I’ve been back in the U.K. for a little over 2 weeks now but am still coming to terms with the experiences & emotions of my 7 weeks expedition to Pakistan’s Karakorum region to attempt to climb Gasherbrum II, the lowest of the World’s 8,000 metre peaks. The transition back to normality feels like a rollercoaster ride in itself as my perception of the trip seems to change daily, it looks like it could be weeks if not months before I’ll be able to make a fully collective whole of it all. So with that being the case my aim here is just to portray a more concise factual account of how the trip developed & progressed & try to avoid too much emotional judgement. In time I hope to be able to put on a Presentation at the Cafe where the emotional ‘baggage’ may be easier for me to translate in a sensible format.
To make these posts more reader friendly I’ll split them into what appear to me at least to be compartmentalised sections of the journey from start to finish.
Part 1 – The Background
This trip was almost 10 years in the making, commencing in late 2012 after a successful trip to Nepal where I went more than 4,000 metres higher than I’d ever climbed before culminating in the two 6,000 metre+ peaks of Mera & Island Peaks. This led to thoughts of could I at some point go above 8,000 metres. These thoughts soon narrowed more specifically to Cho Oyu, the world’s 6th highest peak.
Experience of Alpine Climbing was clearly a must if I was to contemplate this so over the next few years I teamed up with ‘my’ guide Tim Blakemore with the support of various friends to climb 19 Alpine 4,000 metre peaks as well as numerous other ‘warm-up’ peaks. In addition I also tested my ability to go higher by taking on the 7,000 metre Pik Lenin in Kyrgyzstan summiting it on 1st August 2017 during a trip that also saw me top out on 4 other peaks of between 5,000 & 6,200 metres. The dye was cast, Cho Oyu was on!
A year later I was in Jagged Globe’s Sheffield offices talking to their Tom Briggs about the climb & days later signing up to their Spring 2019 expedition, avoiding their Autumn 2018 expedition feeling that I needed more than a couple of months lead-in. Sadly this was to be an expensive error!
In March 2019 the Chinese authorities chose with immediate effect to change various regulations for climbing Cho Oyu, the cost of the trip rose by over £5,000 overnight. A minimal of thought later I pulled out of it unable to justify the cost to myself despite recently having teamed up with Kath of Leading Edge (together with my mate Kean) for some specific rope training in & around Fort William.
Tom immediately offered the chance of either Lhotse (4th highest in the world) or Makalu (5th) at the same original cost of Cho Oyu, both a ‘bargain’ at the price but both also considerably more difficult & dangerous, ‘thanks but sorry Tom, not for me.’
Months later after yet another Alpine sojourn with Tim (this time with Judy) Tom got back in contact ‘we’re thinking of GII next summer, do you fancy it?’, I googled & replied ‘Can I come & see you?’
Within a week I was signed up at roughly half the cost of the revised Cho Oyu. Another trip to Fort William in the winter, this time Dorina & Judy joined Kath & I, was I finally ready? Two weeks later on 23rd March 2020, my 54th Birthday, I & the rest of the country apart from Boris & his cronies (more of them than the press have cared to mention) went into Lockdown. GII of 12th June 2020 soon became GII of 11th June 2021 only to be superseded by GII for 10th June 2022. Having paid the balance of the fee literally days before the first Lockdown I at least remained committed to it & refused Tom’s kind offer a refund until we knew more.
I managed a final Alpine sojourn with Tim & Judy in early April this year to clear away some rust at which point Tom had just confirmed we were finally on, a few days after my return I was back in JG’s offices to meet my Team Leader for the trip, David Hamilton, for the first time.
On 22nd April I applied for my 90 Day Visa (to cover the 50 day trip) but became increasingly alarmed as days & weeks passed with no Visa coming. Finally late PM on Monday 6th June just 4 days before my flight the Visa arrived in my email. In my joyous relief I failed to notice it was only for 30 days, I could get into Pakistan but would I be able to get out? That as they say was a problem for another day, I was finally heading for an 8,000 metre peak!