Winter Climbs 2019: Summit Push Underway on Nanga Parbat

Following more than two weeks fo bad weather conditions finally improved on both Nanga Parbat and K2 this past weekend. This allowed the teams on both mountains to go back on the move at long last, but with different objectives in mind. While the climbers on one of those mountains scrambles to take advantage of an increasingly narrow weather window, a summit bid is now underway on the other.

We’ll start on Nanga Parbat, where Italian climber Daniele Nardi and Brit Tom Ballard have excessed a great deal of patience over the past few weeks. They had been stuck in Base Camp for days, waiting for the weather to improve. That finally happened on Friday and the duo set off for Camp 1 along the Mummery Spur on the mountain, a route that has never been fully climbed before in winter. Once they reached C1 however, the boys weren’t satisfied and just kept on climbing.

Realizing that they were feeling well rested and that this could be the only weather window they’ll get, they decided to keep going. According to the last update from Nardi’s Facebook page they had reached Camp 4 and were preparing to push further. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been any updates since that point and the team’s GPS tracker is providing only sporadic updates, so for now we sit and wait. Hopefully we’ll have news of their progress and location soon as it appears they have an extended opportunity to reach the summit over the next few days.

Over on K2, the forecast isn’t so optimistic. The two teams on that mountain knew that they had a much narrower weather window to deal with and have tried to take advantage of it as best they could. The Spanish/Polish team led by Alex Txikon has been the more cautious of the groups on the mountain this year, and as a result they hadn’t gone any higher than Camp 1 so far. Over the weekend members of the squad went back up to that point on the mountain and spent the night there, but have since returned to BC.

Meanwhile, the Russian/Kazakh/Kyrgyzstanian team led by Vassilij Pivtsov went back up to Camp 2 where they expected to have to dig out from the poor weather conditions. When they got there however, they discovered that all of their gear and supplies had been blown away. That means they’ll have to rebuild C2 altogether and hope that Camp 3 is still intact. That seems like a long shot considering it is located above 7100 meters (23,293 ft), but they are holding out hope nonetheless.

Unfortunately, it looks like this weather window on K2 will come to an end soon than expected. The two teams had hoped to be able to extend their stay on the mountain for a longer period of time, but high winds are now expected to return by tomorrow. When the next opportunity to climb will come along remains to be seen, but the clock is definitely ticking. Remember, some climbers feel that winter actually ends on March 1, which would mean they have until Friday to grab the summit. That seems highly unlikely at this point. I’m in the camp that sees winter ending on March 20, giving them another three weeks to finish what they started. Hopefully they can take advantage of that time.

Kraig Becker