Summer Climbs 2017: Nanga Parbat Search and Rescue Debrief, Focus Turns to K2

1280px Nanga parbat abdul rafey

The climbing season continues to unfold in Pakistan, where the focus for some teams has begun to change, while others remain firmly in place waiting for a weather window. And, we get an interesting debrief on a search and rescue operation that continues to unfold.

We’ll start today’s update on Nanga Parbat, where Alberto Zerain and Mariano Galvan went missing a couple of weeks back. The duo were attempting a summit along the difficult and exposed Mazeno Ridge route when their home team lost contact with them back on June 24. It is believed that they were hit by an avalanche while making their ascent, although no trace of the two men has been found, despite knowing exactly where their GPS tracker turned off.

Immediately after Zerain and Galvan were declared overdue a rescue operation was organized and helicopters were scrambled to the mountain to look for the missing men. As indicated, they found no trace, and further efforts were hampered for several days due to poor weather conditions. Now, we have a detailed “boots on the ground” account of how the search unfolded from Alex Gavan, who was on Nanga Parbat and helped in those efforts.

The search and rescue debrief was submitted to Explorer’s Web and is quite lengthy. It shares the timeline of Alberto and Mariano’s climb, when they went missing, the details of what followed, and the lengths that the search and rescue team went through to try to locate the missing men. Alex talks about the challenges of getting the SAR effort up and running, including navigating the logistics of working in Pakistan, As it turns out, sorting out the issues of payment and insurance would delay efforts by several days, which are of course crucial in these types of situations. It is a story of frustration, hope, despair, and grief that is worth a read from top to bottom to get an idea of how these situations unfold.

As a side note, Alan Arnette is reporting that another search operation is about to get underway, despite the fact that Gavan says such an effort is “irresponsible and only endangers more people’s lives.” At this stage, there is zero chance that the missing men are still alive, but the Pakistani company Karakorum Expeditions is moving ahead nonetheless.

Elsewhere, with successful summits on Broad Peak over the past couple of days, teams are now starting to turn their attention to K2 instead. Furtenbach Adventures led the way on that final summit push, and most of that squad is now down from the mountain and moving on to their next objective. Grace McDonald is going with them, while Spaniard Oscar Cadiach remains on BP, waiting for another weather window.

On K2’s Abruzzi Route, the ropes have now been fixed all the way up to Camp 4 at 7400 meters (24,278 ft). The team installing the lines ran out of rope at that point on the mountain, and the weather started to take a turn. They’ve now returned to Base Camp to wait for better conditions before heading back up to continue their work. All of those means that the K2 season is on schedule, with potential summit bids to come later in the month.

That’s all for today. We’re still keeping a close eye on things as the season continues to develop. More to come soon.

Kraig Becker