Right before the New Year, I learned via the Facebook that an old acquaintance of mine, Dave Watson, became the first-ever person to ski the infamous Bottleneck couloir on K2. Isn’t amazing the things you learn on the Internet?
Now, part in Pakistan, part in China, K2 is the second highest mountain in the world—and Dave Watson is a mega-good skier/mountaineer who guided our crew on a Transworld trip to Kashmir back in 2008.
Dave was training mountain guides at Gulmarg resort in Kashmir when he crossed paths with our snowboard crew there on an editorial assignment. Although the resort had set us up with a local guide, we were relieved when Dave offered to show us around. It was pretty tough explaining exactly what we wanted (Cool roofs to bomb drop! Kicker spots with steep landings that wouldn’t avalanche if someone sneezed!) through a language barrier. We felt infinitely at ease in Dave’s hands.
Watson and I are friends on the Internet, and that’s how I came to watch a video of his couloir POV as he climb-hiked up to click-in point. Although the footage doesn’t show any of the descent, just looking at the 60-degree chute full with death cookies and boilerplate was enough to make my feet go numb (my body’s habitual reaction to fear of heights).
Anyway, this brief Internet encounter got me to thinking. I am in awe of international mountain conquerors like Dave. They take the man-versus-nature thing to a totally pure extent. And the amazing part is that the ultimate goal of their missions—the first descents of Bottleneck and the summits of Everest (which Dave’s done twice, NBD)—is so little about the goal itself and so much more about the GETTING THERE. Avoiding altercations with the locals on long bus rides through spicy locales like Islamabad. Lonely, life-giving weeks of acclimating at basecamp—gasping impossibly low levels of oxygen and the all-important pastime of not getting diarrhea. Treacherous rock and ice climbing. Absolutely none of this is easy. And it makes my riding of chairlifts at local resorts and leisurely hikes up to Hemisphere’s at Mt. Baker seem so mellow that I am kind of ashamed.
But to each their own. Here’s to getting out of your comfort zone!
A shot of K2’s forbidding summit that I snatched off of K2tracks.com
Dave (second from left) and our crew beneath a Himalayan backdrop
Filmer Joe Carlino was eager to get a group shot with the Kashmiri soldiers and their elegant trappings: machine guns and umbrellas
We did our own little hike while in the Himalayas—14,000 feet and seriously sucking wind