1982 K2 Expedition Report Part III
We recommenced the ascent on the 4th of August under continuingly favorable weather conditions.
This decision was not easy and this time I waited to see what the team decided. During these days we deeply felt Halina's absence; she left us so quietly and suddenly that we sometimes couldn't believe she had gone. One's idea of a mountain death is so different. Nearly every one of us has been confronted with it and each of us has known dangers and risks in the mountains. Then one is sorrowful, but at the same time it seems impossible that it could happen to oneself; because to take a thought like this too seriously would mean to give up climbing, swimming and driving...
But we were still at the beginning of our expedition and full of energy after all the preparations. The sun was shining and the mountains very friendly. Day by day it became more obvious: we wanted to start climbing again. The last to come to this decision was Halina's friend and companion, Anna Okopinska.
Again the climbing parties left Base Camp and carried new loads to the higher camps. On the 7th of August, Colombel, Czerwinska and Palmowska reached 7100 meters on the reconnaissance thrust from Camp 2. "If we had known how bad the weather was to become later, we certainly would have tried to set up Camp 2I, 250 meters higher, on that day," they said afterwards.
But even that would not have won us the summit because we did not have one single day of good weather from the middle of August to the end of the expedition.
The weather was varying from August 10th to the 13th. On the 14th and 15th of August we had our last sunny, windstill days. On the 16th, a wind came up from the west and southwest and continued blowing until the end of September.
At altitudes over 7000 meters the wind was 40 to 50 knots and the temperature was 30 degrees below zero. The weather created a death zone where no human being had a chance. At the end of August and beginning of September we sometimes had sun down in Base Camp, from where we could see almost vertical snow clouds on the enormous pyramid of K2. Afterwards, the mountain was mostly covered with clouds.
Again and again, the climbing parties tried to venture up to the height of the death zone to set up the decisive Camp 2I above the steep rock Black Pyramid. We would have had to keep this camp accessible despite the bad weather and have it sufficiently equipped in order to get ourselves acclimatized. This we knew to be essential to reach the top. But we were only able to get up to Camp 2 and during the night; we were often afraid that the wind would tear the tent from its moorings.
Again and again different members of the expedition tried to climb higher but had to retreat quickly. Palmoswska and Czerwinska were in Camp 2 six times as the leading party and every time the "fast ones," Colombel and Okopinska, were ready to take their places. Wach, Panejko-Pankiewicz and Lukaszewska worked to repair the damage done by wind and falling rocks. Krystyna Palmowska climbed 14,000 meters on this expedition, which is almost four times the amount between Base Camp and the summit. We had all the equipment needed for Camps III and IV in the higher camps and we were ready for our assault on the summit.
Ten to 14 days of good weather would have been all we needed, but during the 69 days we spent in the mountains, the only good weather we had was during the first three weeks. In the course of our remaining stay we waited in vain for a change for the better. On the 16th of September we gave up all hope of reaching the top.
On September 26th we started on our way down the valley with 50 porters. This time Jaji Mahdi did not disappoint us. He and our sirdar, Chulam Nabi, had chosen good porters, well equipped and provisioned. Four of the best were my personal attendants and they were ready to help me cross snow-covered Baltoro Glacier, hampered as I was by the still unmended bone in my thigh.
Discontented was our mood as we plodded down the valley: the most beautiful mountain in the world had made fun of our dreams and ambitions. But it was good to feel the friendship that held us together. This time our expedition had not attained its projected goal, but all in all we had built up a basis for future projects: with this team spirit, this experience and this equipment, we intended to try again.
Colombel, Czerwinsnka, Okopinska, and Palmowska want to turn up on Baltoro Glacier once more in 1983. Wach, Panejko-Pankiewicz, Lukaszewska and others plan climbs in the Gharwal Himalaya in alpine style.
One thing we learned for sure. If we ever go to the Karakoram again, we will certainly start a month earlier and, if possible, not take the second date, as that gives an expedition too small a chance of success.
Wanda Rutkiewicz's 1982 Expedition Notes, Courtesy Arlene Blum