ExWeb interview with K2 summiteer Adrian Hayes, "the mountain will never be tamed"

Posted: Aug 18, 2014 05:05 am EDT

 

(Correne Coetzer) "Make no mistake K2 is a brute of a mountain to climb and you have to climb this mountain continuously,” Adrian Hayes says to ExplorersWeb in an interview back at home from a very successful K2 season

 

Here is from Adrian about the success, the dangers, among them the huge seracs and the too long time spent underneath them, the trail breaking, the Sherpa who fixed the ropes, how it compared to 2013, and seeing the campsite remains of the less lucky ones. And finally, although the mountain is brutal, it is not the toughest expedition he has done, Adrian says. 

 

ExplorersWeb: How was your climb?

 

Adrian: Good question! Very long, steep, exposed, dangerous in places, exhilarating at the top, very fortunate, very lucky. I could use countless words to describe it. For those of us on the first push on 26th  July, the length of the ascent – approx. 15 hours due in part to some long waiting periods whilst lines were fixed – exasperated the other challenges. We were extremely fortunate that the weather was very kind to us – had it been  a few degrees colder or there had been some wind there wouldn’t have been the 32 summits that day, as simple as that.

 

Apart from the summit successes, how did 2014 compare to 2013?

 

Adrian: It was chalk and cheese. In 2013 everything that could possibly go wrong went wrong. Apart from a bad lung infection personally, we were too late, there wasn’t enough teams or manpower on the mountain, Sherpas were reluctant to go up, weather was bad, snow conditions terrible. No summits on K2 and 22 climbers died in the Karakoram – 11 on the mountains and 11 murdered at Nanga Parbat Base Camp. 

 

In 2014, conversely, everything that could possibly go right went right, above all the stable, warm and protracted great weather window of 10 days from 22 July – unprecedented according to old Karakoram hands - which allowed such summit successes in that period. All of us who summited can say we were very lucky.

 

Would you say that K2 is now tamed, more accessible and safer and will become like Everest, or is it still different?

 

Adrian: Much has been made of the large summit successes this year but I said a few weeks ago that’s a very dangerous assumption. Make no mistake K2 is a brute of a mountain to climb and you have to climb this mountain continuously. 

 

Whilst the known landmarks (the house chimney, black pyramid and the bottleneck) are well documented, it’s the countless and continuous other 95% of the mountain that struck me both years – a sustained steepness all the way from ABC with no respite, numerous vertical rock bands and regular 80 or 90 ice slopes, particularly above Camp 4. Add the exposure, the constant rock fall, ever present avalanche danger and fierce and unpredictable weather then its reputation is more than justified.  

 

K2’s lack of any summits from the Pakistan side in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2013 tells a truer picture – the mountain will never be tamed, it’s just a matter of hoping your year is a lucky one. This year it thankfully was and with a  large number of teams on the mountain due to the 60th anniversary of the first ascent, many of us were fortunate to benefit.

 

K2 has several dangerous sections. How did you handle the fear factor?

 

Adrian: We were all aware of the dangers of the ice seracs above the bottleneck in particular of course; what none of us on the first push expected was the extended time we’d spend underneath them! I was expecting a vertical wall of ice, whereas in fact it’s an overhanging wall. And it’s huge! I wouldn’t say fear came into play however, it was just a case of praying, ‘don’t break now’!

 

Arriving at Camp 3 must have brought back a lot of memories from last year’s tragedy of Marty and Denali Schmidt.

 

Adrian: For myself and Al Hancock, who were on K2 last year, we did have some concerns on what would be seen at Camp 3 – though their families were even more concerned of course. Prior to that, at Camp 2 below the House Chimney we came across the remains of their tent, which is where we last spoke to them on 26 July - along with their team mate Chris Warner, the last people to see them alive. It was a poignant moment. 

 

At Camp 3 thankfully the snow was deep, extremely deep and there were no traces of anything from 2013. As tragic as their deaths were, this was the most satisfying outcome – both buried forever somewhere on the slopes of the mountain.

 

Campsites seem to be quite at the edge so to speak; built on steep slopes. Could you get good sleep?

 

Adrian: One of my biggest concerns this year was, with the large number of teams on the mountain; how we would manage logistics at Camp 1 and 2. Fortunately some teams delayed their summit pushes after the first wave thus easing the pressure. Sleep was very sporadic.

