K2: Summit Push Under Way

Aug 6, 2010
Outside Magazine

This dispatch was received on the afternoon of August 5.  Below, Trey Cook's friend, David Schipper, relays information from Cook and Fredrik Ericsson's skiing expedition on K2.

Today at about 2PM Moab UT time and 10 PM French time the remaining 9 climbers at camp 4 plan to begin their move across the shoulder, through the bottleneck and traverse and then ultimately the summit. Ralf spent some of his day vomiting on the route toward 4 yesterday and felt it best to descend. Gerlinde, Fabrizio, Kinga, Trey and Fredrik are moving toward the summit.

'Guess where I am!!' was my crystal clear greeting from the 88.... number on my cell phone this morning. They had made it to camp 4 after 11 hours of dicey climbing over the 45 degree-ish loose rock below camp 4. It had snowed the night before only an inch so each loose rock was covered just enough to hide its intention and predictability. Frippe lead about half the elevation gain as the others benefitted from his efforts. 'There were a lot of rock fall!'

This is the first time Trey has seen China from K2s famed shoulder. 'It is so beautiful!', yeah I was thinking 'breathtaking'...Trey's tone today was of cautious enthusiasm. He was careful of jinxing his situation by saying too much but we both knew, and maybe on some new-aged cosmic plane we communicated, this fickle mountain was showing the appearance of opportunity. Straight up - it simply doesn't get any better than this.

The summit plan is that it will take between 8 and 12 hours to reach - putting them on top before noon. If Frippe summits before Trey he will begin his descent as soon as he is ready. It will most likely consist of a few turns, stop, catch his breath, repeats...times 2000+. Trey will most likely be in the middle of the 8 climbers not skiing so he has little to worry about in terms of support.

As soon as Frippe steps into his bindings he will lose the support connection he has with his competent climbing team. It is hard to quantify the scope of this courage. Yes, a brass pair on this quiet Swede. I have trusted my life to Trey without reservation for over 20 years and can't imagine the vacancy felt knowing he couldn't cover my back on the descent.

Some of the ski descent route can be seen from the climbers descent route, but not a lot. Almost all of it can be seen from the safety of base camp and I'm sure all eyes will be there. If the forecast of light clouds is more friendly the view may be good but it is hard to know.

If Frippe starts skiing at noon he will most likely have daylight for his whole descent. The climbers will most likely return to camp 4 or maybe camp 3 after their summit activities. If everyone is healthy it is reasonable to assume they will be back in base camp by their Saturday night.

Good luck boys. Kolin Powick from Black Diamond sends his best and told me to stop worrying because my boys were competent. Glen Plake said his wife had Texas brisket waiting for Trey when he returns to Chamonix, and Chris Clark from SCARPA says 'HI'.

--David Schipper

To learn more of Fredrik Ericsson’s past expeditions and his quest to ski the world’s three highest mountains check out FredrikEricsson.com.

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