K2 2018 Summer Coverage: Weekend Update July 15

The middle of the summer climbing season has arrived in Pakistan and this season continues to all about weather and deaths. But also about near deaths, drones and deep snow. This story continues to unfold in mysterious ways.

Big Picture

Ten days ago, the 2018 season was looking a lot like 2015 and 2016 with difficult weather and snow conditions that prevented anyone from summiting K2 and only a few made the other peaks throughout Pakistan. However, as is usual with weather, just when you think you have it figured out it changes and the last week was excellent for most of the teams. The forecast of heavy snow on Thursday never materialized but the snow that had already fallen did stop progress, at least on Broad Peak. 150 miles away on Nanga Parbat, some of the worlds best climbers and adventurers abandoned their efforts but a few remained and summited.

With talk of winds returning, most teams have completed their acclimatization rotations and are returning to base camp to rest up for the summit push. However a few strong climbers will push hard over the next few days hoping beat the winds and nab a summit.

K2 – Climbing

Dawa Sherpa, Seven Summits Treks says they are targeting a summit bid after 20 July, but hints as early as the 17th. This implies the ropes will be to C4 and then they will fix to the summit as they make their summit push. I except most of the other teams to follow closely behind. Jason Black has an excellent update after six days at C1 and C2 on K2. In addition to his own experiences, he writes about something no person ever wants to or should see:

It’s the 7th July and 5am with a reasonable weather forecast giving the team a head start with a crisp underfoot up that 40% grade wall leading to camp 1. It’s a serious approach and your pretty committed but you’re also surrounded by the most beautiful range of mountains with Broad Peak to the fore. However, just after 4 hrs of climbing, sadly, K2 took its first life, living up to its title as the Savage Mountain. A comrade mountaineer and a guy I was eating butterscotch sweets with just two days prior, tumbled passed us, falling 1000 meters to his death….I was shook to my core, looking down seeing his lifeless body below…RIP Serge.

With the exception of Andrzej Bargiel on the Česen, all the climbing on K2 this season appears to be on the Abruzzi Ridge. Bargiel wants to ski from the summit of K2. Its unclear if he will ski the Česen or the Abruzzi which historically has been used on 75% of the summits. The Abruzzi has several technically difficult features including House Chimney, and the Black Pyramid. The Bottleneck Couloir is one of the most dangerous sections serving as a bowling alley for rock and ice fall. The Abruzzi usually has 4 camps on the mountain:

K2 Routes: Abruzzi and Česen

Broad Peak – Summit Bid Underway

Furtenbach Adventures has their second attempt underway, “Leaving Broad Peak basecamp today [Saturday 14 July] for an other try. Conditions look promising. Hopefully we can post a summit pic here soon.” It appears there will be multiple other independent climbers and teams trying to go together including Fredrik Sträng,  David Roeske, Carlos Garranzo, Jake Meyer as well as Mingma G Sherpa – who may well be the key to getting everyone to the summit this time around.

Drones to the Rescue

This is quite the story of one of the world’s most accomplished climbers getting injured on Broad Peak, believed dead but found alive and is now at base camp – mostly unhurt. David Roeske talked about a lone climber on Broad Peak who was reported lost but a drone with a camera onboard spotted him. David tells the story:

Yesterday just as @fredrikstrang and I were about to leave after a night at camp 3 (7,000 m), we heard a radio call that a missing climber needed rescue high on the mountain. He had fallen off an ice cliff, and been solo on the mountain for 36 hours without a stove to melt water. The climber had been presumed dead until a drone pilot from K2 basecamp spotted him still moving and off route. We headed first down then up the mountain with rope, water, and medicine looking for him and were later joined by Tenji Sherpa from Summit Climb. With the help of the drone pilot we were able to eventually locate him in very dangerous terrain — a fall would’ve taken him either down a crevasse or all the way to the base of the mountain — and the three of us got him down and into a tent at camp 3 just as it was getting dark. Then the Summit Climb team took over

Andrzej Bargiel posted that it was his brother who controlled the drone, “My brother Bartek Bargiel flight his drone up to 8400m! Is that some kind of world record?”

NEAR Death

Well, there is more to this story than just a “lone climber” in trouble. Summit Climb, lead by Dan Mazur, made a cryptic post on their site that “Rick Allen disappeared at 8000m/26,000ft on his way down from the summit of broad peak, the world’s 13th highest mountain. He was reported dead by his team mates who took his sat phone and descended.”

