Karakoram Summer 2019: Summit Bids Abandoned on K2, Success on GII

All week long it seemed that we were building up to a major summit push that would take place today and tomorrow on K2. Now, those attempts have faded away as the mountain has reminded everyone why it is such a difficult place to find success. Meanwhile, over on Gasherbrum II a few climbers are finding things to be much better with successful summits now being reported.

We’ll start on K2, where there is a lot of news t share and most of it not good. Dawa Sherpa of Seven Summit Treks posted an update on attempts to fix ropes above Camp 4, but those efforts have stalled out, at least for now. He says that his team were able to install the lines as high as 8200 meters (26,902 ft), but poor conditions above that point caused them to abandon those efforts and head back down. Once they were above the Bottleneck, they discovered that the snow was 1.4 meters (4.5 ft) deep and incredibly difficult to break trail through. Worse yet, another avalanche occurred indicating that things were not stable above that point. At that point, things were considered to be too dangerous to proceed, so the Sherpa team descended back to Camp 4 to rest and decide what to do next. As of this writing, that is where they are currently, with everyone said to be safe and comfortable.

Furtenbach Adventures offers further insights saying that their squad had to spend an entire day at Camp 4 following yesterday’s avalanche, but was ready to go today. They even leant some support to the rope fixing team working to install the lines. But, apparently there wasn’t just one, but two avalanches today, which convinced everyone that K2 is currently too unstable to climb. In fact, two climbers were apparently injured in the attempt with a broken arm and elbow resulting from the slide. The FA squad is now heading back down the mountain for a rest and to decide what to do next.

Mike Horn and Fred Roux also abandoned their summit attempt. Horn says that they got within a few hundred meters of the summit, but decided to turn back due to the avalanche danger and strong winds. The two were climbing without oxygen as well, which made things even more difficult. Both are now back in Base Camp and suffering from minor frostbite to their faces and feet. From the sounds of things, they have decided to abandon their expedition and are now heading home.

It seems that we can expect all of the teams to descend back to BC today or tomorrow. With no ropes in place there simply isn’t anywhere to go at the moment. The various commercial and independent squads will now have to consult with one another on what to do next. The avalanche danger appears to be very real above the Bottleneck, but it is still very early in the season. Some teams are likely to assess the situation and feel that it is too dangerous, while others will sit tight to see if things improve over the next week or two. Remember, most summits on K2 don’t come until the last week of July or the first week of August, so there is still time. Patience will be the key moving forward, provided the climbers aren’t too exhausted and the weather continues to cooperate.

Meanwhile, over on Gasherbrum II a team of climbers has reached the summit of that mountain. Several members of the group were reportedly together on Nanga Parbat a week or so back, including Sergi Mingote. According to his GPS tracker, he reached the top, but exactly who was with him at the time remains to be seen. Mingote is headed back down the mountain now, so it seems likely we’ll get an update on his progress soon.

One of the climbers who did summit GII was Nirmal Purja, who also topped out on Gasherbrum I a few days back. That brings his summit total for the year to nine, as he inches closer to his goal of reaching the top of all 14 8000-meter peaks in a single year. According to The Himalayan Times, Purja topped out on GII this morning and was likely with Mingote at the time. Originally, his plan was to go to K2 next, then finish the summer season on Broad Peak. But with the current difficult on K2, it is possible that he could change his mind and go to BP first. For now though, we’ll just have to wait to see what happens.

That’s it for today. On K2, the waiting game continues, although for some the dream of a summit this year may be over.

Kraig Becker