Winter Climbs 2019: Nanga Parbat Search Wrapping Up, K2 Summit Push Continues

We continue with a steady stream of news out of Pakistan today with updates on both the search for Daniele Nardi and Tom Ballard, as well as a status report from K2. In the case of the former, things are starting to wind down after an exhaustive effort, while climbers on the world’s second highest peak prepare for one last push to the top.

It has now been more than a week and a half since anyone has seen or heard from Nardi or Ballard, but the search for the missing men continues. Today is likely the final day of the rescue operation, as once again there has been no sign of their whereabouts on the mountain. Yesterday, the team of Alex Txikon, Muhammad Ali Sadpara, Felix Criado, and Rahmat Ullah Baig widened their efforts and looked for the missing climbers on the Kinshofer route, but to no available. The plan is to make one last sweep of the mountain by helicopter today before Alex and his teammates return to K2, possibly to resume their expedition to climb that peak.

There have been a few conflicting reports, with some saying that the search has already been called off. But an update to Daniele’s Facebook page this morning indicates that the rescue team will give it one last go after spotting two silhouettes high on Nanga Parbat yesterday. The shapes, which can’t be positively identified at this point, were observed through a telescope in Base Camp, and may or may not be the two climbers. At this point it seems highly unlikely, but the search team wants to use a helicopter to check out the location just in case.

Other reports indicate that massive avalanche hit Nanga along the same route –– and at the time –– that Nardi and Ballard were climbing. Apparently, the ferocity of the avalanche was such that it could be heard by villagers living miles away. It seems likely that this may be the cause of death for Daniele and Tom, but all involved are remaining cautious on sharing that news.

Meanwhile, over on K2 the Russian/Kazakh/Kyrgyatanian team now has climbers firmly in Camp 3 at 7400 meters (24,280 ft). The group is reportedly waiting out the weather with high winds currently hitting the mountain. Those winds are expected to abate, which means they could move up to Camp 4 today to get into position for a summit push. If successful, this would be the first winter ascent of K2, although the real challenge still sits ahead. Climbing above C4 in winter will not be easy, and the team hasn’t been above its current position yet this year. Breaking trail, instilling ropes, and setting camp will be a challenge, to say nothing of going for the summit.

Stay tuned for more updates. The season is coming to a conclusion quickly now, but there will be more to share over the next day or two.

Kraig Becker