— lots of excuses. But the mood among the adventure group
is upbeat; they are in a place few get to see.
The next morning I decide to go up to see what condi-
tions are like toward the Italian base camp, located at about
15,000 feet, and beyond to the advance base camp. The trail
is steep but it feels good to be out exploring. I make it to a
high spot where I can see the glacier that comes down the
face of K2 and notice a new landslide. I decide to traverse the
area to check conditions and I see that the trail is dry mud
our final night on the trail. We arrive in camp but the camels
and drivers have gone ahead. The guide says they are just
a half an hour out but again, I sense trouble. We hike for
another t wo hours and finally find the camels and their driv-
ers sunning themselves. I have a few words with the drivers
and think, what a way to finish the trek. The next morning we
walk another hour and at last see the Land Cruisers again.
After many hugs and kisses, even some for the camel driv-
ers, our group heads back to Kashgar.
The camp is in a cold and barren place on the
plateau at almost
13,000 feet and the camel
drivers are again becoming skittish.
with many cracks, very narrow, with a big drop on the side.
One wrong step and you’re gone — there is no way camels
or donkeys could navigate this, let alone those on the trek.
Some members of the group are disappointed to not be
able to make it farther, but this is the way it is in the mountains — nothing is guaranteed. A night of snow makes the
idea of going forward impossible anyway. Client safety is
the most important part of any trek and bringing everyone
home safe is always foremost on my mind. We are able, however, to spend the next couple of days exploring the valleys
around base camp.
I want to take the group to a vista point to see K2 but
there is a river crossing involved. The camel drivers want
$200 for the 45-second crossing. By now arguing with them
is working better at getting me going than a cup of coffee and
I am able to get the price down to $100. After the crossing we
climb steeply to the vista point and at last K2 reveals itself
with a beautiful plume over the summit.
There is only one way in and out of the area, so we retrace
our steps over the pass, but this time the crossing is not as
easy as on the way in. The approach is much steeper, there
is quite a bit of snow on top and the day is very long. There is
no real defined trail on a glacier so we improvise by heading
up and winding our way down through the rocks.
We finally make it to camp after the pass but the spot is
very windy and very cold. Setting up tents in the wind on
frozen ground is exhausting after the long day. One tent gets
picked up by the wind and cart wheels about half a kilometer
across the frozen ground. We get camp set up and get ready
for dinner but we can’t find water any where that isn’t frozen. Of course the camel drivers know where to get water
— for $500. We get the price down to $200 and finally have
water and, a little while later, a very quick dinner.
Two days later we get to the camp where we will spend
Two more long days of driving takes us back to the city
for shopping, photos and long showers. The group is healthy,
having had the expedition of a lifetime and seen the splen-
dor of one of the world’s most impressive mountains. But
we have one more hurdle. The airline, despite its promises,
wants to charge us for overweight bags. We think they must
be relatives of the camel drivers.
Below: Camels trek through
the snow next to one of
the dogs that joined the
trip. Opposite: A snowy
campsite at base camp.