 

Trail breaking is key in the success. Tell us about the mountaineers (Sherpas) in the front who broke the trail and fixed the ropes. Who were they and how many and what was their strategy?

 

Adrian: I said immediately after last year’s unsuccessful attempt that it was essential that teams arrived at K2 far earlier than the traditional late June in order to give us a chance of success. Thankfully a number took responsibility to do so, most notably the Pakistan team who fixed lines to C1 and C2 early on – allowing everyone who arrived later to get straight into their rotations. 

 

I also said that, apart from weather and snow conditions, which were out of our control, the prime factor in summiting would be a strong team of Sherpas on the summit push. And for that four Sherpas from Seven Summit Treks, led by Lakpa Sherpa, who was with us in 2013, did a great job working ahead of us to fix lines and break trail, Everyone who summited this year from all the teams owe them a debt.

 

You are delivering a presentation ‘K2 – the Tragedy and the Triumph’ at the Royal Geographical Society on September 9, what will you be focusing on?

 

Adrian: This was booked – on a distinct gamble I hasten to add – at the end of last year when we arranged the ‘Footsteps of Thesiger’ evening which took place in January. Apart from commemorating the 60 years of its first ascent, I hope to show K2 as it's not been seen before in both its beauty and its brutality. The contrast between 2013 and 2014, the tragedies and the successes is indeed a powerful story.

 

A quick comparison to your ski/walk across the Arctic Ocean, the full route, from Canada to the North Pole (775km in 50 days in 2007)?

 

Adrian: In an interview with ExplorersWeb a few months ago, Ryan Waters summed it up aptly – walking to the North Pole is akin to going into battle every day. As tough as K2 was, I honestly feel that nothing else on Earth is comparable to walking to the North Pole!

 

 

Adrian Hayes will be presenting ‘K2 – the Tragedy and the Triumph’ at the Royal Geographical Society London on Tuesday 9 Sept at 7 pm. Tickets available from World Expeditions

 

Adrian Hayes is the British, UAE based, polar explorer and adventure, keynote speaker, business coach, author and campaigner.

 

An Arabic and Nepalese speaking former Gurkha Officer in the British Army and Airbus Sales Director, he reached the Earth’s ‘three poles’ in the then shortest period of time in history, between 25 April 2006 and 28 December 2007. Along with Canadian’s Devon McDiarmid and Derek Crowe, in 2009 he achieved the longest unassisted snow-kiting journey in the Arctic to date, the 67 day 3120 km vertical crossing of the Greenland ice cap, the documentary for which was broadcast on Nat Geo channel.

 

In 2011 he completed a crossing of the Empty Quarter by camel and foot, along with Bedouin team mates, in the trail of Sir Wilfred Thesiger. His book ‘Footsteps of Thesiger’ was published in 2013 and the documentary of the same name broadcast on Discover Channel the same year.

 

In 2013 he attempted K2 along with Canadian team mate Al Hancock, but the expedition was aborted when an avalanche wiped out Camp 3, killing New Zealand father and son Marty and Denali Schmidt.

 

On July 26, 2014, 15:20 local time Adrian Hayes stood on the top of K2, at 8611 m the second highest mountain in the world and also called the Mountaineers Mountain. 

 

 

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Has K2 been tamed? K2 summiteer Adrian Hayes answers ExWeb

 

K2 2014: Adrian Hayes talks to ExWeb from Pakistan

 

ExWeb K2 Interview with Adrian Hayes, "It all goes back to starting too late."  (2013)

 

 

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2013:  Marty and Denali Schmidt Reported Missing on K2 - updated [1], [2], [3]

 

 

ExWeb interview with Ryan Waters, "the North Pole is like going into battle”

 

ExWeb interview with Eric Larsen: "The North Pole is easily ten times harder than Everest or the South Pole"

 

 

#mountaineering #k2 #adrianhayes #polar #northpole #interview

 

 

 

 

Adrian Hayes: "[...] a sustained steepness all the way from ABC with no respite, numerous vertical rock bands and regular 80 or 90 ice slopes, particularly above Camp 4. Add the exposure, the constant rock fall, ever present avalanche danger and fierce and unpredictable weather then its reputation is more than justified."
courtesy Adrian Hayes, SOURCE
Adrian on top of K2, July 26, 2014. "For those of us on the first push on 26th  July, the length of the ascent – approx. 15 hours due in part to some long waiting periods whilst lines were fixed – exasperated the other challenges."
courtesy Adrian Hayes, SOURCE