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Dave Morton and Adam Knoff Head Home From K2 (Part 11)
Posted on December 30, 2010

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

This morning the skies seem a little bit darker and the rain feels a little bit heavier. It was harder to get out of bed. Our expedition is over. Yesterday we finally pulled the plug on a final attempt to try and get to the summit of K2. It’s a difficult mental adjustment after 40 days at base camp to stand down and throw in the towel, but it looks like the best decision.

After returning from up high on August 7, we’ve had an aggravating time with the weather and forecasts. We knew we needed four full days of rest at base camp before heading back up. That meant our first opportunity to leave would be early morning of the 12th.

The evening before, we were fully packed and mentally psyched for a summit push that would put us trying to top out on the 14th. Our weather report came in over dinner, and it showed winds on the 14th at 65 km/h. The Polish team had four members depart the previous day, and those climbers were already up high. Their base camp manager came to our dining tent and let us know that they had received a report of a potential storm forming on the 14th or 15th. Disappointment. We waited.

The next evening was a similar scenario. And the next. We have been fully packed for five days and have not had a report of anything close to a window of good weather. It has been rainy and cloudy at base camp with high winds the past couple of days. The heartbreaker was that the 14th turned out to be a day that had potential. From base camp it looked as though the winds may have been low enough to summit. But, as these things go, we were watching from base camp along with the Polish and Kazakhs who had returned from up high. Since the 14th, the weather has been very poor and there does not appear to be improvement during the next eight days. The only true window came on the 11th and 12th, but we would have only had one night back at base camp for rest if we were to have made that.

We’ll leave base camp on the 18th in order to make the trek out and arrive in Islamabad in time for our flight home on the 26th. We hope to make it through the landslides and washouts without much delay, though the Karakoram Highway is still completely shut down. The flooding in the Pakistani Northern Areas has been devastating.

The experience gained from a season on this incredible peak is invaluable. Aside from weather, the route conditions in terms of rock fall this season were unusually poor. During most seasons, the conditions remain much more stable, making other more difficult routes possible.

I still believe that an alpine-style attempt on the Magic Line or an attempt to complete the full North Ridge are two of the most compelling objectives on 8,000-meter peaks today. The North Ridge has still not been climbed entirely to the summit, and the Magic Line has had two successful ascents which both used an expedition-siege style. K2 captivates the imagination from home, but being on and near the mountain for 40 days only increases the magic. It is a beautiful peak with a power both inviting and foreboding. It will be hard to completely leave it behind.

Author: - Thursday, December 30th, 2010
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