Karakoram Summer 2019: K2 Summits at Long Last!

The dream is still alive for Nirmal “Nims” Purja. The man who launched his Bremont Project Possible expedition this past spring in the Himalaya aims to summit all 14 8000-meter peaks in a single seven month span. That massive goal looked like it could be in serious jeopardy on K2 this summer season, as the world’s second highest peak had turned back all the other attempts to scale its lofty heights. In fact, last week most of the commercial teams on the mountain elected to go home after deep snow and avalanches prevented them from making any meaningful progress above Camp 4. But fresh off his successful summits of Gasherbrum I and II, Purja headed to K2 Base Camp nonetheless. And now, just a few days later he has successfully climbed the mountain and opened the route for others to follow.

According to a Facebook post from Dawa Sherpa, the director of Seven Summit Treks, Nims led a rope fixing team up K2, departing from Camp 4 last night at 10:20 PM local time. It took him, and the other four members of the squad –– Gesman Tamang, Lakpadendi Sherpa, Changba Sherpa, and Lakpa Temba Sherpa –– more than eight hours to climb to the summit, reaching that point at around 7:50 AM this morning. In doing so, they also installed the fixed lines that will potentially allow others to follow.

While unconfirmed by Adrian Ballinger himself, there are reports that he and his team reached the summit of K2 today as well, arriving at the top at around 11:45 AM local time. Ballinger and teammate Carla Perez were attempting to summit without the use of supplemental oxygen, and were being supported by Esteban “Topo” Mena, as well as Namgye Sherpa and Pemba Gelje Sherpa. Presumably they are now back in Camp 4, although Adrian has yet to post an update on the team’s progress.

For Purja, this is now his tenth 8000-meter peak in the span of about three months. This spring, climbing in Nepal he knocked off Annapurna, Manaslu, Dhaulagiri, Kangchenjunga, Lhotse, and Everest. During the summer climbing season in Pakistan, he has now added Nanga Parbat, GI and GII, and K2 to that list. Before heading home, he’ll try to climb Broad Peak as well. That will leave just Cho Oyu, Shishapangma, and Makalu for the fall, when he hopes to complete this ambitious project.

The summit push on K2 isn’t over yet either. Seven Summit Treks moved its commercial team up to Camp 4 today and there is now a large contingent of climbers waiting to head to the top tomorrow. In fact, there are nearly 20 alpinists in C4 waiting to head up, following in the footsteps of the strong teams that have opened the route. The only concern is that those climbers are not nearly as experienced and strong as the individuals who topped out today, so their success is far from guaranteed. The lines are in place and the trail has been broken, but there is still considerable risk in climbing upwards. Lets keep our fingers crossed that they make it up and down safely. We’ll be watching very closely again tomorrow.

Congrats to Nims, Adrian, Carla, and the rest of the climbers who summited K2 today. That is good news indeed.

Kraig Becker