As usual, tracking progress on the Pakistani 8000-meter mountains is like herding cats. I think I have an understanding of whats going on, but I can easily be missing something. There is summit activity on K2, Broad Peak, the Gasherbrum I/II/IV and VII plus Nanga Parbat 150 miles to the South.
The Big Picture
Heavy snow over the past few days have complicated the summit push plans at least on K2. Low clouds, and snow have caused some teams to hold in place at Camps 2 or 3. Meanwhile Sherpas supporting the large commercial teams have been ensconced at Camp 4 for a few days trying to get the fixed line in through the infamous Bottleneck and Traverse features. These are dangerous areas and time-consuming tasks. For all the criticism of commercial teams, those who lag a few days behind and use their ropes, should be grateful and pay the small amount asked. But more to the point, the longer any individual, whether Pakistani High-Altitude Porters, Sherpas or foreigners spend at altitude, the weaker they get so time is of the essence.
Thankfully, the winds have remained manageable according to most reports – even though some drama-oriented outfits known for their “delicious food” at every meal, and “everyone is great” have characterized conditions as “blizzards,” but they are the exception. As usual the best reports are from individuals and not the guide services. The computer weather forecast missed Wednesday’s big snowfall of 30cm/1 foot. For what’s worth, they say little snow through 25 July but then the winds pick up over 30mph/48 kph.
The recent snowfall does create one very significant cause for concern – avalanche. Remember back in 2013, expert climber and guide, Marty Schmidt and his son, Denali, were killed when an avalanche swept their tent away while they were asleep at Camp 3 on K2. Every other team had felt the avi danger was too large and had returned to base camp. And in 2008, while technically not an avalanche, the giant ice serac “released” a tiny fraction of its face onto the climbers on the Traverse severing their safety line. This chain reaction of events took 11 lives in total that season. Two of the 11 died prior to the ice release. I’m sure the highly experienced guides this season have a keen eye on snow conditions as does Andrzej Bargiel wanting to ski from the summit.
Nanga Parbat – Summits!
The Czech team topped out and it seems there are more to follow.
Hey, so today we have successfully reached the top of nanga parbat! First at 7 PM Czech time group Pavel Root, radoslav groh and Pavel Bém and then around 8 pm tomáš kučera, Pavel Burda and lukáš dubský. 6 Czechs on osmitisícovce in one day, unprecedented! Amazing day! Now the complicated two-day return. Then we can bang the champagne. Fingers crossed!
NB: now there’s one group in c4 and the other in the forward c4 under the head of the head They’re going to pick up their forces tonight, and tomorrow they’re going to be moving together to c2, the next day
K2: All over the Place!
Dawa Sherpa of Seven Summits Treks (SST) says they will finish fixing the ropes today, 20 July and go for the summit on 21 July. It’s reported most of their team is at C4.
The Japanese and Karakorum Expeditions teams are reported at C3 on Friday. Madison is at C3 as well looking to summit on Sunday, 22 July. They report low clouds high on K2 – not a good sign at all … Jason Black gave the best and most transparent update of all today. Thank God for the Irish!
Latest dispatch from Jason on July 20th 2018 at Camp 3 on K2. Expedition going really well at this stage as the Team settle into Camp 3 at 24,000ft. It was a very hard days climbing that included the technical ascent of the black pyramid. Lots of snow underfoot is also adding to the tough climbing conditions. All going to plan and the team will head off early tomorrow morning Saturday to Camp 4 where they will rest and re-fuel for a few hours before attempting to summit K2 which will be around 7am Irish time Sunday 22nd July 2018.
