Winter Climbs 2019: Progress on K2, Still Stalled on Nanga Parbat

The weather finally abated on K2 this past weekend, giving the two teams there an opportunity to leave Base Camp for a bit and make some progress up the mountain. The same can’t be said of Nanga Parbat however, where heavy snow continues to fall, keeping climbers firmly stuck in BC, even as the clock continues to tick.

For the Russian/Kazakh/Kyrgyzstanian team on K2, there was plenty of good news to go around. Not only did the squad –– which is being led by Vassiliy Pivtsov –– learn that their sponsors have now granted them full funding, they’ll also be receiving some much needed reinforcements by the end of the week.

Three climbers will be joining the group thanks to the influx of cash. The team will now be up to its full strength, as Pivtsov had always intended, potentially giving them an opportunity to complete the first winter ascent of the mountain before spring arrives in a few weeks.

That isn’t the only reason to be optimistic however. Over the weekend, the team also managed to climb up to 7000 meters (22,965 ft) to build their Camp 3. That would put them just below he infamous and difficult Black Pyramid, but the group didn’t stop there.

Four of the men then proceeded another 400 meters (1312 feet) to the top of the Black Pyramid itself, caching more gear at that point and installing ropes as they went. From there, it was back to Base Camp however, as poor weather is expected to set in today and continue for most of the week.

Meanwhile, the mixed Spanish/Polish team led by Alex Txikon climbed up to Camp 1 to acclimatize and stretch their legs some. But no sooner had they reached that point when they elected to turn around and head back to BC as well. The forecast looks forbidding for the foreseeable future, with snow, high winds, and cold temperatures arriving soon. How cold? According to some reports, the temperatures will drop to as low as -108ºF (-77ºC) with the windchill.

Over on Nanga Parbat, the story remains the same. Daniele Nardi and Tom Ballard are now alone on the mountain and unable to leave Base Camp. Heavy snow continues to fall, preventing them from making any progress. When the weather does eventually clear, they’ll have a lot of work ahead of them to reopen the route up the mountain, but for now they sit and wait.

Depending on how you define “winter” for these types of expeditions, the teams have roughly six weeks or so before the curtain drops on the season. That’s still plenty of time to find some success, but they do need a little cooperation from Mother Nature first. Hopefully conditions will improve soon and they can at least get a fair coach at the summit.