Fredrik Sträng and team member Ali Musa wait for a weather window on K2 after depositing ropes under C-3 and predictions of clear skies.
DISPATCH # 8 Fredrik Sträng K2 2017
Through Dispatches, you’ve had an inside look into the Sigma K2 2017 Expedition that is underway with climbers Fredrik Sträng from Sweden, Ali Musa from Pakistan and their third team member, Abass, their Chef Cook at K2 Base Camp. We’ve witnessed Sträng’s long road to Skardu, his traverse into Paju and finally his arrival at K2 Base Camp on 27, June. We’ve also enjoyed his stories from the mountain together and gotten to know this exceptional climber a little bit better. Now, the weeks that follow will be the most challenging and exciting, and together, we are supporting this journey and watching as the expedition team waits for a weather window to attempt a first summit push.
The Wait is On
Weather on K2 is anything but predictable, with many seasons only yielding one weather window for all to follow. In the meantime, the team must wait – depositing ropes under Camp 3 and making themselves scarce in this avalanche-prone area of K2 as they explore their skills and head back to Base Camp for rest and some of Abass’ goat dishes.
UPDATE: A reported avalanche occurred on K2 at Camp 3 on or around 14 June, which is an area prone to avalanches regularly. No one was injured and Fredrik Sträng and his teammate Ali Musa were not affected.
On 10, July, the team was presented with clear skies and no wind for miles as they climbed up toward Camp 3 to deposit their ropes just below where the original Camp 3 once stood, an area so active with avalanches that expedition teams now prefer to designate an area just below it as the new C-3. Sleeping there overnight is not an option, neither in lingering for too long.
A weather window is one where clear skies and low winds are predicted for at least 3 days to allow the teams enough time to safely traverse up the mountain from their location and back down again in safe conditions. This is what we are holding our breaths for with every day that passes and what Sträng has been envisioning for many months.
Next week, he and Ali Musa are expecting to have a chance at a summit push on K2, but it will most likely be a shared effort between them and other expeditions on the mountain. As you read this, the expeditions at Base Camp are monitoring weather, comparing winds and precipitation. Fredrik says there is an overabundance of snow at 6,800m, almost certainly requiring him and others to brave knee and chest-deep snow on their way to the top, which reminded him of his expedition on Broad Peak in 2012.
I have tried it before; it was on Broad Peak in 2012. It was my third and last summit attempt and I went to BC to C3 alone swimming in chest deep snow. It was insane. I thought it was insane and I was grunting the words “this is f-cking insane” as one step up turned into 2 steps down at the steep sections. Visibility was a luxury that the weather gods could not afford me that time. I was mentally out after so much work for so many summit attempts. I quit and went home. When I opened the door to my apartment I got a call from my friends. It was perfect, just perfect weather conditions and 10+ people summited K2 in magical conditions. For a moment I felt jealously, and I remember the words in my head “this is not fair after so much work I put into that climb that season”
Later he realized that there is pure truth in Messner’s saying, “mountains are neither fair nor unfair.” He made a decision as best he could and the rest, well that would just have to become a part of history. He said,
I chose to abort the expedition in 2012. What would have happened if I had stayed? Would my mental drainage suddenly have recovered so that I could have managed to assemble the energy required for a fourth summit attempt but then on K2? Perhaps, but reasoning with different scenarios in the past only makes you bitter so better accept it, learn from it and move on.
The Ponderings of a Mountain Man
Although it’s something we’ve known for a very long time now, our readers are just getting to understand the complex mind that is Fredrik’s. On the mountain with time on his hands and ideas to ponder, through his updates, we’ve gotten quite an entertaining array of his thoughts from how to use the bathroom on the mountain and whether the Western way of bathroom acrobatics is the “right way,” to chance encounters with a spider climbing upward on K2 at above 6,000 m.
As I was descending from C-2 (at 6700 m) yesterday, I couldn’t stop staring with amazement and utter confusion at how in Earth a spider had reached this hostile place? And of all the weirdest things, this spider was actually climbing upwards, over the snow crystals that must have been like huge seracs to this tiny creature. It was struggling almost in a manic way, as if it was missing out on a treasure if it was not reaching its goal in time. I was thinking: poor little fellow, what are you doing here? As I uttered the words in my head, I realized how stupid and inconsequent I was. The spider might just have asked me: hey there big fellow who is dependent on down clothes, tents, stoves, climbing gear, weather data and high altitude food for surviving on K2, what on Earth are YOU doing here? It’s the inevitable question isn’t it, the why? I am pretty certain that the “why” wasn’t occupying the spider’s very limited brain, as well I as, a climber, don’t stop in a crux section of a climb wondering what the f-ck I’m doing here?
While the thoughts of “why” enter his mind occasionally, his spirit is more like “why not?” and he states, that in this case, the spider is the hero, for his drive to reach the goal is worth more than the reason, setting aside the logic and whether or not the behavior is functional. In the end, pursuing a goal sometimes requires the release of questions like “why?” and for the subject to just proceed to “crush it.” The “why” will just muddy the waters; for some who ask the question, no amount of explanation will plant the seed of understanding in their head, and occasionally, the question itself can make a person question their own “why.” In mountaineering, this is often truer than not.
