K2 Goes Commercial, Anyone Else Think This is a Bad Idea?

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It is being widely reported today that Field Touring Alpine and Fabrizio Zangrilli are joining forces to lead the first commercial expedition on K2 this summer, the first of its kind on what many consider to be the most dangerous mountain on Earth.

The expedition will consist of seven paid, invite-only, clients, all of whom are required to have 8000m experience. The team will set out for the mountain in June, when the traditional Karakorum season begins, and will climb the typical route along K2’s south east ridge.

Zangrilli was selected for us experience on the big peaks, having climbed on K2 three times in the past, but also having Everest, Shisha Pangma, Makalu, Cho Oyu, Gasherbrum II, Nuptse, Ama Dablam, and a number of other major Himalayan peaks on his resume. He is also an accomplished guide, having led commercial teams on many of those mountains in his 22 year career as well.

You can find out more about the plans for this expedition in this article over at the Rock and Ice Magazine site.

So, what are your thoughts on this one? Commercialized climbing coming to K2? Does that seem like a good idea? Was it inevitable? I’m inclined to believe that it was bound to happen at some point, and it appears that time is now. If Field Touring is successful with this venture, you know that other companies will follow, and in 2010 I wouldn’t be surprised to see two or three other commercial teams on the mountain. The scary thing is that K2 is orders of magnitude more dangerous than Everest, and a crowded route or unprepared climbers, would be extremely dangerous. On top top of that, there probably aren’t a lot of guides qualified to lead a team on the mountain, at least at this time.

Perhaps I’m overreacting, and it’s just some romantic part of me that wants to see K2 remain the “Mountaineers’ Mountain”. I also recognize that this is just one expedition so far. But, it has to start somewhere, and usually it leads down a slippery slope rather quickly. The thoughts of the disaster from last year still linger in my mind as well, and that definitely has me wondering if this really is a good idea.

Kraig Becker

3 thoughts on “K2 Goes Commercial, Anyone Else Think This is a Bad Idea?”

  1. I’ll preface this by stating that I know Fabrizio and consider him a friend. Aside from his climbing resume, you might recall that he pulled of that incredible rescue on Pumori last season.

    Considering the clusterfuck on K2 last season, guiding could actually increase safety there. The standards for who goes up can actually be higher with guided trips than non-guided, where it often has as much to do with who can afford to go rather than their qualifications. Issues like getting ropes in place on time may be planned better. Having camps stocked and reserves ready may be better handled.

    On Everest, you really can just be a sheep that is herded along, no talent required. The intensive coverage of commercial expeditions on the two easy routes is just advertorial, yawn. Ideally, those trips would be ignored and the only media coverage given to private expeditions on other routes.

    K2 is no Everest and it will always demand a higher skill set. It’s one mountain you can’t buy your way up, even Hollywood agrees 😉 Just because somebody may hire a guide service on K2 doesn’t make them less of a climber. And I really doubt it will get more dangerous than it already is.

    Personally, I’d go with Fabrizio if I could afford it. Even though I wrote the book on how to do it yourself, it sure is easier to let someone else do all that planning!

  2. As always, great insights Clyde. I definitely would not knock Fabrizio in any way shape or form. He is a great climber and guide, and I believe he conducted a fairly dramatic rescue on K2 himself some years back.

    I guess I fear possible crowing on K2 with it become more accessible, and it wouldn’t require the crowds of Everest to make that happen. But you hold some very valid points about how guided climbing could bring some order to the mountain.

    I think this was probably inevitable really. Just hope that there continue to be standards for those that join these climbs.

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