Karakoram 2011: A New Season Begins

800px K2 Nordseite

With the 2011 Himalaya climbing season now officially in our rear view mirror, it is time for the world’s top climbers to start focusing on the Karakoram and the challenges that come along with climbing in that range.

Stretching across Pakistan, India, and China, the Karakoram range contains some of the most challenging peaks on the planet. It is home to one of the highest concentrations of mountains found anywhere as well, which makes it a popular summer mountaineering destination, which is about the only time of the year that the weather is good enough to allow safe climbing. Amongst the coveted summits in the Karakoram are Broad Peak, Nanga Parbat, the Gasherbrums, and of course, the infamous K2.

ExWeb has an early season report posted that takes a look at some of the more interesting expeditions set to take place in the Karakoram this year. Amongst them are Christian Stangl, who returns to K2 seeking redemption after last year’s debacle. You may recall that last year, Stangl fabricated a summit photo and made a false claim to having reached the top of the mountain. Hopefully he’ll be able to top out this year, and put that whole affair behind him.

Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner is also heading to K2, although she’ll be climbing from the North Side. Gerlinde has attempted K2 several times in the past, and so far the summit has remained elusive. She hopes to change that this year, and by doing so, complete her final 8000 meter peak.

It seems that there are a number of teams gearing up for Gasherbrums I and II, including Gerfried  Göschl, Kari Kobler, and Ueli Steck, who comes off the spring with two successful summits in the Himalaya, and a bit of a disappointment on Everest. In fact, it seems thats where the early climbers are headed first, as ExWeb reports that one of the Gasherbrum teams has already met in Skardu (Pakistan) and is preparing to begin the trek to Base Camp, while another is already en route. That second team has two female climbers,  Aleksandra “Ola” Dzik of Poland and Ukrainian Maria Khitrikova, who will attempt the first female double header of both GI and GII.

The Karakoram season is just gearing up, so expect lots of news from the region in the days ahead. The big question this year is whether or not someone will finally summit K2 again. It has been nearly three years since someone stood on top of that mountain.

Kraig Becker

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