Fredrik says that this drive for a goal gives him optimism that even the most movement-shunning person can one day find something that motivates them enough to get up and reach a goal. And this is the prime characteristic that was highlighted in “Get to Know Fredrik Sträng,” he has a thirst for life and achieving goals that goes beyond the average person’s ability to even care about setting goals. Often, it is said that no amount of motivational speaking can motivate a person who does not want to move – the age old, “what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?” question seeded in our literature. I’m of the belief that it just takes the right motivational speaker to railroad the object off of its grounded hinges. This is the definition of Fredrik Sträng.
Here is a note, I wrote this “immovable object” analogy before I would read the latest update by Fredrik on 15, June, which was surprising, as we both had the same idea and terminology on this.
We know that on the long nights where the sky seems to go on forever, Sträng often looks to the stars and uses it as a tool to calm down and find inner peace. The vastness of the heavens does have the ability to make us feel lost and unhinged, but he says that having a mountain like K2 solidly under him brings him back down and helps him gather a reference. He is but a mere man, small, virtually insignificant in comparison to the heavens and K2, even if he is larger than life to his faithful followers.
What Food Fuels the Machine?
In response to a request made by a follower of his, Sträng talked on 13, June about some of his food choices, limitations and his beliefs on the epidemic of disease-causing foods in the world.
Fredrik, a gluten-intolerant person, says that the best thing for him to do is not avoid the full-fat milks and “cholesterol-causing” eggs. He drinks the milk with all its fat content, the eggs are eaten with yolk and all. And for most of us who enjoy “real” food, this is what we do anyway. He says the real problem is gluten and sugar. If we can avoid this, diets would be more efficient.
It’s like giving a person the following two options: you either start a fat/protein-based diet and you will lose weight, sleep better, be able to work harder, get a better sexual life (some people are actually interested in this), become smarter, never feel hungry like before, many cravings will cease to exists, your health stats will improve, many diseases will become unlikely or you continue on a sugar/wheat based diet and face restlessness, possible insomnia, hyperactivity then flatness, depression, obesity, being more susceptible to diseases etc. etc. Is there even a choice to make?
His goal in preparation for expeditions that require massive amounts of energy to complete is to practice a 6-month ketosis diet before each one, which consists of 60-79% fat and the rest is protein, with a maximum amount of 5% carbs as they “don’t work as well as an efficient, fat-burning body.” This also means avoiding fruit, which is basically just condensed sugar.
The diet is a difficult one for him to maintain with his gluten intolerance, but he manages and for the rest of the year, he practices an LCHF (low-carb high-fat) diet. He even plans on becoming an entovegan – eating vegan food and insects.
Sträng’s dietary advice is:
[DISCLAIMER: Fredrik Sträng is not a certified nutritionist and his advice is based on years of personal research and should not be relied upon solely for nutritional guidance. Always consult with a doctor or nutritionist for your dietary needs.]
If you cannot pronounce the ingredient in the food, don’t eat it. I learned this simple rule at Gym Jones in Salt Lake City.
Fruit is not a substitute for carbohydrates. I was on a fruit diet once, man, I gained weight and my six pack was gone!
Nuts, all kind of nuts. Just eat them or crush them in a mixer and make “bread” out of them.
Olive oil. Man, I can drink olive oil. What would the world be without olive oil? Coconut oil and fat are also amazing!
Eggs, yes, eggs! But what about cholesterol? We’ll talk about cholesterol another time, but eggs are great!
It takes some time to adjust to this diet. First, you will drop your time and weights then slowly, you will outperform your previous results!
Entertainment on the Mountain
For vein-pumping, aggressive motivation, Fredrik enjoys listening to the band The War on Drugs.
The War on Drugs is the best band in the world right now. The songs Burning and In Reverse from their magical album Lost in a Dream are like balsam for my soul. Man, I am ALIVE when I feel their songs flowing through my eardrums standing on some rocks looking up on the awe-inspiring slopes of K2! I feel fucking alive! When was the last time you felt ALIVE!? Heil life! 5.12 min into the song “In reverse” and I’m like, yeah, I think I can actually fly! And 3.23 min into the song “Burning” and I go bananas!
About Fredrik Sträng
Fredrik Sträng is a Swedish climber, personal trainer and motivational speaker. Sträng has summited 8 of the world’s 8,000 m. peaks, and in 2017, Sträng will be attempting K2 again. He has worked with charitable organizations through the years to help those in need and has been given various awards including Male Adventurer of the Year twice in 2007 and 2010. Sträng is partnered with Sigma Technology. To learn more about Sträng, read “Get to Know Climber Fredrik Sträng.”
Follow our dispatches of Fredrik Sträng’s K2017 Expedition here.