Why K2 .. of all the @#$*%...
Broad Peak then K2
K2 is the KIller Mountain, the Savage Mountain. Don't you know when to stop Alan? Seriously, we kind of understood when you returned to Everest but K2? You have lost it ...
I picked up the telephone and dialed the 10 numbers. Then I punched another 5 to enter the conference call. After short introductions, the business at hand began. As I settled into my chair my thoughts drifted to mountains. Not any Hill but K2, the Killer Mountain.
Idiot, imbecile, moron? I am not sure what the physiological pecking order is but I have been called at least one of these for my plan to climb K2. But please read on before agreeing with my critics!
Followers of my climbs already know my history at altitude. A summit of Ama Dablam (6856m) and of Aconcagua (6962m). The summit plateau at 8000 meters on Cho Oyu. Two back to back attempts on Everest to 8200 meters.
But the summit is not the scorecard … for me.
However, the last Everest climb in 2003 took it all out of me. The details have now become unimportant. The lessons have not. I plotted my return to altitude carefully and with serious contemplation. I needed to regain my confidence. I needed to test my body. I needed to find a team where I could contribute yet not be controlled. I needed another chance.
Thinking like a new member at an AA meeting, I told myself, “Hello, my name is Alan Arnette and I am a climbaholic.” Mountains call for me to return no matter how much misery they incur on my body, my mind, my essence.
The hardships allow me to grow, they do not to tear me down.
The first step back was Rainier – a straight forward climb with glaciers and a small degree of difficulty. The summit was nice but my friends made it better and my body said “good.”
Aconcagua was next – higher and with serious challenges. The mountain spoke to me as Stu and I attempted the Polish Glacier by sending a VW sized ice cube our way. We achieved our goal of a summit and my body said “better.”
With the nearly 7000m Hill under my belt, I began to dream again. Reaching out to a new partner in the climbing world, Dave Hancock and I made plans – big plans. I have never looked Dave in the eye. I don’t know if he smiles when he talks or looks away. If he writes with his left hand or his right.
I spent more time in the Hills. The summer of 2005 was 14er World for me. Patrick and I climbed many Hills, some easy, some hard and my confidence grew.
At some point you have to jump back in.
The plan is to climb Broad Peak, 8047 meters. Then K2, the Savage Mountain – 8611 meters – 26,250 feet – the second highest Hill on Earth – arguably, the hardest.
But there is work before the climb
Lifting my snowshoe, I kick not once but three times to make a step in the waste deep snow on the way to the Colorado 14er in January. My 50lb pack makes me heavier and I sink in the soft snow. When my turn is over, I gladly turn the lead over to my partners.
Five months to go and I need to do more.
The conference call comes to an end and the decision is clear. I hang up and look back at my computer. A new message comes in from a teammate asking about food above Base Camp.
Helping to organize the expedition has been fulfilling. I feel like I already know each of our 25 members: the Everest climber with the wife who said “never K2”. The accomplished climber with all the highest peaks under his belt looking for another challenge. The young climber looking to make his mark on the climbing world – or at least for himself. Everyone with a different story, a different motivation yet bonded by the call of the Hills.
This will not be my typical climb. No rigid schedule. No overbearing guide. No outside expectations to do more than I can do.
My goal is as always: do my best and return home safely.
A well known climbing site responded to our press-release by telling me we are “gutsy”.
I wonder what they meant? Crazy? Well, we probably are! Broad Peak is a world-class mountain not to be taken lightly. And K2? Are we (I) naive to put together a “commercial” expedition for K2? Are we over ambitious to “acclimatize” on Broad Peak then climb K2? Are we irresponsible to put ourselves in these situations? Questions are easy from the bleachers. Good questions are valued from the field.
So this is it. Another Big Hill, another adventure. I will put all my essence into reaching the summit. I have the support from my Boss (Thanks!). I will need the followers on this site to support me as you always have, thanks! Most importantly, I have unquestioning support from Cathy, Ashley and the rest of my family. There are some things that are non-negotiable.
I will support my teammates in accomplishing their goals. I will soak in a new culture. I will look at the Karakorum the way a thirsty man does a glass of water.
I am retuning to my big mountains! I will do my best. I will be who I am.