Karakoram 2011: Still Waiting On K2 As Permits Expire

The climbing season in the Karakoram is starting to drag on longer than most expected, as bad weather and challenging conditions persist, particularly on K2, where the climbers are still holding out hope for a shot at the summit, even as their travel visas begin to expire.

According to a dispatch this morning from Maxut Zhumayev, the travel visas issued by the Chinese to him and the other Kazakh members of his squad have now expired. The visas are good for two months, and that is the amount of time that has elapsed since the start of their expedition, which means that is now illegal for them to climb K2.

Max says that they are taking steps to renew their visas so that they can continue to climb, but at the moment, they can’t go up the mountain even under the best of conditions.

Hopefully this issue will be sorted out soon, and the Kazakh climbers can join the rest of the International Team on the North Side of K2 in a summit bid soon. After spending two months trying to climb the world’s second highest peak, they are more than ready to either go to the top or go home. As usual, the weather will dictate if, and when, they can make one final summit bid, but as the season grows longer, the chances of that happening begin to grow less.

Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner and Ralf Dujmovits are also part of the North Side team and also remain in Base Camp, waiting for an opportunity to go up. They’ve posted a summary of the team’s recent activity on the mountain with details on their climb up to Camp 4, as well as their descent back down to BC.

At the moment, they are resting and recuperating from those efforts and, like everyone else, are waiting for the weather to give them the opportunity they need. Gerlinde and Ralf say that even if they don’t summit however, this has been a successful and “enriching” experience for them, and they have enjoyed every day on the mountain.

While we haven’t had an update from Fabrizio Zangrilli since last week, we’re told that he and Kinga Baranowska are still in Base Camp on the South Side of K2 and are waiting for their opportunity as well. Time is probably running short for them however, as they were the first ones into BC and will now be the last to leave. In his last update, Fabrizio wrote that they could wait about 10 more days, which would put their estimated day of departure at about Wednesday of this week.

It appears that things are looking pretty grim right now for the remaining climbers on K2. I’d guess that if they don’t have the weather window they need by the end of the week, they’ll be heading home. There were some indications that a window could open starting tomorrow, but with visas in question and other things in flux, a climb may just not be in the picture these year.

Kraig Becker