Ski mountaineers Fredrik Ericsson of Sweden, and American Trey Cook have officially arrived to set up Base Camp at the world’s second tallest peak, K2.
Fredrik Ericsson is one of the world’s leading high altitude skiers with ski descents of some of the highest mountains on earth, including Peak Somoni, Shisha Pangma, Gasherbrum 2, Laila Peak and Dhaulagiri.
During preparations to ski from the top of the world’s second highest summit, the team has changed their approach, and will access K2 via the Gondoro-la with an attempt on Laila Peak to acclimatize to the rarefied air at altitude, and allow the deep snow to consolidate.
Ericsson and Cook traveled from Islamabad to Hushe via Skardu, where the trek into Laila Peak base camp began. Fortunately, the two found the deepest snow in at least 15 years in the Gondogoro. Ericsson and Cook tried a ski descent of Laila Peak, but were denied 300 meters from the summit by an unpredictable snow pack. Ericsson, however, was able to take in a 1000 vertical meter descent on Laila’s majestic 45-degree northwest face.
Ericsson and Cook, along with 18 porters, then took three days to traverse the Gondogoro-la pass, move through Concordia and arrive at K2 base camp. The ski mountaineers report that conditions on K2 are favorable, and the group will be heading up the Cesen Route tomorrow to Camp 1 to start the process of acclimatization and to map out the route by which they plan to ascend — and then descend on skis — K2.
This expedition marks Ericsson’s return to ski the pyramid-like Himalayan peak, which at 8611 meters (28,251 ft.) ranks second only to nearby Mount Everest as the the highest summit on earth. Last summer’s expedition ended with the tragic death of his partner, Michele Fait of France, from injuries sustained in a fall in June 2009 while skiing K2′s C2 on the south-southeast spur.
K2 was first climbed in 1954 by the Italians Achille Compagnoni and Lino Lacedelli. Since then, The Savage Mountain – as it has come to be called due to the extraordinarily high number of deaths on the mountain – has been climbed on 10 different routes and only around 200 people have summited. Although several of the world’s best ski mountaineers have tried no one has ever made a complete ski descent from the summit of K2.