As-Salamu alaykum, or "peace be upon you" in Arabic. After months of preparation and one long day of traveling, Fredrik Ericsson and I have finally arrived in the capital of Pakistan on the first leg of our adventure.
What adventure, you ask? Fredrik--or Frippe, as our crew in Chamonix calls him--will be doing everything in his power to become the first person to ski from the summit of K2. Yep, you read that right. This guy plans not just to climb the most difficult, dangerous, and baddest 8,000-meter peak on the planet, he wants to do what’s never been done before by slapping on his skis and charging the 3,600 meters (11,811 feet) back down to base camp.
Oh, and he plans to do this without supplemental oxygen. And without Sherpas, or high-altitude porters. And, no, he’s not mainlining EPO or steroids or Red Bull or any other kind of performance-enhancing anything. It’s just him, his skis, a ruggedly handsome and highly courageous ski journalist (that would be me), and one notoriously foul-tempered mountain.
Of course, you probably already know of K2’s hard-won reputation as The Savage Mountain. That’s the term of endearment she earned by slamming the door on many of the world’s best alpinists and sending them home with their tails between their legs.
In his book K2: Life and Death on The World’s Most Dangerous Mountain, Ed Viesturs writes: "I had previously climbed Everest and Kangchenjunga, the first and third highest peaks in the world, but I knew that K2 was in another league of difficulty and danger."
Indeed, the last time anyone made it to the top of K2 was in 2008 when 30 climbers from ten different expeditions joined forces to make a summit bid. Around 18 of them are believed to have made the summit, and in a terrible chapter in the history of climbing, 11 of them never returned.
The next year, the mountain brushed off all her suitors, sparing all but one precious life, that of Michele Fait, an experienced Italian ski mountaineer whose tragic death deeply saddened both the climbing and skiing communities.
But 2009 wasn’t all bad. American ski mountaineer Dave Watson was also on the mountain last summer and skied down from the Bottleneck just 300 meters (1,000 feet) below the summit. His effort confirmed others’ belief that the impossible might actually be possible. One of those believers is Fredrik Ericsson. The other is myself, you know, the strong yet sensitive alpine journalist.
You’ll be hearing a lot more about Fredrik, K2, our plans, and our ability (or lack thereof) to stick to those plans in our upcoming blog reports. At any point along the way, we encourage you to hit us in the comments section below with questions about topics we haven’t covered, things you don’t understand, or anything at all about our expedition that you’d like to know more about. Taking the time to respond might very well be the only thing that keeps Frippe and I from strangling each other as the weeks drag on and the down days (and those annoying idiosyncracies) begin to stack up.
In the meantime, we’ll be in Islamabad, taking advantage of our last two days in civilization to enjoy the simple pleasures of champagne-drenched, cocaine-fueled nights spent in the company of an endless stream of exotic, high-class prostitutes. I'm joking, of course. Anyone who knows anything about Islamabad (or Fredrik and me for that matter) knows that simple pleasures at this point mean little more than a comfy bed, a hot shower, cold Coca-Cola, and ice cream. Man, how we’re gonna miss that ice cream.
--Fredrik Ericsson and Trey Cook
For more photos of K2, check out climber Fabrizio Zangrilli's gallery.