If you read this website with any frequency you know that we followed the K2 winter climbing expeditions closely this past season. The mountain saw two teams arrive in Base Camp this winter, both with the same idea –– complete the first ascent of the only 8000-meter peak that remains unclimbed during that season. One of those teams was led by none other than Basque alpinist Alex Txikon, who brought a talented team of climbers from Spain, Nepal, and Poland with him. The other squad was made up of mountaineers from Russia, Kazakstan, and Kyrgyzstan. Early on, the thought was that these two teams would join forces, but as we learn from a recent interview with Txikon and posted on ExWeb, that wasn’t what happened at all. In fact, it seems relations between the two units was frosty at best.
In the interview, Txikon doesn’t pull punches or mince words. He has very little good to say about his neighbors in Base Camp, saying the team was uncooperative, slow, and generally hostile to his squad. He says that they installed very few ropes on the mountain, choosing instead to clip into old ropes that are left in place along the slope. We all know that this is an incredibly dangerous practice as the old worn, ropes can give out at any time. Worse yet, it seems the Russian-led team also had a habit of clipping onto the ropes installed by Txikon’s team as well, although they went to great pains to avoid doing that when their rivals were around. Tracks in the snow and stretched ropes indicated that those lines were being used by someone other than the Spaniard’s fellow climbers however.
Txikon paints a picture of his team extending an invitation to the others to work together, but ending up being rebuffed. The result was that no one worked together and as a result K2 remains unclimbed. It seems unlikely that had they worked together they would have summited, as the weather conditions were not particularly good all season long. But by working together the teams would have at least increased their chances and perhaps could have gotten several strong climbers in position to make a true summit bid. As it stands, no one really got very close to the top.
The interview that ExWeb has posted in the first of two pars and Txikon covers a lot of other ground too. He talks about why he didn’t return to Everest for a third winter attempt and his hopes of climbing that mountain from the North Side instead. He also discusses what his teammates brought to the table, why he hired Nepali guides to help him on K2, and the role he and his teammates played in searching for Daniele Nardi and Tom Ballard when they went missing on Nanga Parbat. He also touches on his thoughts about returning to K2 and what it will take to finally summit the mountain during the harshest, coldest, most inhospitable season of all.
There is a lot more to read in the article and if you followed the K2 winter season I encourage you to give it look. Check it out here.
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