Karakoram Summer 2019: Teams Moving Over and Up as Season Continues

The 2019 summer climbing season in Pakistan is unfolding at a rapid pace. So much so that there now seems to be something to report just about every day. With climbing operations now seemingly about wrapped up on Nanga Parbat, our attention is turning elsewhere. Over the past few days we’ve seen teams migrate to new Base Camps in preparation of other challenges ahead, while some climbers are now on the move as the ready for summit bids that could come sooner rather than later.

We’ll start today’s coverage on K2, where things are seemingly progressing ahead of schedule. After starting the season with uncharacteristically bad weather, including heavy snowfall, things have improved dramatically over the past week. With clear skies, warm temperatures, and low winds, nearly everyone has been able to make solid progress in their acclimatization rotations. So much so that it is possible we could see the first summit push occur as early as this weekend. If that were to happen, it would probably come from Mike Horn, who along with Fred Roux, set out for Camp 3 at 7200 meters (23,622 ft) today. The plan is to move up to that point as quickly as possible, spend the night there, then return to BC for some rest. When that rotation is complete, Horn feels they’ll be ready to go for the summit, well ahead of the main push from the commercial teams.

Speaking of the commercial squads, Seven Summit Treks has checked in and indicates that the ropes have now been fixed all the way up to Camp 4 on K2. They’re leading their sizable contingent up the Abruzzi Route on that mountain and indicate that the Sherpas installing the lines could complete their work in the next day or two, marking the first summits of the season on K2. With the work done getting the ropes in place, climbers are free to follow when they can. But with more than 60 clients on its squad, SST is likely to lead the way when the big push begins.

Over on the Česen Route, things are a little less crowded, but not by much. The Furtenbach Adventures team has moved over from Broad Peak after putting a few clients on the summit there, and they’re joined Madison Mountaineering and the team from Imagine Nepal. The Madison Mountaineering team checked in from Camp 2 yesterday and had even climbed up part way to C3 as their acclimatization process unfolds. The three teams on the Česen are sharing the work loads as they coordinate their coming summit pushes as well.

Over on Broad Peak things aren’t completely wrapped up yet. The Kobler and Partner team is back in BC after finishing its third and final acclimatization rotation. The team is all set and ready to go, but they’re getting some much needed rest and watching the weather forecast to decide when to go up. Right now, those plans are still in flux, but if the weather holds it won’t be too long before they announce their summit plans.

Things are now starting to get interesting on the Gasherbrums, where we had our first summits of the season as a Korean team topped out yesterday. The summiteers included leader Kim Hongbin, Cho Cheol Hee, and Cheong Ha Young, as well as Nepali guide Pechhumbe Sherpa and Pakistani guide Muhammad. The team is reportedly heading back down the mountain now and all is well. 

Both Gasherbrum I and II are set to see a lot attention in the days ahead. Denis Urubko, along with climbing partner Maria Cardell, have arrived in BC on GII, and Sergi Mingote is reportedly en route to the mountain after a brief stop over in Skardu. That gave him time to post the video above of his ascent of Nanga Parbat, which he says was one of the toughest oaf his career. He’ll be joined there by Nirmal Purja, who is looking to knock of the next two peaks in his quest to get all of the 8000-meter mountains in a single calendar year. After summiting Nanga Parbat last week, he is now halfway to that goal.

Finally, one last note to correct previous articles from Nanga Parbat. Most summit reports from last week –– including my own –– indicated that Pakistani climber Ali Sadpara had summited the mountain as part of the combined group that went to the top on July 3/4. It is now reported that he turned around and headed back down due to frostbite and didn’t reach the summit after all. He has climbed Nanga in the past however, so this wouldn’t have been a new 8000-er for him. Hopefully he is recovering from the frostbite and is well.

That’s all for now. At the pace that things are moving right now, I won’t be too surprised if there isn’t more to share tomorrow. Stay tuned.