Ample days have been allowed for our program on the mountain. Typically quite a few of these nights will be spent at base. We follow the principle of 'climb high and sleep low' which allows for good safe acclimatisation, as well as gaining strength and plenty of rest. Notwithstanding, it is the only practical way to get your climb gear up the mountain; by multiple trips with moderate loads. A typical schedule would see several nights spent at camp 1 on several occasions, and at least a night spent at camp 2, before returning to base to rest and prepare for a summit bid over 4/5 days. Travelling with a minimum of gear now, we move up over the 3 successive camps in as many days before making a summit bid.
Whilst the climb could possibly be achieved in less time, there is quite likely to be delays for weather – persisting snowfalls or wind, or both and also the rate of establishing fitness and preparedness for the climb will vary among members. A critical component of expedition planning is preparing a conservative itinerary to allow for setbacks. In this way, we can greatly optimise our chances for a successful outcome for all our efforts.
Initially gear needs to be moved up the mountain to form our camps as well as the route opened. A steady shuttle approach works the most effectively, with everyone contributing to achieve these two goals. Your two guides, assisted by Pakistani HAPs (high altitude porters) will carry group climbing gear and some tents and members are expected to carry their personal gear and a share of food, gas and possibly a tent. Typical loads for climbing at altitude should be between 12 and up to 20kgs, however this varies according to people's build, age and gender, and of course their condition at the time. The aim of the program is to allow for flexibility so all can steadily progress up the mountain. The route to the first camp travels over grass slopes, followed by steep scree and rock slopes that require some scrambling, bringing us to the edge of the snowline at approx 5350m. From camp 1, the route follows up the very long ridge, gaining approx 400 metres. The ridge is exposed in places and brings us in to a camp at 5650m on a level less exposed area on the ridge. The climb to our third and last camp at 6250m is more steep and sustained, where the ridge becomes more defined and exposed. The first section (approx 400m) at approx a 35 degrees slope is usually set with fixed rope by staff and the last stage into the camp (approx 150m) is hard work, being a little steeper and will generally be fixed also. Camp 3 is set on a flat area again with views of our route to the summit.
Snow (too much of it) can hinder our progress necessitating re-establishing our path, so exact scheduling cannot be fore-planned. Early starts are a great advantage with snow deteriorating in condition once the sun hits. Our HAPs are intended to greatly aid our progress with the route, although trail breaking should effectively be a collective effort, especially in continued snowfall - as with any expedition.
A typical schedule would be an early am start; around 2am, and an estimated 6 hours to the summit in good conditions. The route follows the southeast ridge on moderate slopes (approx 30 degrees), which then merges with the southwest ridge, leading on in similar form to the summit. Exposure requires care in our approach and of course at almost 7000 metres, climbing is never easy. Furthermore, distances deceive, camps or summits always look closer than they actually are, and respect must be paid for the long distances to climb in attempting the summit of a 7000 metre peak.
The summit itself is more rounded and a superb position to enjoy views of the Karakoram in clear weather. Mountains surrounding are; the Haramosh group to the south, Malubiting and peaks lining the Biafo and Hispar Glaciers to the north such as Kunyang Chhish (7850m). Summit day times can vary considerably in duration, descent usually takes approx half of the ascent time (approx 3hrs), with the intent to move lower down the mountain for the night. The next day, camps would be cleared by staff and members, with all members returning to base. A day or so is scheduled to pack up, clear rubbish and reunite with our porters before set about our exit trek. Accommodation in our fully serviced wilderness campsite.