Pilots reach world’s second highest mountain and climb to 7,500m but still waiting for perfect weather conditions to soar above the summit.
Islamabad (Muhammad Yasir) The goal to fly a paraglider above K2 is still on – all the team need is a bit of luck. So says Belgian adventurer Tom de Dorlodot who is in the heart of the Karakoram exploring the Baltoro from the air with fellow flyers Horacio Llorens and Ramón Morillas.
The trio have spent the past three weeks flying new lines by paraglider – collapsible foot-launched wings, relying on pockets of warm air to climb above the region’s famously spectacular mountains.
“It’s been pretty intense,” Tom says. Speaking from Askole where the team has gone to pick up fresh supplies, he said the expedition has got off to a great start.
“On the first flight we flew the whole Baltoro glacier almost all the way to K2 which was incredible. We’ve been really blessed with the weather. It’s been really amazing, big thermals, small fluffy clouds, never too big and no wind in the valley so it’s pretty safe to fly.”
The team enjoyed ten great flying days. On three occasions they got to K2, on four they made Broad Peak and some they tagged both on the same day. They’ve also explored close to Muztagh Tower, Gasherbrum and Masherbrum.
Days typically begin with an 800m hike to launch. “It’s extremely hot,” says Tom. “You’re dressed to fly at 8,000m and you’re carrying so much gear.”
From there the team launch by inflating their wing above their heads and running down a steep slope. Once in the air, it’s extremely committing.
“It’s always a big challenge,” adds Tom. “We have to fly 100km almost every day. You have to think, that’s 100km without any landing options. We were walking on the glacier the other day and it’s just a nightmare of big stones and rocks.”
One day Ramon landed at the base camp of Broad Peak. It took him two days to hike back.
The team has been re-charging in Askole and picking up fresh food supplies after living off rice and chapattis for five days. Due to regional floods that have damaged roads and bridges, supplies haven’t been getting through.
The plan is now to make one last attempt on K2 and then fly all the way back to Skardu to avoid the difficult journey overland. Ramon has left for Spain so it’s just Tom and Horacio now.
“There’s still not so much wind forecast but we’re hoping it will come and we can reach K2 and soar all the way up. It’s just a question of luck now. We need a bit of luck to make it happen – but it’s possible.”