Pakistan 2012: Summer Climbs At Crossroads

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The summer climbing season in Pakistan is starting to grind toward the finish line as the weather continues to take its toll on the teams across the region. It seems that all the reports are the same as climbers cite an unusually high level of snowfall, strong winds and dangerous avalanche conditions. This past weekend several teams hoped to top out on their respective peaks, but unfortunately Mother Nature had other plans. Now, many of those teams are left to ponder whether or not its time to go home or give it another go.

Teams on Broad Peak were set to make summit bids this weekend but were stymied by heavy snow above Camp 3. As a result, they’ve all retreated back to Base Camp where the Field Touring Alpine squad reports that their group is starting to break up. Two of the members of the team, including Al Hancock, will now move on to K2, where they’ll face even more formidable challenges. Others on the team are waiting to see if they’ll get another crack at the summit, while the majority of them have decided it is time to go home. They reached an altitude of 7000 meters (22,965 ft) but had no chance to go higher. Perhaps those who are persistent and patient, and are lucky enough to have more time to stay, may yet stand on the summit.

A Dutch Team on BP is essentially having the same experience. They managed to climb up to Camp 3 as well, but turned back when they found the snow above that point to be too difficult to climb through. As of their last dispatch they are all back in BC as well and watching the forecast. There are some indications that things could improve near the end of this week, but for now everyone waits to see how things develop.

On K2 there has been no change in the past few days and at the moment both Peter Hamor and Tunc Findik are in Base Camp awaiting an opportunity to go back up the mountain. Having established Camp 2 and spent a few nights there, the two squads, which are climbing independently of one another, are off to a good start on the world’s most challenging mountain, but they’ve only just begun to work and there is a lot of difficult climbing ahead. They’ll have some new neighbors soon however as more teams will join them in BC.

Things are no better on Gasherbrum I where a German team has been relegated to Base Camp where they await their fate as well. They had hoped to be in Camp 2 now on an acclimatization rotation, but like everyone else they’ve been left watching the weather. They report that no teams have reached Camp 3 on the mountain this year and that ropes are only fixed  halfway between C2 and 3. They also indicate that avalanches have been a persistent problem as well, which is making it even more of a challenge to go up. They hope to gain access to the higher sections of the mountain in the next day or two as they attempt to fix lines and establish their next camp, but the chances of that happening seem quite slim.

Finally, Louis Rousseau has announced that he is done with GI after being denied a summit bid last week. He isn’t just done for the season however. The experienced climber says he’ll never return to the mountain that claimed the lives of his friends this past winter. Louis has topped out on 13 of the 14 8000-meter peaks, but he’ll leave this one off his resume as he no longer thinks the rewards outweigh the risks. He says the mountain is too dangerous and has too much snow this year, creating avalanches and hidden crevasses. As a result, he leaves Base Camp tomorrow and begins his long journey home. Gasherbrum I has brought him nothing be heartbreak.

The next few days should prove interesting as the hold-outs wait for good news from the weatherman. I’m not expecting much to change however and now time is no longer on their side. The weather will change for the worse soon and it won’t let up for some time. The season is rapidly coming to a halt and it appears that there will be very few, if any, summits in Pakistan this summer.

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