After a lot of digging, I’m happy to report that Rick Allen is alive and mostly well. He was on a small private team including Casper Tekieli, Sandy Allan, and Stanislav Vrba attempting a new route on Broad Peak. It appears Rick made a solo attempt on BP, slipped and fell. His teammates assumed he was dead.  Dan Mazur updated his post to include ”

Sandy Allen made this post with all the details on his blog:

Sandy and Rick are now both back at Base Camp following a couple of days making a summit attempt. Sandy returned back to camp himself after deciding to descend due to high winds. The rest of the team stayed at Camp 3 and considered their options for the summit. Rick made a summit attempt on 9th July after climbing all day and night. Rick was missing from the group and feared injured from 9th July until he was spotted by a drone, piloted by climbers at K2 Base Camp on July 10th.

Sandy, with help from Andrej Berdel, his brother Bartek and their drone, was able to coordinate climbers that were already on the mountain to reach Rick at around 7.30pm. The climbers brought Rick back to camp 3 in the darkness. Rick returned to Base Camp today (12th June) safely thanks to Dan Mazur and his sherpas. After being examined by a doctor at basecamp, Rick is okay all things considered and has a few superficial cuts and some frostnip.

Sandy and Rick would like to express their sincere thanks to Kacper, Stan, Andrej and Bartek Bargel, Piotr Pablus, Dan Mazur and team, Frekrik Strang, David Roeske, Major Ramzan, Captain Kaddar and Dan’s sherpas.

Of course, in 2012 Sandy Allan and his climbing partner Rick Allen completed an amazing climb of the previously unclimbed Mazeno Ridge – the longest in the Himalayas – on Nanga Parbat.

Gasherbrum – Progress!

Barcsai Nikolett with Kalifa gave me an update on Hungarian climbers  Dávid Klein and Szilárd Suhajda. She said they plan to set off to reach the summit of Gasherbrum I on 15th July. Their last round of acclimatization was a complete success. They reached C2 where they spent a night. The following day Klein and Suhajda fixed ropes on the Japanese couloir working together with Italians Mario Vielmo and Giampalolo Corona and Louis ?. After that they spent another night at C2. “If the weather window remains open the 5 of them will set out for the summit from C3 on 18th of July.”

Adam Bielecki and Jacek Czech have made excellent progress on GII all the way to C3. Its being reported they will go for the summit on 16 July, Monday, fearing incoming weather later in the week. They will team up with Kazach Boris Dedeszko and Germany Felix Berg. Masha Gordo and Helias Millerioux, Yannick Graziani continue to acclimatize but should soon start their G1/G2 traverse unless their plans have changed.

Nanga Parbat – Over?

Mike Horn,  Alex Gavan, Tunc Findik and Maya Sherpa all exceptional strong climber choose not to risk the dangerous conditions on NB this year. However, two climbers, both supported to some extent by Karakorum Expeditions said they summited:  Niels Jespers from Belgium and Korean Kim Migon.

Deaths on the Mountains

Missing Sherpa

Pemba Sherpa is missing, assumed to have fallen into a crevasse on the Saser Kangri, the highest peak at ‎7,672 m (25,171 ft) in the Saser Muztagh, the easternmost subrange of the Karakoram range, located in India. According to this report from Dream Wanderlust, he was with team of climbers led by Basanta Singha Roy from West Bengal and another team from Pune, India. While descending from the summit Pemba fell into a crevasse before reaching Camp 1 on 13th July, 2018. Other sherpas including his brother Pashang have tried to rescue him throughout the day but failed to trace him. The search will continue.

Previous Deaths

Canadian Nathalie Fortin has left base camp with the body of their fallen leader Serge Dessureault “took the same plane as us to Islamabad the day after Skardu. Official papers are now signed. He is now waiting for a place on a cargo plane to join us in Quebec.” Also this past week saw the death of Italian climber Maurizio Giordano lost his life on Gasherbrum IV. His Italian military teammates reported he was hit by falling ice while on rappel. They were attempting the Bonatti-Mauri route. The third death this season was when Austrian Christian Huber had died in an avalanche on Ultar Sar.

Adam Bielecki who was on K2 this past winter said the death of Maurizio Giordano has caused them to change their plan for an attempt on GIV. He noted in an interview:

For now, we focus on GII. But from what we have seen, it seems that it would be very problematic to approach the eastern wall of the GIV, due to the large amount of snow on the so-called Italian icefall. Unfortunately, the Italian climber Maurizio Giordano died there (as a result of the serwa breaking up – news ) – this of course had a depressing effect on us. Taking this into account, it seems to me that our next goal will be GVII.

Who’s Left?

With about three weeks left in the typical climbing season, this is a rundown on who is still climbing:

And these climbers have blogs that appear to be updated:

Continued safe climbing to all.

Climb On!

Alan

Memories are Everything