Karakoram 2011: K2 Turns Back First Assault, Teams Gearing Up For Another Go

While I was away in Salt Lake City attending this year’s Outdoor Retailer convention (more on that later!), several of the teams on K2 were making summit bids. When we last checked in on them, they were safely into Camp 3 and preparing to go for the top on Friday.

But high winds caused a delay until Saturday, and then ultimately resulted in all climbers heading down. For some, the season is now over, while others have chosen to wait and see if the Savage Mountain will give them another opportunity.

Fabrizio Zangrilli has a good write-up of the events of last week, which you can read here. He notes that the weather was good during the early part of the week, and that the teams took their time reaching the higher camps when they should have been pushing themselves a bit harder.

As a result, they missed a projected weather window on the 4th, which would have given them access to the summit. Both Christian Stangl and Kinga Baranowska urged them to push to the summit, but they elected to stick to the original plan and spend an extra day on the way up. As a result, the group missed their opportunity to top out.

After this aborted attempt, the Field Touring Alpine squad, along with Stangl and Gerfried Goschl, as well as  a few other climbers have left Base Camp and are headed home. Fabrizio says that there is only one other team in BC now, and that they’ll all wait another ten days or so to see if the weather will clear and give them another opportunity to summit. The forecasts are a bit varied at the moment, and the next few days don’t look great, but they’re hoping that something will open up later in the week.

Meanwhile, over on the North Side, the teams are preparing for their own summit bids. ExWeb reports today that Kazakh climber Maxut Zhummayev checked in from 7800 meters (25,590 ft) where they are pinned down in heavy snows and high winds. They’re waiting to see if the weather clears before proceeding up, with the hopes of topping out tomorrow, although that is in jeopardy at the moment.

Finally, Gerlinde Kaltunbrunner and her teammates are back in BC on the North Side as well. She reports that they have now spent two nights at 8000 meters and have established all of their camps and set their ropes as well. They’ll now rest for a few days, evaluate the weather, and decide from there if and when they can make a summit bid of their own.

The season in the Karakoram isn’t quite over yet, although it is starting to look grim once again. There is still an outside chance of successful summits this year, but if not, it’ll be three years since anyone has stood on top of K2. When you consider the number of people that summit Everest each year, you begin to realize just how challenging a climb this really is. Stay tuned to find out if anyone will make it this season.

Kraig Becker