K2: Your Questions

Alan on K2 Summit
Alan on K2 Summit. courtesy of Garrett Madison.

I am back home in Colorado now still processing my summit of K2 on my 58th birthday last month.

As I made the long journey home, I was thinking of how I can somehow repay in a tiny way your kindness and support for me. I am forever grateful for every donation to your choice of Alzheimer’s non-profit. I hope to get a tally soon.

But another thought was to try to share my K2 experience through a Q&A on this Blog. Just post a question in the comment section and I will do my to answer it. If you prefer something less public, send me an email at climbing@alanarnette.com.  I will try to answer as quickly as possible.

Obviously, I am not a professional climber, mountain guide, Alzheimer’s spets or physician so some topics I am not qualified to respond to and other resources are better suited for those topics. But I am glad to share my experiences as I have for the last decade through my site.

To get things started, a few people have asked about what I thought were the keys to K2 this year. With this being my 36 major expedition and 9th to an 8000m peak, I think I can identify five areas. Obviously these are my thoughts and don’t apply to everyone.

ORGANIZATION:I have to start with how the climb was organized by Garrett Madison of Madison Mountaineering. Garrett has taken more people to the summit of Everest than any other guide and summited six times himself so he understands expeditions very well. He thought through the schedule in an aggressive yet simple manner to minimize our time on K2 exposed to the objective dangers but also to reserve our energy for the summit push. As a result we only made one acclimatization rotation. This proved to be sufficient and we used supplemental oxygen. Others climbing without O’s made as many as four rotations to the higher camps.

While we used the base camp and logistical services of Seven Summits Treks, we were a self contained team with our own Sherpa support. It was a comfortable base camp with good food and general support. I never got sick before the summit push, lost weight or felt stressed – all this was key to going into the summit with a good mental attitude.

A final factor was that I employed every trick and technique I knew throughout the expedition from sleeping to gear to eating, drinking, foot placement (simple, small steps), clothing layers, attitude, who I hung out with, etc. One proof of how it worked was that I never lost my appetite, rare for me.

WEATHER: We experienced some of the weather K2 has seen in modern expedition times. There was over a week of minimal precipitation and very low winds. When we summited at 8:00am on July 27, the winds were less than 10 mph. It was cold, maybe 0F and my fingers got very, very cold as I took off my gloves to make phone calls, etc. But for the summit of K2 at 28,251′ – this was nothing.

We did see 3 feet of fresh snow the previous night covering some of the fixed lines but again, this was not a major issue. During our acclimatization rotation, we had a couple of days of high winds, heavy snow and low clouds that gave us a hint of what K2 could provide but for the summit window – it was perfect.

PREPARATION: My fitness was at the level for an 8000m peak ever including Everest three years earlier.  In the previous 6 months, I climbed over 15 14,000 Colorado mountains with 30 pound packs and did a total of 58 outside activities from 14ers to day hikes. I went to K2 at my target weight which was 177 pounds for my 5’10” frame.

That said, in hindsight, I could have used a bit more upper body work given the extensive rock climbing on K2, plus more cardio work. I think these are given on such a high altitude technical peak such as K2.

SHERPA SUPPORT: This should be no surprise to anyone who followed me that having my Everest summit partner Kami (Ang Chhiring Sherpa – Pangboche) was a perfect match for me. At age 49 with 15 Everest summits, and an attempt on K2 in 2008, he had the maturity, experience and personality I needed. It goes without saying I trust my life to Kami. He was always supportive, professional, competent and is a genuine nice person.

Kami along with Kami Rita Sherpa, Fur Kancha Sherpa made a couple of carries to establish the high camps plus were there by our sides as we climbed. I want to be clear, I would not have summited K2 without their support. Also, having a small team of myself, Garrett and Matt Du Puy was perfect. We got to know and trust one another. It is not a gross overstatement but we almost climbed K2 in alpine style as a small team – perfect for such a dangerous mountain.

PURPOSE: In looking back at my other climbs, I hit my mental wall way before my physical wall and quit too soon. I never understood how much reserves my body really had. Again, many people talk about mental toughness but my previous experiences showed me how far one can push their body if the mind is willing. So in the last few years, I have been working on mental toughness. When the time came on K2 to push my body, my mind was willing. However, I had to reach into depths I didn’t know existed on summit night plus the descent. More on this as I write about the overall climb later.

But the biggest difference was the inspiration and motivation that came from watching my mom struggle with Alzheimer’s. She did it with class, dignity and humor. She never let on how much it hurt. Her strength and courage kept me going every time I felt weak – physically or mentally.

In addition, knowing that there are millions going through the same struggle inspired me knowing that all of you were watching me. I simply could not let you down. So perhaps the pace went a little quicker.

OK, not all my answers will be this verbose but please send them in. I hope I can add some value back to like you have to me.

Climb On!
Memories are Everything

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122 thoughts on “K2: Your Questions

  1. Hello Alan

    Congratulations on your success to k2

    Why Nanga Parbat and k2 are not climbed in winter yet ?

    from a scale of 1 to 10 ,how would you rate climbing k2 ?

    How was Pakistan and it’s people ?

  2. Hi Alan, just wondering which oxygen system you used on K2, was it Summit Oxygen, TopOut, or what? Thanks, Norris

  3. Alan,

    First of all amazing job! As an older fellow myself, 47, I was really impressed and motivated by your effort. I’m sure it is a lot harder than many think, throw in some age and it is an impressive undertaking! I’m curious as to when you will post your summary of the climb, particularly summit night. You have eluded to it on many replies here, hopefully it’s right around the corner! Once again thanks for what you do! J

  4. This might be too late, and unrelated to K2, but what do you think of Russel Bryce’s decision to switch from climbing Everest 2015 from Nepal, the the north Side of Tibet?

