Karakoram Summer 2019: Summit Push Begins on K2

The time has come on K2. As good weather conditions continue across the Karakoram, and the forecast for the next few days looks stable, several teams are now prepare for a summit push on the second highest mountain on the planet. After wrapping up their acclimatization rotations last week, and getting some rest in Base Camp for a few days, the way is now cleared for an early season attempt on the summit. Those attempts will come in just a few days, more than a week ahead of the traditional schedule.

Historically speaking, most successful attempts on K2 have taken place in the last week of July or the first week of August. But this season, the mountain is experiencing an unprecedented spate of good weather, which has made acclimatization rotations easier and more predictable. As a result, several of the squads are now ready to go and are just waiting for the go sign to head up the hill. Some will launch their summit bids today, while others will follow over the next day or two. Either way, summit season has begun on the mountain and its going to be an interesting week once again in the Karakoram.

First to head up the mountain will no doubt be Mike Horn and Fred Roux. They were the first to arrive in BC a few weeks back and have been at the forefront of the acclimatization process ever since. Horn seems eager to summit K2, a mountain he attempted back in 2015 but came up a bit short on. Now, he and Roux are read to go and will head straight up to Camp 2 today. If all goes according to plan, they should climb to C3 tomorrow, then after a short break continue up to C4. From their, they’ll launch their final push to the top, with eye on reaching the summit on Wednesday.

Several of the commercial squads are lining up to launch their summit attempts over the next few days as well. Madison Mountaineering spent the day yesterday practicing the use of their oxygen systems and expect to start their ascent tomorrow. That will likely put them on top around Thursday or Friday of this week, depending on the schedule and progress. Meanwhile, Furtenbach Adventures says the weather is holding steady and looking good, and they hope to reach the summit over the next few days too.

Adrian Ballinger has returned to BC after spending more than six days in high camps as part of his acclimatization process. He confirms that the other teams are now lining up for their summit push, but he’s not ready yet. He’ll soon attempt a no-Os climb of K2, but in order to allow his body to prepare more fully, he’s going to spend one more five-day rotation at altitude. After that, he’ll descend back to BC, rest up, and check the weather forecast before launching his own summit push. He expects to be back in Base Camp by Thursday or Friday.

That’s it for the update today. As you can see, things are about to get very busy on K2. We’ll be keeping a close eye on things over the next few days, tracking the progress of as many of the teams as we can. Good luck to all of the climbers. Get up and down safely.

Kraig Becker