with a flirtatious ray of sunshine, a coy break in the wind, a seemingly innocent patch of clear blue sky. The absolute absurdity of two remarkably immature but otherwise fully-grown men gearing up in the confines of the lightest, most high-tech alpine expedition tent on the planet is slapstick of the highest order: boots to the head, elbows to the kidneys, an arm each in the sleeve of the same jacket, that sort of thing. By the time we’ve both been spit out of the tiny portal the icy wind had picked up again and the sky was dark grey. But we were out, geared up and aching to climb so we went anyway. We worked our way around a rocky corner covered with ice and snow and began angling left up a 45-degree snowslope towards a rock band where we could faintly see a few fixed ropes. By the time we’d reached the rocks it was snowing again and visibility had dropped. The rock was covered with a couple of inches of snow so I pulled hard on the fixed lines a few times before clipping a jumar onto the best of them, slapped a ‘biner onto the next, thinking this absurd act of atonement might save me from my previous sin. I began moving up the rock putting more weight on the old ropes than I knew I should. I made it to the anchor, a bomber piton, my body jacked with adrenaline, sucking hard in the thin alpine air.

Trey exploring the route between camp 2 and camp 3.

Frippe followed, treating the fixed lines as if they were toxic, meticulously freeing the pitch like he had every other pitch to this point, skis angling high out of his pack, ski boots in crampons on snowy rock. He has a true alpinist’s desire to climb a mountain rather than a rope ladder, to carry all his own gear and to skip the drugs and supplemental oxygen that some use to bring a mountain to within their limited reach.

We climbed through the blowing snow to about 6500m (21,325 ft) where the rocky ridge met a 50-degree snowy shoulder that lead to Camp 3 at 7000m (22,965 ft). Navigating a path through these rocks will be one of the cruxes of Frippe’s ski descent and this first reccy provided him with a look at how he’ll potentially make his way through. Despite the big snow year the wind has scoured the ridge leaving loads of exposed rock. It will be a difficult passage but this first look inspires Frip with the confidence that it will go. We turned to descend back to Camp 2 in shamefully slutty weather.

We went to sleep in C2 naiively hopeful that at least one day of our three-day ‘window’ will meet the forecast, but again we wake up with cold wind and blowing snow. Harlot. Nothing to do but descend. We gathered up the garbage and remains of a shredded tent that had been left from a previous expedition and turned towards base camp. The plan had been to scope the final crux of the ski descent—a rocky band separating C2 from the lower slopes. The route up this band ascends a narrow, rocky couloir that is impossible to descend on skis. And when I say impossible I mean it’s not even do-able on ski rappel. However, from base camp Frippe had spotted a snowy line that passes the rock band skier’s right that might have potential. But the line crosses steep, unknown terrain and we’ll need better visibility to explore it.

We descended the snowfield below C2 and rappeled the couloir before Frip locked into his skis and began making turns back to base camp. Variable snow, 47 degrees, poor visibility, a rucksack loaded with 10 extra kilos of garbage left by ‘fellow climbers,’ and a big, fat smile on his face. As I watched him make smooth, controlled turns down the face it was clear to me that with his total devotion to alpine ethics, his love of skiing, and his respect for the beauty and power of K2 that Fredrik Ericsson represents a unique and important posse of chargers from Chamonix and beyond. For these men and women, it’s more than just about getting to the top; it’s about how you do it and what you leave behind. Here’s hoping that a little slutty weather won’t cheapen the experience.

Fredrik descending from C2.

/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, 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 www.FredrikEricsson.com.

Foul weather forces tough decision at Camp 1

Camp 1 on the Cesen Route.

Camp 1 – 5900m / 19,357 ft

We awoke to the sound of driving wind and blowing snow battering the walls of the tent. It wasn’t the kind of storm that made you start scratching out a will on the side of your water bottle but unzipping the tent door a crack and getting blasted by spindrift did make us second guess our plan to make a move to Camp 2.
We’d left base camp the day before at 6 a.m. on an absolutely splitter day—cold and clear, not a breath of wind. We followed the Koreans’ path across the glacier towards their Advanced Base Camp on the Abruzzi Spur but hung a left after crossing the South Face avy plain and before we reached the ice field. This took us to the base of the south-southeast spur also known as the Cesen Route after Tomo Cesen soloed it in 1986. There are also a handful of climbers who refer to the route as the Basque Route but it’s unclear whether this is because they question the veracity of Cesen’s achievement or because it was a Basque team that was the first to climb the route to the summit. Then again, if you ask Andy Parkin he’ll tell you that his crew climbed it before any of those guys but didn’t claim it because they didn’t reach the summit either. As Andy points out, “You can work a route all y’like but if you don’t reach the top it’s not your route, is it?” All philosophical discussion aside, Frippe calls it the Cesen and I met Tomo in Chamonix a coupla of years ago and he seems like a nice enough guy so for this story let’s call it the Cesen Route, shall we? (comments anyone?)

Trey climbing towards Camp 1 on the Cesen Route.

So the Cesen is a bit more difficult than the Abruzzi, which, on a mountain like K2, is reason enough that the Abruzzi gets 80% of the traffic. But the Cesen is also the only line on the mountain that a skier will look at and envision a complete descent from summit to base. Which, of course, is why we’re here, crouched inside our tent, wondering whether we should roll the dice and continue up or gather our toys and run home in time for dinner.

Many climbers invest thousands of well-spent dollars to procure daily, customized weather forecasts from meteorologists who specialize in weather reports from climbers. Arguably, their services have changed the high-alpine climbing game more than any other technical development in the past 30 years, dramatically reducing death and injury by giving climbers a more accurate picture of when to charge and when to kick back and enjoy the decadent luxuries of a Baltoro base camp.

But we don’t have that kind of budget and are instead using a forecast straight from the heart of the Interweb with an accuracy (on this trip, anyway) of about 50/50, which is about what you’d get from looking at the sky and flipping a coin.

Fredrik descending from Camp 1 on the Cesen Route.

Once we’d battled our way outside and shoveled out the tent the mountain actually looked like it might have a chance of clearing. However, our forecast predicted snow starting up that afternoon and continuing through the next day. Decision time. Since we were only at C1 and it’s still early in the game we decided to pull our chips and head for the door. If our instincts were right we’d be back up the mountain in a couple of days with a weather window that would allow us a shot at Camp 2. There really wasn’t anything to lose.

As we battened down the hatches on C1, the weather gradually worsened and by the time Frippe had locked into his skis, we were engulfed by fog. What he had hoped would be a fun shred down the 40-45 degree slopes back to the base of the route turned out to be a slow, route-finding mission. It was a mission that, in the end, would validate our conservative decision.

/Trey Cook

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

Sunset on Broad Peak seen from Camp 1.