Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Heading home

I bailed. The weather window held and we went back up for a second attempt on Link Sar, found a way through the glacier and onto the face and after one night on the route I did something I’ve never done before, I had to bail when everything was looking good.

We’d had a big day on the first day trying to beat the incoming weather, leaving base camp early morning, making the approach, and then climbed up to about 6000m on the north face where we managed to get a very small bivi ledge on top of a rock. I hadn’t felt amazing on the first day and Jon had done most of the leading as we moved together up the North Face.
Jon finding a way through the glacier to access the face

Jon on the lower part of the North Face

After a very slow start the next morning Jon headed off and as I followed I just knew straight away I was way more tired than I should have been. After taking over the lead I knew it was all over. I couldn’t even lead a full 70m pitch, having to stop and belay after 50m on ground we should have been moving together on. Not wanting to give in I set off again, but exactly the same thing happened, I just ran out of steam after 50m and had to stop. I’d never felt like this on a climb before, completely exhausted. My legs weren’t too tired, but it just felt like there was nothing in me to power them. I’ve never thought of myself as the most technical or fastest climber, but one thing I know I can do is push on when my body says it’s had enough. But not this time there just wasn’t anything there.

Jon heading up the North Face

Jon coming up to the ridge where we’d hoped to get the tent up

I’d been fighting a stomach bug for the last couple of weeks which had seen me struggling with psyche for a bit, but after a prescribed ‘bowl bomb’ from a doctor friend back home between our attempts I thought I’d sorted it and on the way back up the psyche was definitely back and I was super excited to get back on Link Sar. I guess in the end it had taken a hell of a lot more out of me than I thought and at altitude I just wasn’t recovering.

On the airy ridge 

Ignoring the massive disappointment I’d love to be able to say it was a difficult decision to make to go down, but with how I felt there was only one option for me. Then with how I felt on the descent and the walk back to base camp there was no doubt in my mind I had made the right decision, as difficult as it is to accept now. To say I’m gutted and disappointed is an understatement but more so for Jon, he has acclimatized well, as always is as fit as ever and the route was good to go. I really feel I’ve let him down massively, but Jon being Jon is being great about the whole thing even though he must be so disappointed. I’ve had expeditions fail in the past due to weather or conditions but to fail because of my body letting me down is something I’m finding hard to accept and very frustrating.

The ridge looked like we should be able to get a good bivi, but we soon realised it was going to take too long so lowered back down to start chopping an easier but smaller ledge on a rock 

Jon trying not to fall off the bivi ledge

I really don’t feel I’m recovering up here and don’t have confidence in getting fit enough for another go, so we start the journey back to Islamabad tomorrow.  It's always difficult going away empty handed from a trip, especially when you don’t know why you haven’t been able to give it your best effort.  But the Charakusa Valley has been an amazing place to visit and I feel very lucky to have been able to spend the time here that we have and I hope I can come back again one day and actually climb something here. 

Amazing view of K7 against the night sky from our bivi

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