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K2/Chogori Winter 2003
 

Krzysztof Wielicki, head of the expedition

Krzysztof Wielicki, the head of the expedition, is in the middle, side by side to Janusz Onyszkiewicz, the President of the Polish Alpinism Association. Monika Rogozińska, the “Rzeczpospolita” correspondent, talks about the Himalayas.

It took a whole day to repack the equipment and prepare the cargo for the caravan. Tomorrow we set out farther with off-road Toyotas, towards Karakorum.
Karakorum and the Himalayas begin where the Alps end, as they say. We reached a pass located a few meters higher than Mount Blanc by car. After getting out of the vehicles, one can hardly draw breath. All around is wasteland
Burst tires are quite frequent on these roads. The one in the red jacket is Krzysztof Wielicki
In the town of Yilka (3490 m) we make our first bivouac, near a Chinese military base, consisting of one barrack, some very young, cold and scared soldiers and hundreds of meters of barbed-wire entanglements. Supposedly, two Chinese escaped in the vicinity over the border to Pakistan last week. We are not allowed to take pictures of the base. The situation is absurd - all around us are hundreds of kilometers of wild mountains and wastes. We still have to go through the passport control, though
Our cargo will be carried by 46 camels. Each one can carry 80 kg. Unlike in the inhabited Himalayas, porters are hard to find in the uninhabited Karakorum. In order to form our caravan, the camel owners came with their animals from far away. There are people from Uygur, Taj, Kyrgyzstan.
The camels can stand neither our smell nor our cargo. They are dangerous animals. They spit at us in contempt. Some wear metal muzzles on their snouts. They are furious and throw off the cargo, kicking around. The animal's kick breaks a leg as if it were a match. We saw the camel owners' struggle in trying to tame them. They can trample a man down, turning him into a pulp.
The expedition members won the hearts of the children from Yilka, organizing ice sliding races in different styles and playing with them. It was only during the race in cardboard boxes that their parents protested, considering those vehicles too precious an item for their households. In the picture, you can see Jerzy Natkański and Maciej Pawlikowski.
The last human settlement on the way to K2. Two families live here: one in a house made of stones, the other in a cave, the opening of which is visible in the background.
Animals and people climbing the narrow and steep canyon gully, among the wind and dust stirred up by the camels' hoofs. Sometimes it happens that the animals fall down. We saw a camel so scared that it was climbing on his knees. (2 photos)
The way leads through rocky ledges
The Shaksgam River. We will be walking down its partly frozen, partly dried-up bed to the Chinese base under K2 for the next two days.
We spent Christmas Eve on the stony beach of the Shaksgam River. It was exceptionally quiet and warm, minus eleven deg. C. Maciej Pawlikowski brought along an artificial Christmas tree from his home in Zakopane. We shared the Christmas wafer under the starry sky. We ate a mushroom soup with boiled dough balls and cabbage. The fish came from a can, of course. Among the wonderful cakes, one could not do without the famous, delicious "expedition" gingerbread made by Darek Załuski's mum. We were sitting by the fire for a while. Then a long queue for the satellite phone formed...
Gia Tortladze from Georgia disassembled and packed the Christmas tree in the morning. Christmas Eve in the Orthodox Church is only in two weeks' time.
The river forms a genuine labyrinth. Almost everyone fell or walked into the water: ice broke, Jan Szulc fell into the river from a camel, one had to take off the shoes and walk down the bed or run through it with shoes on.

Gia Tortlade is climbing the glacial slope at the upper base (5100 m).K2 is looming in the background.

The upper base is situated at 5100 m.

Members of the young support group include: Jacek Jawień and Bartek Duda, at the upper base (5100 m)

Gia Tortladze has carried the Christmas tree to the upper base. Christmas Eve is approaching and is to be celebrated by members of the Orthodox Church.

Written by Monika Rogozinska, "Rzeczpospolita"; translated by "Scrivanek".

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