Karakoram Summer 2019: Nims Purja Launches Summit Bid on Gasherbrums

As we head into the weekend, things continue to be very interesting in the Karakoram, where teams continue to take advantage of the good weather as they prepare for eventual summit bids. But as the teams move up and down K2 in an effort to acclimatize for the climbs ahead, we’ve also gotten an updated status report from Nirmal “Nims” Purja, who has arrived in Gasherbrum Base Camp, but just getting to the point hasn’t been easy.

Nims and his support team summited Nanga Parbat last week and upon descending back to BC on that mountain, immediately set off for the Gasherbrums. From the sounds of things, they’ve run into all kind of difficulties while just traveling from one place to another, including having their trucks get stuck in the mud and not having enough porters to help move their gear. Eventually, Nims suggested that they just carry their heavy mountaineering packs themselves, which is kind of unheard of in big mountaineering expeditions these days. With Sherpas helping in the Himalaya and high altitude porters lending a hand in the Karakoram, most of the climbers are freed up to just carry a small daypack with the supplies they need. Nims and company were forced to go old school, carrying their own gear all the way to Concordia, a crossroads of sorts on the way to several major mountains in the region.

The trekking int his part of the world is incredibly difficult and far more challenging than going to Everest Base Camp for example. But Nims says they soldiered through until they got to Concordia, where they were able to hire three porters to help them shuttle gear. This sped up the process and allowed them to reach Base Camp sooner than if they had done so on their own. It seems the team is facing a major time crunch and is feeling the pressure to keep Nims’ Project Possible on track. With a narrow weather window each summer in the Karakoram, attempting to climb five 8000-meter peaks isn’t going to be easy.

Having just arrived in BC on the Gasherbrums, the plan now is to head straight up GI without much of rest. The team will launch their summit bid on that peak this evening. If all goes according to plan, they should top out in the next day or two, then immediately proceed to Gasherbrum II for a summit push there. Finally, the hope is to then travel to K2 and climb that mountain, knocking off GI, GII, and K2 all in a single week. If that happens, that will leave just Broad Peak on his hit list, with about a week and a half left in the season. That also means there is little room for error, but they do have a bit of a cushion should the weather hold them in place.

Right now, weather isn’t the major concern for the teams on K2, but the snow up high on the mountain is. The rope fixing teams have stalled out in Camp 4, where they’re waiting for conditions above that point to improve. Madison Mountaineering reports that their Sherpas were heading back up to Camp 3 yesterday and probably C4 today. From there, they’ll move ahead with installing the lines as best they can, with the hopes of opening the route to the summit in the next few days. Hopefully the good weather conditions will continue at least through the weekend, allowing them to make some progress towards that goal.

Meanwhile, Adrian Ballinger has returned from spending six days in the high camps as he acclimatizes for his no-Os summit attempt. Several of those nights spent up high were at Camp 3, which should go a long way towards preparing his body for altitude. From he sound of things that rotation went well and he is starting to feel stronger after a bout of illness. You may recall, he was suffering with a parasite in the early days of the expedition and was quite sick for awhile. It seems he’s bouncing back now and nearly ready to go, although at least one more acclimatization rotation will take place before the summit push begins.

Mike Horn and Fred Roux are still up in Camp 3 acclimatizing, although they’re likely to be headed back to BC today or tomorrow. Mike notes on Facebook how difficult it is to do anything at that altitude, including just eating food. If you’ve ever been up high on a mountain for an extended period of time, you probably know how quickly your appetite can disappear. You know you have to eat, but it can be hard work, particularly when your body isn’t all that interested in it. The duo are close to be ready for their summit push however, so after a rest in BC they’ll be checking the forecast as they get read to head up one last time.

That’s it for today. It looks like next week should be a particularly busy one. I’m sure the updates will be coming frequently then too.

Kraig Becker