Monday, July 13, 2009

The Duke's Spur

In 1909 the Duke of Abruzzi's expedition surveyed nearly three quarters of K2, from the West Face which rises above the Savoia Glacier to the South Face above the de Felipi and Godwin-Austen Glacier (immediately above our base camp) to the SE spur and the East Face. The Duke's plan to climb K2 was extremely ambitious for the day. After their survey, they decided to attempt the SE spur, now known as the Abruzzi Spur. The climbing is difficult and the Duke and his guides reached a little over 20,000 feet before calling it quits. They later went to nearby Chogolisa where they reached over 25,000 feet, 500 feet shy of the summit and an altitude record that stood until it was surpassed on Mt. Everest in 1922.

A couple days ago I went to Camp 1 (5,900m/19,357ft) to sleep and then to Camp 2 (6,450m/21,161ft) for another night before returning to base camp. I was able to shoot spectacular footage of the views from Camp 2 and some decent footage of people moving between the camps.

Our route is the SSE Spur, generally known as the "Cesen" route after Slovenian alpinist Tomo Cesen. The conditions are excellent. Some deep snow in places, but importantly there has been little rockfall due to a late Spring.

Perhaps as soon as tomorrow (July 11) we will return to Camp 2, spend a night and then fix rope to Camp 3 (7,200m/23,622ft) the following day. Weather, as usual, is the determining factor. Fabrizio receives forecasts from a variety of sources and the consensus is no precipitation, but increasing winds over the next few days. The jet stream is directly overhead and its height is the important factor. When it dips down, winds at 8,000 meters (26,247ft) will reach over 100 kilometers per hour (62 miles per hour). High winds above Camp 2 would preclude fixing to Camp 3. We'll have to play it by ear.

Filming is going well. Unfortunately, most of the time K2 is obscured by clouds. But there have been some nice periods and I've managed to shoot some nice light on the summit. After sunset I've been able to shoot some amazing stills of K2 lit by moonlight. On my many rest days I've been wandering about shooting anything I can find. Rivers flowing over the ice, avalanches (though I missed the biggest one), Yellow-billed Choughs, Broad Peak (another 8,000'er directly across the valley from K2), various base camps and a million shots of the grand vistas surrounding us.

More to come in a few days!

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