Karakoram Summer 2018: Snow Slows Progress Everywhere

1280px Fairy Meadows and the view of Nanga Parbat

I’m back from Africa and will start posting regular updates again. A lot took place while I was away, particularly in the Karakoram where the summer climbing season is now in full swing. When I left, many teams were still en route to Base Camp, but now most have settled into place and have started their acclimatization rotations, although as usual in the big mountains the weather is dictating the schedule so far.

The big news of the climbing season in Pakistan so far is the continued heavy snowfall. K2, Broad Peak, Nagna Parbat, and the Gasherbrum Massif has been hit hard with snow storms, depositing more than a foot (30 cm) of powder across the region. This has had the effect of keeping most teams in BC or Camp 1 at the highest, which is slowing down he schedules when it comes to acclimating to the altitude. As Alan Arnette points out, this isn’t necessarily all that unusual at this time of the year, but it could cause a traffic jam on higher sections of the mountain, and at campsites, once conditions do finally improve.

Meanwhile, the heavy snow seems to have brought an end to at least one expedition so far. Mike Horn has left Base Camp on Nanga Parbat and it appears he won’t be going back. The Swiss explorer indicates that heavy snow higher up the mountain, along with a grim forecast, have caused him to pull the plug altogether. He was one of the first climbers to arrive on Nanga Parbat this year, but is also one of the first to head for home too.

Furtenbach Adventures has checked in from Broad Peak where they are one of the few teams who managed to go all the way up to Camp 2 as part of their acclimatization strategy. Their Sherpa team has also already established Camp 3 further up the hill, but for now they’re stuck in BC like everyone else, waiting out the storm and hoping that the snow will settle enough that it is safe to climb higher. That may be a few days off yet however.

Finally, there is sad news from the Karakoram as well. ExWeb is reporting that Austrian alpinist Christian Huber has been killed in an avalanche on a remote peak called Ulter Sar. The 7388 meter (24,238 ft) is seldom climbed and is known for being technically difficult. Huber was attempting to scale it along with British climbers Bruce Normand and Timothy Miller, both of whom survived the avalanche that hit the team at Camp 2 a few days back. The duo had to be rescued from C2 by local SAR teams even as the storm intensified across the entire Karakoram.

As you can see, a lot has happened while I was traveling, but then again not much at all. Teams have indeed arrived on the various mountains in Pakistan, and some have even had an acclimatization rotation or two, but the poor weather is stalling out any serious attempts for now. But, with more than a month to go before the summer climbing season comes to an end, there is still plenty of time for climbers to right the ship, get acclimated, and head up the mountains. For now, there is no need to panic, but there is a lot of work to be done.

Kraig Becker