The summer K2 season is well underway with teams at base camp or making the trek up the Baltoro. And the other big Karakoram peaks are also welcoming climbers to base camps and even higher.
Challenge to Base Camp
There are multiple challenges to even getting to the Karakoram, starting with arriving in Islamabad. The country is still under high security but in my two visits there, I never had any issues and found the people extremely freindly. Then there is the flight to Skardu. Most teams try to fly direct via a daily Pakistan International Airline flight, but due to regular bad weather in Skardu, and with no radar, it’s VFR for the pilots, thus flights are canceled 20% of the time and very delayed another 25%. Thus some teams are forced to take the 30 hour, 2 day drive along the very dangerous Karakorum Highway.
Once teams arrive in Skardu, many stay at the time honored Concordia Motel, enjoying Internet (slow) and evening cookouts (fantastic) with great views of the Indus River. It is here that you begin to feel like you might be a climber and not a tourist as almost every climber in the Karakoram stays there, chatting, sharing dreams and talking mountains. From Skardu, the real journey begins in earnest, and its a trip of a lifetime and for memories. This was how I described my 2014 journey from Skardu to Askole:
We left Skardu somewhat later than anticipated as we needed to wait for our Pakistani Liaison Officer, a member of the military who will stay with us throughout our expedition. Once on the road we made good time until, well the video tells it all. The road starts off paved then becomes smooth dirt, then lose gravel and then a muddy trail barely dug into the side of steep mountain sides, thus the problem.
The first was a wash out area from a stream high on a hillside, it washed out the “road” creating a primordial ooze of mud that literally sucked our Toyota FJ Cruisers into the abyss. The good news was that we traveled in a caravan, the bad news was the entire caravan got stuck. But through human power, one by one each FJ was rescued to the cheers of the drivers, riders and locals who lent a helpful hand.
Next was a landslide on an extremely narrow road, also carved into a steep hillside. This obstacle brought us to a total halt with most everyone standing around staring at rocks falling towards us. Finally a few courageous souls took shovels to clear the debris and each FJ made a brave run under the potential stone burial.
Finally, there was the bridge that was not. A 300’ span across the raging river, it had lost a few planks, well actually a lot of planks, so many in fact that there was no bridge. But the FJ drivers came prepared with new wood slats that served the purpose so this delay was not too long.
This is a video I created from that 2014 experience:
Once the climbers reach Skardu, the 80 mile trek begins. I’ll write about that later. As they begin the trek to base camp, most teams will take 8 days to hike up the Baltoro Glacier enjoying some spectacular views anywhere in the mountains.
Base Camp Arrivals
Japanese Arrive at K2
Akira Oyabe and his 10 member team from Japan have arrived at K2 Base Camp. His wife, Ayako Oyabe, back in Japan is providing updates. She gave a report from 15 June said they hope to have the route up to 6,900-meters/22,637-feet and Camp 1 established by 15 June.
Furtenbach Adventures have arrived at BP BC for the first of their two 8000ers. They intend to attempt K2 after Broad.
Mike Horn reports snow is keeping them in base camp.
Climbers to Watch – Updated
Canadian Nathalie Fortin is heading to K2 with her teammates Serge Dessureault, Maurice Beauséjour. She reported in from the trek:
today 17 June, we are in gora and arrived from hurdu. The day to get there was up to now with the greatest elevation., about 400 feet. We slept our first night at 4000 meters, I feel great and I have a good rhythm. I think my training strategy (hike with weight) is paid, we’ll see later when we get to serious things. We walk on the Glacier Glacier, sometimes we lose foot because under the rocks there’s ice cream. Finally the sun is back after almost 2 days without seeing it the hoe, we can therefore better appreciate the view of snowy mountains that were partially behind the clouds, it’s majestic. Everyone is fine.
The Swedish climber, Fredrik Sträng, is back on K2 this year. He was on K2 last year and in 2008 when 11 people were killed in a variety of accidents and avalanches. He also played an instrumental role in the documentary film, The Summit.
- Pakistani climber Uzama Yousaf, a self-described housewife and mother of two children, will try to become the first Pakistani female to summit Broad Peak. She told Pakistan’s geo.tv that her husband wouldn’t let her climb but after summiting 20,177-foot Mingling Sar in Shimshal, he changed his mind.
- Adam Bielecki is back in the Karakorum along with fellow Polish climber Jacek Czech and Felix Berg. They are targeting the Gasherbrums, starting with GII, then hoping to open a new route on the East Face of GIV. Bielecki was on the Polish K2 winter attempt just 6-months ago.
- Andrzej Bargiel is back again to ski K2. The Polish ski mountaineer was stopped in 2017 by dangerous conditions. He plans to acclimatize and ski nearby Gasherbrum II. He has successfully skied down Shisapangma and Broad Peak.
- Brit Jake Meyers is back on K2 after stopping in 2009 and 2016. He completed the 7 Summits in 2005.
- Mongolia climber Gangaamaa Badamgarav is attempting tK2. She was stopped in 2013. Irish climber Noel Hanna is also on her permit and Gheorghe Dimarescu!
Previous climbers noted:
- Masha Gordon, Helias Millerioux, Yannick Graziani for a G1/G2 traverse climbing alpine style without Os and use of porters.
- Turkish climber Tunc Findik with his Romanian partner Alex Gavan, is hoping to get his 12th 8000er on . Tunc produced a rather dry video of his K2 summit but of you Fast forward to 27:04 you will see the most difficult part of the climb or often called the crux. It is an area called the Bottleneck at 27,200′ which is near vertical rock wall covered in ice and snow. Note the climber in the middle at 27:17 making a delicate move across the face.
- Carlos Garranzo on Broad Peak and K2
- Mirza Ali – Pakistani filmmaker/director
- David Roeske for BP and K2. In 2016 the American summited Cho Oyu and Everest within 11 days.
- Dávid Klein – top Hungarian climber on GI/II
A Normal Start in Pakistan
Thus far the season is starting like most do, trekking to base camp, the early teams getting the lower camps getting established, and soon the climbers will begin their acclimatization rotations. The big question, as always, will be snow conditions above 7500 meters, and of course the unexpected weather. This is where the problems began the last three years. Hoping for the best for all.
Memories are Everything
Best of luck to Uzma Yousuf! It’s always great to see Pakistani climbers attempting these Karakorum giants!