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 Nims 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‘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 Nims’ 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, Nims 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
👉🏻 Nims Dai – Nepal 🇳🇵 Project possible
👉🏻Lakpadendi Sherpa – Nepal 🇳🇵 project possible
👉🏻Gesman Tamang – Nepal 🇳🇵 Project possible
👉🏻Changba Sherpa Nepal 🇳🇵 SST
👉🏻Lakpa Temba Sherpa – Nepal 🇳🇵 SST
👉🏻Stafanove – Bulgaria 🇧🇬SST
👉🏻Kalara- Czech republic 🇨🇿 SST
👉🏻Herbat Helmut – Germany 🇩🇪 SST
👉🏻Waldimir – Poland 🇵🇱 SST
👉🏻Hans – Austria 🇦🇹 SST
👉🏻Musess- Brazil 🇧🇷 SST
👉🏻Karina – Brazil 🇧🇷 SST
👉🏻David – USA 🇺🇸
👉🏻 Anaya Germany 🇩🇪
• Guide summit plan 25/07/2019
👉🏻Sherpa Chhepal – Nepal 🇳🇵 SST
👉🏻Nima Thinduk sherpa – Nepal 🇳🇵 SST
👉🏻Pemba Thinduk sherpa – Nepal 🇳🇵 SST
👉🏻Dilawar – Pakistan 🇵🇰 SST
👉🏻Sajeet – Pakistan 🇵🇰 SST
👉🏻Yasub – Pakistan 🇵🇰 SST
👉🏻Ngima Dorchi Sherpa – Nepal 🇳🇵 SST
👉🏻Mingtemba Sherpa – Nepal 🇳🇵 SST
It’s time! Our summit push began today. @carla.perez.ec and @estebantopomena moved to Camp 2 in great weather. I “needed” another day of drinking coffee and laying around in the sun to recharge, so tonight will leave Base Camp at 2am along with @namgye and @pembageljesherpa, climbing 6500 feet of the best climbing around, direct to Camp 3 where the whole team will be together again. Then, 23rd to Camp 4 and 24th we will attempt the summit! The weather forecast is reasonable, which is as good as we’re gonna get.
And perhaps most fun, we are joining forces with @nimsdai to see if together we can unlock the code of the traverse reportedly buried in deep unstable snow. Nims and his Sherpa team have added a great influx of stoke and strength on #K2, just as 90% of climbers left the mountain. With Carla and I attempting without oxygen, we know we will not be much help opening a route through deep unconsolidated snow, never mind fixing ropes for others. While our support crew (on bottled oxygen) of Topo, Palden and Pemba are ready to do the backbreaking work of breaking trail, Nims and his team, also on bottled oxygen, have requested first shot at the slope above the Bottleneck! What can I say? They want it, and it helps Carla and I hugely! So we will be ready to jump in with our team’s strength and experience, or to hold back and let their team take first crack. I’m honored to share the mountain with a strong motivated crew, and can’t wait to help in any way my inevitably shattered body will allow.
Climbing without oxygen requires a whole lot of humility, a lesson beaten into me 3 years ago on E. I will happily take a backseat on this summit push if teammates and conditions allow. // Meanwhile, if you’re not following Nims quest to send all 14 x 8000meter peaks in 7 months, you should be. It’s an epic logistical and physical mission and K2 this week will likely be the key moment of the entire project! // No WiFi on the summit push so no news is good news until the 25th or so.
These teams have announced their 2019 efforts are over:
- Furtenbach Adventures
- Madison Mountaineering
- Mingma Sherpa’s Imagine Nepal(10 members moved to Gasherbrum II)
Garrett Madison made a post of his decision to end this year’s effort:
This season we encountered deep and unstable snow just to the left of the ice cliff (Serac), above and below the ‘bottleneck’ and have decided to conclude our expedition.
We believe that conditions will not change enough in the near future to stabilize this portion of the route, and allow climbing within our risk tolerance.
We are now packing up our base camp and preparing for the 100 km trek out.
It would have been exhilarating to stand atop K2 a third time. However, as professionals our experience and training dictate that we not push into a zone we believe to be avalanche prone. Perhaps others will push on in a few days time and be the first to succeed in reaching K2’s summit this season, and descend safely.
Our K2 expedition is closed. 4 of our K2 members are in Skardu now. Tomorrow we 10 members of K2 team will be heading to G2. If we push hard then we can still success K2 but there is too much risk and can take lives which nobody want. So we say bye to K2 for this year and come next year to find safer route on K2 which will not touch Bottle Neck part. We will prepare ourselves with ladders, drill machine and bolts to follow the rocky route which shows almost 💯 % safer to reach the summit. There was someone in Garret’s team who had this idea and the route was tried in 1938. So same route we will follow for next year. This can be best option if we can make it next year.
GII – Summits and GIV Rescue
Over on Gasherbrum IV, Italian climber Francesco Cassardo made the first summit but fell while skiing down. Once again, high drama as rescue efforts, tightly controlled by the Pakasitani military, choose to pick up commercial climbers at K2 Base Camp instead of diverting the chopper to the fallen climber. The K2 climbers simply wanted a ride to Askole and avoid the trek.
Other climbers came to his aid and moved him lower on the mountain to make helicopter evacuation safer. The rescuers included Russian Denis Urubko, Canadian Don Bowie and Polish climbers Jaroslaw Zdanowicz and Janusz Adamski. Cala Cimenti reported (read for full details) that Urubko and the two Poles came directly from their GII summit while Bowie abandoned his to give aid. Marco Confortola coordinated events from base camp,
On Saturday, Cassardo was retrieved and is now receiving treatment at the military hospital in Skardu. Happy ending and props to the unselfish rescuers. Once again the Italian Embassy played a pivotal role.
Hang On and Follow!
Adrian gave me an update on July 22 at 5 pm his time from Camp 3 on the Cesen:
“Nims and Nims Sherpa and me/Carla/topo/Palden/Pemba shooting for 24. We in C3 now in warm and sunny conditions. Let’s see!
Memories are Everything