Karakoram Summer 2019: Acclimatizing on K2 Continues

Acclimatizing on K2 Continues: Over the past week or two, we’ve seen a flurry of activity taking place in the Karakoram. In fact, we’ve seen some early season summits on Broad Peak, Nanga Parbat, and a handful of other mountains throughout the region. Now, things have quieted down a bit in terms of important news for updates. For the climbers however, the work is just truly getting underway, particularly on K2 where most of the teams are now in the midst of an acclimatization rotation or are just returning to Base Camp.

The team that has been leading the way all season so far is the duo of Mike Horn and Fred Roux. They went straight from BC to Camp 3 yesterday, with only a stop for lunch in C2. Now, they’ve spent the night at 7400 meters (24,278 ft), which should just about wrap their acclimatization efforts.

They’ll likely head back down to Base Camp today or tomorrow, where they’ll rest up and get ready for a summit push. When that push will come is wholly dependent on the weather, but it seems clear that Mike and Fred are determined to get up the mountain before the big commercial squads get underway. In other words, if the weather holds, we could see them set out for the top as early as this coming weekend.

Most of the other teams aren’t anywhere close to being ready just yet. The Madison Mountaineering squad just returned from a trip up to C2 for instance and are now heading back down to BC for a much-needed break. Team leader Garrett Madison reports good weather on the mountain, which has made climbing and acclimating much easier and more enjoyable. It could mean they’ll head back up for their next rotation soon as well, although for now they’ll enjoy some rest and recovery.

Adrian Ballinger has gone up for his first rotation and is due back in BC today or tomorrow. He hasn’t posted an update for a few days, but indicated that he and his team would be out of communication for awhile. Ballinger is preparing to make a no-Os summit attempt and per usual with him, he is likely to have pre-acclimated at home using an oxygen tent.

That should have him ready to go sooner than most other climbers as well and I wouldn’t be surprised if he hadn’t already gone up to Camp 3, skipping time in C1 and 2 altotether. When he set off on this rotation he indicated that the sun was shining brightly in the Karakoram, with an unusually good patch of weather. Hopefully that holds out through the end of the season, allowing everyone to get up and down safely.

The Gasherbrums are seeing their fair share of activity as well. The Climbing for Casualties team has now been up to C3 on Gasherbrum II and are back in Base Camp to rest up. That’s an indication that they’re nearly ready to launch a potential summit bid there as well. Nims Purja is reportedly in BC and is waiting to launch his summit push, which could include a traverse of both mountains in a single go. We also know that Denis Urubko has targeted the Gasherbrums this summer and is somewhere on the mountain, although he doesn’t maintain a social media presence.

Finally, ExWeb has provided an update on the attempt to ski Nanga Parbat. They indicate that back on July 2, French climber Boris Langestein skied the mountain starting at 50 meters below the summit. The next day, Vitaly Lazo and Cala Cimenti also made a partial ski descent of the mountain, although had some issues with the glue from their skins collecting heavy snow. This caused a delay in their progress, but was eventually sorted out.

Curiously, ExWeb also indicates that Max Berger not only summited Broad Peak, he also paraglided from Camp 3. He’s now on his way to K2, where he hopes to repeat that feat.

That’s all for now. More news to come soon I’m sure.

Kraig Becker