With fresh snow and high winds, K2 and Broad Peak are challenging climber’s judgement.
Teams on K2 are threading a narrow window hoping to summit in the next couple of days. Some climbers feel the risk is too great and have already turned back. Over on Broad Peak a similar story is playing out.
Climbers are all over K2 from base camp to at least Camp 3 on both the Abruzzi and the Česen routes. The large commercial teams of Furtenbach and Himex have turned back saying the risk is too much but the Nepali lead teams, Destination Dreamers and Ascent Himalaya still have a climber or two on the mountain.
Climbing on the Abruzzi, Rupert Hauer, lead guide for Austrian Furtenbach Adventures posted:
it did not want to be. We decided to descend to the [Camp] 2 due to the bad weather. For us, the risk was simply too great. The K 2 is risky enough even in good circumstances. We are currently far from good conditions. Therefore, the unanimous decision to abort.
LG Rupert and team
Mingma of Destination Dreamers said some of his team had already turned back:
K2 is all about weather. We had 3 days bad weather though weather report showed good. Some team on k2 are closed already and some in my team are going down too. But remaining, We still want to check jul 27.
One of those who turned back was American climber Hari Mix who is now back in base camp after reaching Camp 3 on the Abruzzi. He was climbing without supplemental oxygen and made the courageous and smart decision to turn back:
Going down. Despite improving physically, lots of weather and logistics issues are making this too much threading the needle for what I’m willing to take on.
Back in base camp after high stakes descent in storm. Waiting to decide what to do next but in all likelihood K2 is over for me this season
But British-American Vanessa O’Brien’s InReach GPS device showed her at Camp 3 today. She is climbing under Destination Dreamers leadership. Vanessa once held the fastest female speed record to climb the 7 Summits plus reach both Poles. With her dual citizenship, she is driven to claim the title of first American female to summit K2. She is reported to be climbing with multiple Sherpas in support. This is her third year in a row on K2. Weather and avalanche danger stopped her in 2015 and 2016.
Česen Route aka Basque Route
In the end heavy overnight snow brought our expedition to an end. With 20cm falling from above C3 our chances to advance we’re now non existent and the danger of avalanche suddenly very real, and life threatening. Despite splitting the Sherps into 3 groups to descend they were still avalanched above C2, and when visibility improved mid morning it was clear that the upper snow slopes were now loaded and the wind was actively ‘transferring’ from C2 and above. The mountain was now not only difficult but dangerous as well. BC will be in mourning for a few days as we adjust to the end of our dream- for this season at least. In the days to come we will venture back to C2 to collect our gear and ‘clean the mountain.’ It will be a fitting way to say goodbye and to pay our respects to a ‘golden summer’ on K2. One final chance to climb her with courage, skill, and a touch of flair. True to form, I hope to lead it in a t-shirt.
However, like O’Brien on the Abruzzi, there are holdouts on the Česen. Polish climber and skier Andrzej Bargiel posted on Instagram:
Despite the fact that the weather is a bit depressing right now as we sit in the clouds, I stay positive and I believe the forecast will be accurate. It should get better from Wednesday on… We’ve made a decision to go to camp III tomorrow in the afternoon. Janusz Gołąb and Kuba Poburka will come with me. The plan is the following: we move camp III to 7800 m where we’ll take a rest. Then early in the morning on Thursday I’ll go for the summit! We’re ready so now all we need is good weather. Keep your fingers crossed!!!
Then updated with:
Waiting for the weather to clear up. Hopefully I can get some of this soon
Broad Peak Stalled at Camp 2
Catalina media reports the summit team is stuck at Camp 2 waiting for better weather. This is a difficult spot as it is located on a rather aggressive angle with zero protection from wind and elements.
Tunc Findik with 10 of the 8000ers summited, posted on 24 July:
If the weather allows tonight, it’s camp3 tomorrow.
Gasherbrum II Rescue
Spanish media El Pais reported that the three Spanish climbers Alberto Iñurrategi, Juan Vallejo Llanos and Mikel Zabalza who were hoping to traverse from GII to GI rescued 59 year-old Italian Valerio Annovazzi at 7100 meters. Annovazzi and 13 other people using the Pakistani agency Lela Peak expedition, with another Italian, Gianpaolo Corona, had summited days before, on 22 July. The media outlet Montagne reports that Annovazzi was abandoned by his teammates at Camp 3.
He had summited and descended to Camp 3 but then was unable to move any lower. He is reported to have spent four days without food or water and suffered frostbite on his limbs. The three Spanish climbers hearing of his fate, climbed 12 hours back to C3 for the rescue.
“We found Valerio like a little bird. I do not think I would have spent another day alive. A doctor from the base camp Explained how to administer dexamethasone and with this medication and three liters of drink the man reacted. He had tried to get down on his own, but he felt weak and the exit from Camp 3 looks down a steep slope and was without a fixed rope: he feared to dive, so up to three times he made the attempt to return again and again, impotent, until His shop ” Mikel said . I take off my hat once more in front of this alpine equipment.
I have written a lot about the phenomenon of summit fever when a climber loses their objectivity in pursuit of a summit. It is especially dangerous when they are close to their goal. They seize on any positive information and discount the negative. This is when having a deep history of experience, including turning back and pushing on, is critical. A wrong decision in a high altitude environment of high winds and fresh snow can easily result in tragedies, even for the most skilled climbers.
I wish those still pushing that the weather does break for a few days. They will go slowly since there are no ropes above C3 and it takes hours to fix some sections. With the fresh snow, avalanche danger is now high. Usually climbers give fresh snow a minimum of 24 hours to settle if not 48.
The weather forecast called for good conditions on the 27th but returns to high winds shortly thereafter. Remember that good weather to reach the summit is only part of the mix, they also need good weather to descend.
Memories are Everything