The K2 skier, Andrzej Bargiel is on the Cesen at C3
Summit Climb has said they have “teams” on both K2 and BP but there are not enough details to really understand if this is one person and if they are really going for the summits. so where will, wait and see if they clarify one day. Furtenbach Adventures seems patient to wait for the next window – if there is one – for their BP summiteers and K2 climbers to give it a go. This includes semi-independent climbers Fredrik Sträng, and David Roeske
The Rare Karakorum Double Summit
I’ve written about this in the past (see this post) – that it is rare to see anyone summit two 8000ers in one season in the Karakorum. This year, we seem to have a slew of aspirants on the way to grab K2 after they summited GI/II or Broad Peak. Last year, 2017, I asked Eberhard Jurgalski who runs research for his analysis of doubles in the Karakorum for Broad Peak/K2 and Gasherbrum I/Gasherbrum II. Eberhard tracks all the 8000-meter mountains and published list similar to the Himalayan Database (HDB) but covers Pakistan whereas the HDB does not.
He said for K2/BP there are only 8 doubles and for GI/GII there have been 118 with 2 that are listed as disputed. For this analysis, this means a climber summited both peaks in the same season, usually July/August in the Karakorum. Eberhard goes on to tell me these Karakorum doubles were between 2 days 4 hours 30 minutes (Elisabeth Revol in 2008) to 34 days for GI/II and 8 to 15 days for K2/BP. This is the K2/BP list:
|RAKONCAJ||Josef||Cz||BROAD PEAK-K2||22.06.1986||05.07.1986||13||no ox|
|FUSTER||Beda||CH||BROAD PEAK-K2||21.06.1986||05.07.1986||14||no ox|
|ZEMP||Rolf||CH||BROAD PEAK-K2||21.06.1986||05.07.1986||14||no ox|
|DOROTEI||Soro||It||BROAD PEAK-K2||20.06.1986||05.07.1986||15||no ox|
|MORETTI||Martino||It||BROAD PEAK-K2||20.06.1986||05.07.1986||15||no ox|
|PETROV||Boyan||Bul||BROAD PEAK-K2||23.07.2014||31.07.2014||8||no ox|
Why K2/BP is so Difficult
We have seen that for some combos it has become not uncommon (in other words rare but becoming more common) to summit multiple peaks in the same season and certainly the same year. But why is K2/Broad Peak so hard? Beyond the obvious factor of physical strength, there are also factors completely out of the climber’s control.
First up is the weather. As I have covered extensively, forecasting weather in the Karakorum makes Everest forecasting look like a coastal city with the same weather everyday all year long! As we are seeing this year just in the last week, the teams received a good forecast but were met with heavy snow. So planning becomes extremely difficult this causing delay and after delay.
Which bring the second reason on why doubles are so difficult. Usually a team will plan on 45 to 60 days for one expedition. Trying to squeeze two in compresses all the schedules. On BP/K2, the theory is to use Broad Peak for acclimatization then climb K2 in “alpine style” meaning one trip from base camp to the summit – no rotations. This is what Boyan Petrov did in 2014. This works fine if the climber was able to truly acclimatize on BP – spend at least 4 to 6 nights on the Hill, but if weather, illness or conditions prevent that, the acclimatization plans fall flat and the person now must acclimatize on K2. Furtenbach’s Broad Peak team is trying to tag K2 on as quickly as possible.
The third factor is physical capability. Climbing Broad Peak is no easy task. The snow slopes are long and at sharp angles. There is an ever present danger of avalanches and crevasses below Camp 1. Reaching the summit dicey at best in that it takes climbing a long summit ridge line filled with fragile cornices. Climbers have been known to punch thru the cornices or descending the wrong direction into China and were never found. Obviously, all of this taks a toll on the body so moving over to K2, the climber has already lost weight, probably 5% of their body weight, and need to rest before climbing K2 – in any style.
The last factor is between the ears. All the stress of trying to summit one 8000er usually leaves a person physically, mentally and emotionally drained. If you ask most people who summit an 8000er, they will say it took over a month back home to fully recover. So to go directly another 8000er is a test of massive proportions. K2 is a climb that sucks all you have out of your body, starting with the climb to Camp 1. It is steep, continuous and unforgiving. In the back of your mind are rockfall, avalanche and unexpected weather. This stress drains the mind and body. So while, on an emotional high for the previous summit, K2 takes all the energy, and motivation, and strips it away. You have to really want that summit, and willing to push your body far beyond what you ever had.
Memories are Everything