2020 Karakoram Climbing Season Looking More and More Uncertain

As the spring climbing season in the Himalayas turns towards the finish line, the mountaineering community is starting to focus its attentions on the Karakoram summer season in Pakistan instead. But as the coronavirus continues to dominate the world stage, the viability of such a season is being called into question. Now, with just a little over a month to go until expeditions would get underway, it is starting to look more and more like another climbing season will slip through our fingers.

Almost exactly a month ago, our friends over at Explorers Web posted a story that speculated that the Karakoram climbing season would proceed. At the time, it seemed like optimistic estimations had the world returning to some form of “normalcy” by summer, which left room on the calendar for mountaineer expeditions to K2, Broad Peak, and Nanga Parbat to still take place. There was even some speculation that the schedule might shift some to accommodate a later starting and finishing time, with more summits coming in August than we’ve seen in the recent past.

With so many mountaineering operators now struggling financially due to the lost revenue from the spring Himalayan season, expeditions to the Karakoram also appear to be a way to get things back on track. 2020 is already going to be tough thanks to the virus, but if the summer season in Pakistan could go off without a hitch and the fall season in Nepal and Tibet could follow soon thereafter, there was a chance for the guiding companies to at least get back to business. As it turns out however, that seems increasingly unlikely.

A few days back, Alan Arnette reached out to a number of his contacts in Pakistan, as well as mountain guides that he knows personally. That survey painted a rosy picture from the Pakistani’s perspective, with the folks who spoke to Alan indicating that while there have been some cancellations, many tours and expeditions are forging ahead as planned. Some even said that late July departure dates were available, with many operators still taking applications for those who want to trek or climb in the mountains there.

However, once Alan reached out to the western operators, he got a very different story. All of them told him that they had cancelled their plans for the summer in the Karakoram. That included Lukas Furtenbach of Furtenbach Adventures and Minga Gala Sherpa of Imagine Nepal.

As with most other places, Pakistan is still struggling to contain the coronavirus and travel is still highly restricted. Whether or not that can change in time for the summer season remains to be seen, but considering the current trajectory of trends regarding the virus, it seems highly unlikely. As Alan points out at the end of his article, we probably shouldn’t expect any major expeditions until 2021 or at the very least after a vaccine has been found.