After spending the night in Hushe we rode in jeeps downriver to the town of Kande that sits at the mouth of the Nangma Valley. It would be a two day walk up this valley to our base camp. In preparation for hiring our porters, we laid out 44 duffel bags, boxes, and plastic barrels on the ground, each weighing 50 pounds (we had already weighed out these loads of our equipment and supplies in Skardu, and now we needed to hire 44 porters to carry them to base camp).
Scott was in charge of recording the names, village, and fathers name of each porter who was assigned a numbered load. All the porters had similar names so Scott handed each one a playing card to tie all this data about them to one simple identifier. Once the porter delivered his load to base camp he would produce his playing card and get paid. The hiring process took about three hours and our caravan was underway at 10AM.
|Hiring porter in Kande|
|Crossing the Hushe River before heading up into the Nangma Valley|
The trail up into the Nangma valley began with a steep climb that took us to a series of meadows. We walked along under granite walls that belonged to peaks whose summits towered five to six thousand feet over our heads. We pitched our tents on the grass in a grove of trees where we spent our first night.
|Walking up the Nangma Valley|
We reached base camp on July 10th in a rainstorm. Only about two or three expeditions had been to the upper reaches of this valley and no one was exactly sure where to put the base camp. It was important for us to pick a good spot where we would live and climb from for the next six weeks. But we needed to do it quickly so our porters could leave before they were hypothermic. I quickly chose a spot amongst some boulders that looked to have good water and places we could make platforms for our tents. With help from Fida Ali, Graham and Scott paid the porters and they quickly disappeared down the hillside, leaving us to wonder what was in store for us now.
The mountains we wanted to climb were on the other side of a pass over a ridge that extended south from the flanks of K6. Our maps were given to me by a Polish cartographer and showed the pass to be above the upper end of the East Nangma Glacier. On July 12th Graham, Scott and I made a reconnaissance of the area to find a route up onto the glacier and across it to where we could climb over what the maps called the "Hidden Col".
|Looking down towards base camp from the lower part of the East Nangma Glacier|
By the 14th we felt our route was safe enough to bring Nadeem with us to help carry supplies along with Ibrahim. Ibrahim was one of the stronger porters we kept on to help us carry loads up the glacier for a few days. After we completing this work we would pay Ibrahim and send him back to Hushe.
|Graham, Nadeem, Ibrahim, and Scott up on the East Nangma Glacier|
The upper East Nangma Glacier was heavily crevassed so we roped up each time for this section.
|Scott and Graham on the upper East Nangma Glacier|
Snow conditions on the upper East Nangma Glacier would prove to be terrible for the most part. The temperatures were very warm compared to what I had experienced in the past. It didn't freeze at night up on the glacier leaving the snow soft and breakable even in the early morning. It wasn't uncommon to sink up to your crotch every few steps.
|Approaching the Hidden Col above and to the left of the climbers|
We put a hand line up and over the Hidden Col to assist us carrying loads to what would be our advanced base camp (ABC) on the glacier on the other side.
|Climbing up to the Hidden Col|
On July 16th we crossed over the Hidden Col onto the Lechit Glacier and walked over to where we placed our ABC. The Austrians had used this site for their ABC in 1970 when they made the first ascent of K6. A Polish expedition had also used this site in 2010 when they made an unsuccessful attempt on Changi Tower. We were the third expedition to ever visit the upper Lechit Glacier.
|Advanced Base Camp with the icefall leading up to Changi Tower on the other side of the Lechit Glacier|
Our next job was to find a way up through a labyrinth like icefall to get to the unclimbed 6,500 meter Changi Tower (21,325 feet). This spectacular granite monolith was our first objective - a great prize on its own. But we were also going to use the Changi climb as a way to acclimatize for our second objective, the 7100 meter unclimbed Central Summit of K6 (23,293 feet).