Karakoram 2016: K2 Ramps Up, Nanga Parbat Reopens

K2 2006b

The spring Himalayan climbing season is over, and the teams of climbers that made it one of the most successful in recent memory have departed Nepal for home. Now, the mountaineering world turns its attention to the Karakoram, as climbers descend on Pakistan to attempt K2, Nanga Parbat, and other major mountains in the region. That summer season is now starting to ramp up, with a significant amount of attention now focused squarely on the second tallest mountain in the world.

According to ExWeb, there will be 33 teams of various sizes operating in Pakistan this summer. They’ll be focused not just on K2, but also the Gasherbrums, Broad Peak, Nanga Parbat, and a host of other mountains that are not a part of the 8000-meter club. That will make this one of the busiest seasons in the Karakoram and western Himalaya as well, with some significant expeditions planned.

But it is the continued commercialization of K2 that is receiving a good deal of attention. ExWeb estimates that more than 100 climbers will attempt the “mountaineer’s mountain” this summer, which is a larger number than has been seen in the past. Most are a part of a commercial team with Madison Mountaineering, Kobler & Partner, and Seven Summits Treks leading the way.

100 climbers on K2 is a significant number to say the least. While that isn’t anywhere close to the number of alpinists on Everest (550+ are said to have summited this year alone), it is a lot of people on a mountain that is widely considered to be the hardest and most dangerous climb on Earth. It is most definitely not a mountain that you want to be caught in a traffic jam on, but that could be a real possibility with this many people making the attempt. Hopefully everyone will stay safe throughout the season.

Meanwhile, over on Nanga Parbat the mountain is opening up again after seeing no summits since 2013. That’s when a group of armed gunmen attacked the camp, killing 11 people. Since then, no summer permits have been issued for the mountain, but that will change this year. A couple of small teams are headed to NP with the hope of demonstrating that it is safe to climb, and ready to begin welcoming mountaineers back to its challenging face.

At the moment, these teams are mostly still en route to their various Base Camps or still planning to set out for Pakistan. But things will start to pick up soon. It should be a very interesting season to watch unfold, with K2 remaining the crown jewel. Expect numerous updates on the progress of teams in the weeks ahead.

Kraig Becker