Winter Climbs 2019: K2 Teams Prepare for Worst Weather Yet

The two teams attempting to complete the first winter ascent of K2 this year have had a challenge go of it so far. Cold temperatures, high winds, and dangerous avalanche conditions have restricted them to Base Camp for much of the season. But now, as the clock continues to tick away, they are battening down the hatches as the worst weather yet prepares to descend upon the mountain.

According to Spanish climber Alex Txikon, the weather will turn extremely nasty over the next few days with a full-force hurricane arriving on the scene. Weather reports indicate that by the end of the week his team, along with the international squad led by Vassiliy Pivtsov, will be dealing with winds as high as 70 km/h (43 mph) in Base Camp itself, while higher up the mountain things will get incredibly rough. The forecast calls for wind speeds in excess of 200 km/h (124 mph) on the summit, with possibly some snow mixed in too.

These harsh conditions are expected to arrive by Thursday of this week, so needless to say the teams are staying safely in BC for now. Fortunately, the weather isn’t expected to stay that bad for long, as by the weekend things will have calmed down, perhaps allowing both squads to go on the move again. For Txikon and company, that means potentially climbing up to 7000 meters (22,965 ft) to set up Camp 3 and for the Russian/Kazakh/Kyrgyzstanian team it could be a chance to push higher above the Black Pyramid.

Unfortunately the improved weather won’t last long and things are expected to take a turn for the worse again by the middle of next week, with high winds returning to K2. That means the two teams have just three or four days to head up, work on their acclimatization, install ropes, and establish their high camps before returning to BC. It also means that time is starting to run short. We are now officially one month away from the end of calendar winter, which means that if a summit bid is going to come, it needs to come soon.

Whether or not Mother Nature will cooperate remains to be seen.

Kraig Becker