Every day you would take a new turn in the valley and see mountains that you had never seen before. Murad had his analogy of K2 being a beautiful woman who revealed her face a little at a time. Photo © Ahsan Iqbal

Today my lungs felt like they were going to explode. It was the first time when I truly didn’t feel like going on – ever. At one point, I thought a 2k erg test would be easier. Undoubtedly this is the hardest thing I have ever done. My arms and legs felt like molten lead one minute and light as a feather the next. Sometimes it was all I could do to put one foot in front of the other. I attribute this to altitude, naturally. I also attribute this to the fact that I didn’t drink enough water.

Hopping over a glacial stream. Ayub stands ready in case I fall. Photo © Ahsan Iqbal 2010

Most times, I feel like a bumbling idiot around the porters who fly by over mounds of rock and ice in plastic sandals – some of them wear socks. With your  boots, fancy backpack and clothes you truly feel like a spoiled and pampered hot house flower. I hate this feeling. Yet I love the porters’ friendly and inquisitive attitudes and soft yet probing stares as we pass.

For all the to-do and trouble breathing, I must say that this land is stunning. Today was our second day on Baltoro with its enormous and undulating rock fields that stretch forward endlessly … it is as if there is a mighty procession through these soaring and truly awe inspiring peaks. They look downwards on the glacier’s slow March towards the river and hold us – the smallest of all moving things – with disregard as we make our march against the flow.

We make our way along one of the many chasms of the Baltoro Galcier. Ayub and Murad had the disconcerting habit of kicking rocks into the crevasses to hear it rattling down as it descended into unknown depths. Sometimes the rattling would go on for a long time! Photo © Ahsan Iqbal 2010

We proceed cautiously stepping our way through the boulder fields -so preoccupied with where out next foot will fall that we almost forget to look upwards at the grandeur that surrounds us. I think that is how they would want it. The sky spills out a bothersome drizzle and the raindrops add to the crystal clear water that flows along white ice partially hidden beneath the rocks. Ayub is careful to point our where the boulders are hiding crevasses and at one point we stumbled and scrambled our way down the edge of one only to realize on the other side the true nature of what was under our feet. It reminds me of those children’s movies where the characters are frolicking happily along in a grassy field only to realize that the grass is actually hair and the mounds of earth are actually ears and the ground so soft and supple beneath their feet is actually the breathing flesh of a giant creature. I think it is not lost on us that we are like those little children walking along a great living organism, which could rise up at any moment and swallow us.