Winter Climbs 2020: K2 Team in Base Camp at Last

With the news earlier this week that Simone Moro and Tamara Lunger were abandoning their attempt on Gasherbrum I and II this winter season, we have one less major expedition to follow. That said, there are still plenty of things happening in the Karakoram and Himalaya to keep us occupied over the next two months. That’s exactly how much time remains in the winter climbing season, which sounds like a lot, but still might not be enough for some of the teams.

The biggest news so far this week is that the winter K2 squad consisting of Mingma Gyalje Sherpa, Gao Li, Tomaz Rotar, John Snorri, Tamting Sherpa , Pasang Namgel Sherpa, and Kili Pempa Sherpa have arrived in Base Camp at long last. They reached that location, which is found at an elevation of 16,285.56 feet (4963 m) late this afternoon local time and immediately proceeded to get tents in place and make themselves at home. They’re likely to take a few days to rest and recuperate from the trek before heading up the mountain, because it was a long and challenging march to get to the mountain. There was so much snow in Concordia and on the trail above that point that a hike that should have taken seven hours required three days. Breaking trail in deep snow isn’t easy and takes its toll, so no doubt they’ll want some time to recover. They’ll also need to scout the mountain and check the routes before deciding which way to go up.

Meanwhile, over on Broad Peak, the team of Denis Urubko, Don Bowie, and Lotta Hintsa have been making stead progress. They group is back in Base Camp right now, but a few days back they climbed up to C1 for a night and C2 for two nights as the get acclimated. Urubko and Bowie also worked the route above Camp 2, fixing ropes for their approach to Camp 3. Bowie reports that the weather has been good, but the temperatures are extremely cold, dropping as low as -52ºC (-61ºF). Anyway you slice it, that’s cold.

Over in Nepal, Alex Txikon and his squad have begun their ascent of Ama Dablam, which is serving as a warm-up to Mt. Everest. The team arrived on the mountain a few days back but were forced to wait out high winds exceeding 100 km/h (62 mph) before proceeding up. Yesterday, the winds dropped a bit but remained strong, so the team went up the mountain to Camp 1. Once there, they discovered that several tents and some other equipment had been blown off the mountain, requiring them to make some quick changes of plan. Still, they managed to spend a night at C1 as the acclimatized before fixing ropes above that point to C2 today.

German climber Jost Kobusch is already on Everest and has been making the most of his situation while the weather allows. A few days back, he climbed up to Camp 1 to acclimate, but did so during the night so that a large serac was more solidly held in place. That climb went well and he was soon back in BC ahead of a shift in weather. Kobusch intends to climb Everest solo, unsupported, and without oxygen, along the West Ridge no less. But up until this point, he’s had a companion in Base Camp with him as photographer Daniel Hug has been shadowing him on the mountain. As of today, Hug is departing for home however, leaving the German completely on his own. He doesn’t even have support Sherpas to keep him company. After climbing in the Himalaya throughout the fall, Jost is well acclimated, but the route he has chosen is quite difficult and the weather has been challenging, so he is taking his time and proceeding very carefully.

Finally, we’ve received word that a Polish team has arrived in Pakistan to attempt Batura Sar, the tenth highest mountain in that country at 7795 meters (25,574 ft.) The group is there to get to know one another and work with one another as they prepare for a winter attempt on K2 next year. That is, provided Mingma G’s team doesn’t knock the mountain off this season. As a reminder, K2 is the only 8000-meter peak that has yet to be climbed in winter, so it remains one of the biggest prizes in all of mountaineering.

That’s all for now. I’ll post more updates when there is news to share.

Kraig Becker