One by one the major commercial expeditions stating that the conditions on K2 were too dangerous announced the end of their 2019 expeditions. Meanwhile, a few ambitious independent teams have banded together, as expected, to give it one final push as this summer season winds down.
Adrian Ballinger tells me “7 of us left on Cesen. About 30 on Abruzzi (Seven Summits Treks and Nirmal Purja Purja Purja and 2 Hungarians). All Seven Summits clients set up for 25th.”
So, as Yogi Berra said “It ain’t over till it’s over.”
K2 2019 has come down to risk management vs ambition. The commercial teams with paying clients felt the fragile snow conditions were just too unstable to risk sending their Sherpas, HAPs, guides and clients to the summit. After all, most long time (mostly western) guides feel their job is to get their clients back home safely and not put them under unnecessary risks. I say, “mostly western” based on the number of deaths we saw this spring, 21, on Everest and other 8000ers with the majority, 15, coming for Nepali based operators who as one prominent guide told me “It’s not our job to turn a client around.”
At the other end of this spectrum are the well qualified independents who answer only to themselves, teammates and families. They have a broader risk profile and will push the envelope when others turn back. We are seeing this play out in 2019. Ambition, and in some case ego, are driving decision making that some may feel is unwise. Time will tell if they push too hard and pay the ultimate price or show their metal and find a way to the summit and return home safely.
Of note, there were three climber triggered avalanches between July 16 and 17 with several injuries including a Sherpa with a broken arm. So the conditions are far from ideal, even for the Super Climbers.
One Last Push
Probably the biggest storyline for this year, and in many years, is Nirmal Purja Purja Purja‘s effort to summit all 14 of the 8000-meter peaks in 7 months breaking the record of 7 years. This far he and his team of four Sherpas have summited 9: Annapurna, Dhaulagiri, Kangchenjunga, Makalu, Everest, Lhotse, Nanga Parbat, Gasherbrum I, Gasherbrum II. Now he is on K2 hoping to achieve what others could not – open a route to the summit in a year of deadly snow conditions. Assuming he gets K2, he still need to summit Broad Peak before leaving Pakistan for the final climbs in Tibet and Nepal. Even if he stopped now, his achievements has been amazing and shows what is possible by a gifted few.
After posting the SST team was ending their effort because “K2 was not ready in 2019”, they seem to have been drawn into Nirmal Purja Purja Purja’ effort and Dawa Sherpa of Seven Summits Treks, whose Sherpas were fixing the rope from C4 to the summit but stopped due to deep snow, made this announcement. It appears most of their clients are joining in the push contrary to what they said only 18 hours prior to this post saying it was too dangerous:
Tonight we Seven Summit Treks collaborating with Elite Himalayan Adventures will move from Base Camp for another summit push of K2, Nirmal Purja Purja Purja Dai and his team and SST fixing team scheduled summit date is 24th July and the team of Seven Summit Treks Members and Sherpas scheduled summit plan on 25th July.
•Fixing Team summit plan 24/07/2019