K2 2014: Adrian Hayes talks to ExWeb from Pakistan

Posted: Jun 20, 2014 10:30 am EDT

(By Correne Coetzer, edited June 20, 16:58, to reflect previous summit years) Polar skier and mountaineer, Adrian Hayes is on his way to attempt K2 again after last year’s attempt was aborted due to deep and dangerous snow conditions on the mountain; before the subsequent death of Denali and Marty Schmidt.


ExWeb caught up with Adrian in Islamabad, starting earlier, still not early enough in his view, "but way ahead on last year. That will give us more time both for what I consider is an essential three rotations as well as being ready for an early weather window."


ExplorersWeb: You are already in Pakistan. What is the spirit among the climbers, in particular with regard to the terrorist attack of last year? 


Adrian: As always fear of the unknown is far more powerful than the known. I am sure that, back home, loved ones of climbers will have many fears and doubts right now, imagining us bunkering under cover. The reality is far different of course, though high caution is obviously extremely wise.  


So far I’ve only met with Dawa Sherpa and my buddy Al Hancock, whose just come from a successful summit of Makalu – along with Monique Richard, the first Canadians to summit the peak. The atmosphere feels very positive, however, there’s that ‘feeling in the air’.


How do you remember the mountain and specifically the part that you have climbed last year?


Adrian: Steep! It really is a complete paradox between the very gradual hike to ABC at 5300 m and the sheer,  sustained and exposed slopes that head up into the heavens, with no respite. As usual I found the heat more of a problem than the cold – climbing to C1 on one rotation I had my T-shirt over my head with a bare midriff and trousers rolled up round my waist with bare legs to try and cool down. But that’s just me and my nuclear furnace of heat producing body. 


The vertical sections obviously required attention, but it was the altitude they were at rather than any their high degree of technicality that made them challenging. Otherwise I will remember C2 as being a pit, scattered with tent debris, equipment and, yes, excrement. Not the prettiest place to spend a week’s holiday.


What have you learned from last year that you will do different this year?


Adrian: I sent some transparent and honest feedback last year to the Sherpa team, the Pakistan ground operators and to ExplorersWeb and I’m pleased that most of them seem to have been heeded. The main one was to start far earlier which we are doing – still not early enough in my view, but way ahead on last year. That will give us more time both for what I consider is an essential three rotations as well as being ready for an early weather window. 


I still think those attempting the BP and K2 double don’t have enough window of opportunity to do both and the fact that only one person has ever achieved this speaks of its difficulty, but wish them well. 


Above all, however, we have a far bigger team with much more support to meet what is probably the greatest challenge of all on the mountain - deep snow. I equate the importance of this to the equivalent of attempting to cycle 500 kms with two of you taking turns at the front, compared to riding in a peloton of 30. For wind resistance read breaking trail in the snow. With the exception of 2011 and 2012, no-one has summited since 2008 for good reason. [Ed note: correction, 2011 and 2012; not as previously said, 'with the exception of 2012’, as pointed out in the comment]. 


And with this continues hazard I won’t be heading up on any summit attempt until there has been 2-3 days of good weather and hot sun to compact it down…


You told ExplorersWeb that you have got some advice from 2012 K2 summiteer, Fabrice Imparato. What did you learn from him?


Adrian: I met up with Fabrice in London last year after coming back from K2. He’d attempted the Cesen unsuccessfully in 2009 but came back to successfully summit via the Abruzzi in the large team of 29 that topped out in 2012. I was keen on attempting the Cesen and he agreed it’s a far cleaner line, in full view of BC in case of problems, steeper but safer from avalanches. But he warned that the climb from C3 to C4 is arduously long – it took them 12 hours, without oxygen, to reach the shoulder and they were too exhausted to push on. That seems to have convinced us all to go with the Abruzzi again. 


Overall though, he completely reinforced my suspicions after 2013, that the only reason there was a success in 2012 was because of the large numbers able to break trail.


Who are your team mates?


Adrian: The international team is sort of a collection of mini teams together under one umbrella. It’s good to be climbing with Al again. He’s solid, ultra safety conscious and someone I can trust totally. I know of some of the others but we’re scattered throughout the world at present, let alone Pakistan, so may only meet them all at BC. 


Even though we’re these collection of mini teams, as in any team it’s critical we get our agreements in place and cards on the table at the very start so that everyone knows where everyone stands.


As in 2013 you are again the only Briton attempting not only K2 but any of the Karakoram 8000m peaks. Why do you think that is?


Adrian: Good question, given that Brits are an exploring nation and have featured prominently throughout history, and still do today, in adventures across the world. K2 certainly has a very nasty reputation in the UK and the UK press, not helped by the fact that of the 7 Brits who’ve summited the mountain – a low percentage compared to many other 8000m peaks – 3 died on the descent. 


But that doesn’t explain the absence of any climbers in any of the Karakoram. Maybe we’re just more risk averse than, say, the Eastern Europeans? But as in one powerful mantra I often tell myself - ‘Courage isn’t the absence of fear, rather the willingness to face it’.


Anything else?


Adrian: As I wrote on my blog last week, I’m approaching the mountain much fitter and better prepared than last year but also in a more humble mindset, with full and total respect, and even relationship with, nature – which we ignore at our peril. 


For Al and myself, who were here last year, there is also the sadness and poignancy of remembering Marty and Denali Schmidt who, we assume, remain buried at C3. I would be lying to say that there won't be some deep thoughts in my mind when we, hopefully, approach C3 this year. 


One step at a time, but my mind is totally focused on reaching that summit – and getting back down safely again.



Follow Adrian's blog in the News Feed on ExplorersWeb.


Adrian Hayes is the British, UAE based, polar explorer and adventure, keynote speaker, business coach, author and campaigner.


An Arabic and Nepalese speaking former Gurkha Officer in the British Army and Airbus Sales Director, he reached the Earth’s ‘three poles’ in the then shortest period of time in history, between 25 April 2006 and 28 ’ec 2007. Along with Canadian’s Devon McDiarmid and Derek Crowe, in 2009 he achieved the longest unassisted snow-kiting journey in the Arctic to date, the 67 day 3120 km vertical crossing of the Greenland ice cap, the documentary for which was broadcast on Nat Geo channel.


In 2011 he completed a crossing of the Empty Quarter by camel and foot, along with Bedouin team mates, in the trail of Sir Wilfred Thesiger. His book ‘Footsteps of Thesiger’ was published in 2013 and the documentary of the same name broadcast on Discover Channel the same year.


In 2013 he attempted K2 along with Canadian team mate Al Hancock, but the expedition was aborted when an avalanche wiped out Camp 3, killing New Zealand father and son Marty and Denali Schmidt.




ACP list of 2014 Summer Karakoram climbing expeditions


An Eight-Thousander for Acclimatization, BC Trek and Change in Rules


K2's 60th Anniversary, Nanga Parbat in Solitude and 4 Gasherbrum Peaks



2013 ExWeb K2 Interview with Adrian Hayes, "It all goes back to starting too late." 


Marty and Denali Schmidt Reported Missing on K2 - updated [1], [2], [3]


Spanish Climbers Announced Dead, Teams Abandon K2 Climb


Adrian Hayes:






#mountaineering #K2 #adrianhayes #2014K2







Adrian Hayes: "[Fabrice Imparato] completely reinforced my suspicions after 2013, that the only reason there was a success in 2012 on K2 was because of the large numbers able to break trail."
courtesy Adrian Hayes, SOURCE