Tenacity in the triumph over K2

In 2013, increasingly harsh weather conditions and endless obstacles prevented UAE-based Briton, Adrian Hayes and his six-man international team from completing their K2 expedition. In a triumph of grit and determination, Adrian and the team returned to one of the toughest peaks in the world this year to finish their climb. Thuraya and our Service Partner Xtra-Link were honored to have sponsored his trek up the second-highest mountain on earth, with the Thuraya XT, IP+ broadband terminal and SatSleeve to document his triumphant journey. We caught up with Adrian upon his return to get his perspective.

Congratulations on conquering K2! It looked like an amazing journey. What was different about the expedition this time as compared to last year?

In short, chalk and cheese. Everything that could possibly go wrong in 2013 went wrong – weather conditions, snow conditions, lack of numbers and support and even the terrible terrorist incident at Nanga Parbat. The result was a tragic 24 lives lost in the Karakorum last year. This year everything fell into place – a larger number of teams, more Sherpa support, great snow conditions and, above all, fantastic weather. We had an unprecedented weather window of 10 days from July 22, which largely accounted for the great summit success this year.

What were some of the new challenges that you faced?

With 2014 being the 60th anniversary of the first ascent of K2, that was the major reason for the larger number of teams on the mountain, with interest from Pakistan and Italy in particular – the two countries who worked together in 1954 to achieve the first ascent. Whilst that helped line fixing, it did create some problems of space on the mountain camps –Camps 1 (6000m) and 2 (6600m) are literally created from nothing on the steep sides of the mountain. Thankfully on the summit push – and due to the good weather forecast – teams spread out their attempts over several days, though we did have some bottlenecks on our summit day, the first attempt of the season.

You were pretty active on social media throughout the expedition, how important is having communication channels on such journeys?

I was actually taken aback both by how many people were following our journey and how many expressed their continued concerns for my safety!  And justifiably so – K2’s grim reputation is well documented. Posting daily on Facebook and Twitter, courtesy of the Thuraya XT, SatSleeve and IP+, was our means to both reassure the thousands of followers and also share what was an incredibly powerful journey.

What were some of the new challenges that you faced?

With 2014 being the 60th anniversary of the first ascent of K2, that was the major reason for the larger number of teams on the mountain, with interest from Pakistan and Italy in particular – the two countries who worked together in 1954 to achieve the first ascent. Whilst that helped line fixing, it did create some problems of space on the mountain camps –Camps 1 (6000m) and 2 (6600m) are literally created from nothing on the steep sides of the mountain. Thankfully on the summit push – and due to the good weather forecast – teams spread out their attempts over several days, though we did have some bottlenecks on our summit day, the first attempt of the season.

Now that K2 has been conquered, what is next?

Rest and recuperation! First is to enjoy some down time in the UK with my daughter and a lot of friends before I return to the UAE in late September. I already know my plans for 2015 – and they are big! We will be putting together proposals and hopefully finalizing plans in the coming months.  

Editor’s note: Adrian will be giving public presentations on his recent summit success of K2 in London on September 9 and Dubai on October 15, 2014. More details at www.adrianhayes.com

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