|Chasing 8000 metre peaks in Pakistan's Karakoram|
Serap Jangbu the Philosopher
Gorgan and Serap Jangbu leave this morning with a handful of porters. Serap came here to climb Gasherbrum I and Broad Peak, potentially his twelfth and thirteenth 8000 metre peaks, but such has been the weather this year that he's been no further than Camp 3 on G1. Even so, he is very philosophical about the whole thing, and gives a short speech at breakfast which puts things in perspective for all of us.
Veikka Gustafsson and Serap Jangbu Sherpa“There are three things which are important in mountaineering. Number 1 is safety. You must always come back safely and with all your fingers and toes. The mountain will always be here next year. Number 2 is to enjoy the climbing and your time at base camp. If you can't be happy in the mountains, where can you be happy? Number 3 is reaching the summit, and this comes only after the other two. I came here to climb G1 and Broad Peak and didn't succeed, but I am happy, because I am alive and safe and will come back next year.”
I believe him. As he stands at the head of the table in his cowboy hat, with his long straight ponytail hanging down his back, there is a smile on his face which extends behind his eyes and is entirely genuine, hiding nothing – no regrets or wistfulness.
Gorgan's emotions are harder to fathom. “See you in London, when I come over to shag all your English women,” he says with a grin as he shakes my hand. I think he's just glad to be getting out of here.
Today is the second day of three days of storms, according to the last weather forecast we received. It's certainly the worst day I can remember us experiencing at Base Camp. A cold wet snow hammers down all day, and damp clouds hang across the Abruzzi and South Gasherbrum Glaciers, obscuring all mountains so that it looks like our little patch of moraine is afloat on an endless sea of ice. Not a hint of sun penetrates through to warm our tents, and in the afternoon I huddle inside mine wearing down boots, down jacket and two layers of trousers, with all tent flaps firmly zipped up, listening to a gusty wind hammer against the sides of the tent. At one point a solitary wasp finds its way inside and buzzes around my ears. With not a single blade of grass for miles around, I wonder what on earth the stupid insect is doing up here.
Gorgan at Base CampDespite the atrocious weather, our two enthusiastic youngsters, Arian and Michael, decide to spend the afternoon ice climbing on the glacier in the expectation that it will be good practice for when we come to climb G1. I very much hope severe ice climbing requiring two technical ice axes will not be necessary on summit day, where we will not be using fixed ropes. If so, I will be turning round and heading back down again – I've no wish to die on this mountain. As I sit and listen to the snow patter on my tent, a more realistic concern is whether we will ever get above Camp 2 on either mountain. Although we were intending to put up fixed ropes between Camps 3 and 4 and on the summit ridge of Gasherbrum II, supposedly an easier mountain, I seem to be the only person concerned that none of the route will be fixed above Camp 3 on G1. Either my companions are somewhat complacent or they're very talented ice climbers.
At dinner time I receive slightly better news. Phil has been over to see the newly arrived Korean team of Miss Oh Eun-Sun, who is hoping to make G1 her thirteenth 8000m peak after coming fresh off a successful summit of Nanga Parbat, her twelfth. Unlike anyone else on Gasherbrum this year, apart from ourselves, she has a team of Sherpas with her. She believes there will be a summit window between 31 st July and 4 th August, and her Sherpas will be using oxygen to help them fix 400 metres of rope on summit day. Phil offered for our Sherpas to help with fixing and breaking trail, and we understand this has been accepted. I try not to get too excited about this, though. News changes around here like a monkey swinging from tree to tree and never settling in one place. I'm certain circumstances will change again before we get anywhere near the summit. Que sera, sera.