Winter Climbs 2019: International Squad Set for K2

1280px K2 2006b

A month or so back I told you about an all-start team of European climbers who were planning an expedition to Pakistan this winter to attempt a first ascent of K2 during that season. At the time, the group was still putting together their funding and making plans for how they would approach this epic challenge. Now, thanks to an interview with one of its members, we have a better idea of what their plans entail.

ExWeb has posted an interview with alpinist Artem Braun who will be a part of the team that is made up of mountaineers from Russia, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan. He indicates that the team has received its preliminary permits for the expedition and are now planning on starting the climb in January. Braun says that the squad is in its final preparation stages with everyone preparing to travel to Pakistan soon. To prepare Base Camp for their arrival however, a group of porters has already reached the mountain and is setting up a base of operations there.

In the interview, Braun gives ExWeb an update on how the team’s prep work is coming along, indicating that things are going well but there are a lot of moving parts to manage prior to leaving for the Karakoram. He also discusses the challenges they expect to face, what it’s like to manage a large team of international climbers, and their plans for how they intend to tackle the monumental task of climbing K2 during the harshest, most difficult season of all. He also touches on the expectations the team has for itself, as well as those of their friends, family, and countrymen back home.

Reading this article there are two things that strike me. First, by not starting to climb until January the team is already limiting its time on the mountain. K2 will only give them a limited number of days to get work done during the winter months and in my opinion you need to be there as early as possible to start the process of installing ropes, scouting the route, building high camps, and so on. Winter technically begins on December 21 here in the Northern Hemisphere, and in order to be successful I believe you need to be in Base Camp by that date and start climbing immediately.

The other thing that stood out is that the team intends to climb without the use of bottled oxygen. I respect that choice and any mountaineer’s decision to climb with the “fairest means possible.” That said, the team is once again limiting its chances of success by choosing to not use supplemental oxygen. K2 is a hard enough mountain under the best of conditions and the winter conditions only amplifies those difficulties. To not use bottled O’s seems like they’re dooming the expedition from the start.

I hope that I’m proven wrong. This is a very strong team of climbers with a lot of experience and I’ll be cheering them on for sure. But for the first winter ascent of the mountain, I believe you have to set yourself up for success, and these decisions seem like they are limiting the chances of that happening.

Of course, we’ll be following their progress closely in the weeks ahead and I’ll be ready to apologize and eat this words if and when they are successful.

Kraig Becker