The weather on K2 continues to behave and looks good well into next week. This is quite unusual and the teams are embracing it fully. Meanwhile there are multiple summits on the Gasherbrum and Broad Peak. Thus far it’s a good year in the Karakorum.
The summit schedules for K2 are coming into focus with Wednesday, July 17, 2019 being the key date with climbers leaving their high camps on Tuesday around 10 pm. Teams on both routes, the Česen and Abruzzi are leaving base camp this weekend.
Ropes are set to the respective Camp 4 on both routes and Seven Summits Treks’ Sherpa are expected, as they have for the past few years, except in 2017 when Imagine Nepal took the role, to take the lead on finishing the route to the summit.
Of note, there are two different Camp 4 locations this year but the route still merges below the Bottleneck thus coordination will be required to minimize delays. Furtenbach climber Eduard Ulysses gave his usual solid update noting the locations:
Camp 4 on the Cesen route and Camp 4 on the Abruzzi route are not the same: While Camp 4 on the Cesen route is located directly on the shoulder, Camp 4 of the Abruzzi route is located about one hour walk below. Reason for this seems to be the existence of some seracs below the shoulder on the Abruzzi route, so the Camp was moved from its original location and now involves a somewhat meandering route. This also means a little bit longer summit night for the people on Abruzzi route. Abruzzi and Cesen route meet a little bit above Camp 4 on the Cesen route
Madison’s team will leave the day after the rest staying true to Garrett’s successful formula. Look for multiple summit days later this week starting Wednesday – assuming the weather plays no tricks!
Finally on the conditions near the summit Eduard Ulysses again gives a nice overview:
Overall conditions seem to be good and the Sherpas are quite optimist which is reassuring. The trail seems to be good on both routes, Abruzzi and Cesen. The seracs at bottleneck also seem to be a little bit smaller than in the years before and the passage through the bottleneck will hopefully be a little bit faster than usual as ice seems to have melted away. I am glad to hear that as the seracs at the bottleneck are still super-menacing and dangerous, back home in the alps one would never accept such a dangerous path under seracs, being exposed for several hours – but alas, here we do not have much choice…(I hear that one team wants to explore a little detour around the bottleneck (potential „Wiessner“ variant) but I do not want to say more, we will see if there is a chance to do this variant – good luck!)
Weissner Variant 1939 and Never Again
A word on the “Weissner Variant.” It’s named for the famed German climber who emigrated to the US in 1929. He lead the second American expedition to K2. It was fraught with issues and ended up with only Weisner and Pasang Dawa Lama attempting the summit.
The couloir, later named the “Bottleneck,” seemed unclimbed to Weissner with its ever-steeping ice and snow and with the high ice serac looming above, so Wiessner, more comfortable on rock, choose to go to the climbers left of the Bottleneck. It was 1,500-feet of dangerous climbing with overhangs, veriglass and steep technical rock. At 27,500-feet, they had almost made it when Pasang Dawa Lama called the effort off as the sun was setting fearing the evil spirits hovered over the summit at night.
A couple of days later they climbed via the Bottleneck after Weismann had inspected it during their perilous rock climb and deemed it not as bad was they feared. In any event, they still stopped short the summit making for a disappointing attempt on K2. The “Weissner Variant” has never been repeated.
In 2014, we chose to go to the climbers right of the traditional Bottleneck for similarly reason of Weissner. Honestly, I don’t think it was that much easier or less dangerous that the Bottleneck but it was clearly not the same difficulty as the Weissner Variant.
Adrian Ballinger, Carla Perez and Ecuadoran Topo Mena just spent 6 days up high on the Česen as they are preparing their bodies for a no O’s summit attempt later in July after another acclimatization rotation. In a testament to the difficulty of K2, AB posted:
While most of our acclimatization rotation went like clockwork, our fifth night, at 22500 feet/6900 meters, scared us. We were alone in Camp 3. It was too warm, the air was thick, the barometer on my @favreleuba Bivouac 9000 kept dropping, and every hour the snowfall rates kept increasing. By 2am, the stress in our little tent was overwhelming, and we pulled the plug. Packed up, slammed a coffee, and bailed. Look close, and you can see @estebantopomena finishing the descent of the scariest of the slopes. A perfect avalanche angle, the track and ropes were gone under fresh snow and wind transported snow. As I descended, on rappel, pulling the rope out of the slab, cracks shot away and small pockets pulled out. The whole face wasn’t going to rip (I don’t think