Karakoram Summer 2019: Weather Improves on K2

Karakoram Summer: Last week when we checked in on the teams heading to the Karakoram this summer there was a lot of discussion about how poor the weather has been so far. In fact, there was so much snow falling that all of the efforts to begin acclimatizing had been stymied so far, keeping the climbers in Base Camp while they waited for conditions to improve. This past weekend, the skies cleared and things did indeed improve, allowing a few alpinists to go on the move. But the window isn’t expected to last long as more snow is in the forecast.

The first team on K2 this season was none other than Mike Horn and his climbing partner Fred Roux. They arrived a week and a half ago, but were forced to sit in Base Camp for the weather to improve. Over the past few days, things did indeed get better allowing the duo to climb up above 6000 meters (19,685 ft) at long last.

Horn and Roux took advantage of the improved conditions to shuttle gear up to Camp 1 and start the all important acclimatization process. They hike up to C1 takes about two hours or so to complete, but is a good workout for the legs and lungs. Both men are now back in BC however and preparing to make another trip or two up the mountain before weather conditions are expected to deteriorate over the next few days.

Meanwhile, other teams have now arrived in K2 Base Camp as well, including Madison Mountaineering. They’ve spent the weekend getting settled in BC, where they expect to spend the next three to four weeks. They too report large amounts of snow on the mountain, but indicate that conditions have been quite good over the past few days with clear skies and lots of sunshine. Once the squad has had a chance to fully set up camp, and sort their, gear, there is a good chance they’ll try to go up to Camp 1 as well before a shift in conditions comes again.

Adrian Ballinger and his five-person team hope to reach K2 BC soon, but are currently stuck in place waiting for porters to return. Ballinger is hoping to summit the mountain without the use of bottled oxygen this summer, but the expedition got off to an auspicious start when he took ill last week.

For two days he was unable to continue the very difficult trek to Base Camp, and so the porters the team had hired abandoned them to go find other work. Now, Adrian is back on his feet and feeling better, bu the porters have not returned. For now, they have to sit and wait, hoping that they’ll get some assistance soon.

It should be noted that last week Alan Arnette reported that there was a noticeable lack of porters for the season, creating a shortage that could impact some of the teams. Normally, pack animals could be used to pick up some of the slack, but the deep snow is preventing those animals from being used further along the route. This could spell trouble for some of the squads heading to the Karakoram. If they can’t get settled into BC and start to acclimate soon, they may not be ready for the weather window that typically comes in the final week of July or early August.

Nearby on Broad Peak, things are going better. According to the Kobler & Partner team, the ropes have now been fixed up to Camp 2 on that mountain, opening up the opportunities for the teams to not only acclimate but begin shuttling gear.

Meanwhile, the members of the team, along with their guides, have gone up to C1 as they start the long process of preparing for an eventual summit push. Unlike some other teams in the Karakoram, Broad Peak is their objective this year and they aren’t warming up here ahead of a K2 push. Right now, things are on track and moving forward about as well as expected and despite some early delays due to heavy snow and weather.

Finally, an update on Nirmal Purja, the former Gurkha soldier attempting to climb all 14 8000-meter peaks in a single year. He had hoped to be in the Karakoram by now, setting his sights on Broad Peak, K2, Nanga Parbat, and Gasherbrum I and II.

But a lack of funding may be keeping him in Nepal instead. So far, he hasn’t left for Pakistan and may miss out on his opportunity to continue his Project Possible 14/7 mission, not because he isn’t strong enough or ready to continue but simply because he doesn’t have the funding he needs to keep going. Hopefully that will change soon, but for now we have to wait to see if he can collect the necessary cash to continue pursuing his goal.

That’s all for now. More updates coming soon.

Kraig Becker