Last summer, Dave Morton set out with Adam Knoff to reach the summit of Pakistan’s K2 unsupported and without oxygen, using one of the peak’s most difficult routes. During the 40-day expedition, both climbers were put to the test on one of the world’s most dangerous mountains. Dave chronicled the entire trip in a series of posts and photos for First Ascent.
By Dave Morton
Pitter patter, pitter patter. We’ve been hearing a lot of that lately. On our tents as we wake up early to head high up the route, on our tents up in Camp II, and now in the dining tent at base camp as I sit here writing. The weather has not been spectacular. In fact, it has been raining since we returned from our last climb up high on the 7th.
We departed base camp before dawn on August 4 and made a 6 1/2-hour push back up to Camp II. Deep crimson burst into the horizon as we neared the base of the face once again. By afternoon, that beauty had turned to a sweltering heat at Camp II. It was nearly unbearable. We could not lie in the tents nor sit in the direct sun. Both Adam and I ended up bare-chested with our shirts draped over our heads to keep some of the sun off of our faces. By 2 p.m. natural rock fall had started to occur and on numerous occasions we were jostled out of our dozing by crashing from above. Camp II is protected by a large rock wall, though on all sides rocks varying from the size of a golf ball to the size of a mid-sized duffle bag rained past us. The route seemed to be falling apart. It was only the start.
The next morning we awoke to another partially clear day. Even though we were sleeping at nearly 21,000 feet, it didn’t seem that it had frozen overnight. Amazing, and scary. We departed Camp II by 6 a.m. in order to take advantage of the cooler temperatures. Within 50 vertical meters of leaving Camp II, we were bombarded by dozens of large rocks toppling from the apex of a rock tower above us. Adam took a small piece to the cheek and myself a larger rock to the thigh. We were lucky. We thought of turning around and calling the expedition off. We knew though that we needed this last round of acclimatizing if there were any chance of a summit attempt in the time left for the expedition. After discussing the danger of the sections above, we decided we could justify the more limited risk of rock fall above in order to complete the rotation up high. We continued on to Camp III among sun breaks and broken clouds with the occasional period of fog.
Around noon we arrived at Camp III, knowing that the climbers attempting the summit would have spent the previous night in Camp III. Three tents were standing from the previous night. All had holes in them from rock fall. Apparently the climbers had endured a night of rock fall threatening the tents. The tent that we had loaned out had a nice-sized hole in the rear, with a similar-sized rock inside to match. We did some repairs and hunkered down in our sleeping bags for the afternoon and night—I wore my helmet.
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