    Congrats on the K2 summit, I admire your work on Alzheimer’s fundraising.

  5. Great job, Alan! I continue to be in awe, not only of your accomplishments but of your steadfastness in battling this insidious disease. My questions involve mostly training, hydration, electrolyte, supplements like GU or Hammergel, etc, but have gleaned most of the relevant info from your answers above. However, if I missed the question on hypoxia tents and simulating altitude while sleeping I apologize but would appreciate your candid opinion on such devices and if you’ve ever used one, especially for your K2 climb. Thanks and the most of luck in your future endeavors.

    1. Hi Randy, let me add a few more details around your specific points. I use the Honey Stinger products when climbing. The honey gives me a more steady energy boost than a sudden jolt, but everyone is different. I tried gels, etc with protein but had a hard time getting them down, I know a lot of people who feel that way, so I get my protein in different ways (eggs, nuts, etc.)

      On hypoxia tents, I have never used them but wrote an extensive blog posts on the a few months ago at


      Many people believe in them and some guides are pushing them incredibly hard as away to reduce the time spent climbing (another whole conversation).

      But in my view when climbing an 8000m mountain, you still have to put the acclimatization work in once you arrive at the hill. It seems if you are dong a 6000/7000m mountain, using the tents may work to reduce your time spent climbing as it seems to work to “pre-acclimitize” to around 17,000′.

      But like I say, there are some real believers out there and they will swear by them from Everest to Florida’s High Point 🙂

      1. Hey Alan, do I detect a tinge of tongue-in-cheek in that comment about Britton Hill? It is a serious 15 step from the car! The horror of having to step out of air conditioning!

  6. Hi Alan,

    Before you went, did you read books about other climbers who summited K2 and if so what do you think of It now?
    If you go for a second time, will your préparation be différent and in what way?
    I must tell you that I was afraid for you all along your climbing and when we did not receive news for two days, I was just hoping for the best. Your message was the first thing I was waiting for. Ten times a day I was checking my email.
    I am so proud of you.

    1. Go back to K2 Nicole? Seriously? 🙂 Actually I would be open to it because the climbing was fun, especially the Black Pyramid, but not right away …

      The books I read were accurate in describing the difficulty, but in some ways it was a forest and trees issue with so much detail on the indvidual sections or days, that the big picture of the sustained physicality and demands needed more emphasis.

      As for what would I do different … while I was pleased with my training as in never leg weary, I think I could have put more time in for 1)cardio and 2)upper body strength. As for during the climb, I absolutely need to do a better job of hydration and nutrition at the camps above base camp. This has been my Achilles heel for my entire climbing career and I need to get my act together. Finally, as for gear, I was extremely pleased and would use the same kit again.

      Thanks for the concern, especially during the descent. The SPOT tracker showed my progress but I just didn’t have the energy or even the time to do an audio update thus the lack of updates. As the saying goes, no news is good news but I understand it was stressful … for all of us 🙂

      I’ll cover all this in the trip report.

  7. Hi Alan,

    My heartiest congratulations…what a tremendous achievement. Well done.
    Have been following your blog for some time and so glad that you made it in such style.

    I was on Everest this year and broke my wrist & a vetebra while descending from BC. Keep thinking about my future plans & reading your blog is such an inspiration.

    You have such a gifted writing style, I really enjoyed your responses here.

    Looking forward to read more about your experiences in future.

    Good luck and keep inspiring us.


  8. Alan

    Heartiest congratulations. You really are inspiring.
    I do have two questions, both a bit hypothetical

    1) On your journey up the mountain, did you find much debris or evidence of old camps from the 70s and 80s ?..Ive been curious about the health of the mountain and whether it is like the south col of everest in the early 90s where there was a lot of trash like gas bottles lying around.. I guess the winds and steep incline probably keeps in clean ?..

    2) Eventually someone will succeed in a winter ascent of K2. Which route do you think lends itself most to a fast alpine style ascent in harsh winter cold.. Česen or Abruzzi ?.. I figure that winter weather windows are so marginal on K2 that speed will be of the essence.

    well done again


    1. Appreciate this Brendan. On your 2 questions:

      1) a lot of shredded tents at C2 and some trash including oxygen bottles, fuel canisters and wrappers but in general K2 was relatively clean when compared to some of the other popular mountains and nothing remotely similar to Everest in the late 1990’s.

      However, I am worried it may collect a lot of trash as the climb is so physically demanding that many teams will abandon trash to lighten loads.

      That said Tommy Heinrich previously and the 2014 Pakistani/Italian team brought down probably 2,000lbs of trash. So it is clearly there in spite of strong winds, avalanches and rock fall.

      One serious issue are the old ropes, they are everywhere and can be a death trap in places like House’s Chimney where 2 climbers had previously died as a result of the mess (not sure on the details). It was pretty clean when I climbed it thanks to the work of the 2014 Pakistani/Italian team who reportedly cut out and brought down 700m of old rope.

      2) My guess is Abruzzi as it is relatively more protected than the other routes on K2. The Cesan is very exposed to deep snowfall so a winter climb would be tough, in my opinion.

      A Polish team was there when I was this year climbing the Abruzzi as “training” for their 2014 winter attempt now just a few months away. They were on the Abruzzi.

      If they want to climb without O’s, they will have to make multiple acclimatization rotations thus alpine style would pretty much be out. As you probably know only K2 and Nanga Parbat remain the only 8000m mountains unsummited in true calendar winter.

  9. G’day Alan…hope I’m not annoying you.

    I am intrigued by the Bottleneck and particularly the Traverse on the way to the summit where so many issues have occurred before.

    Given that you have over hanging seracs ready to let go anytime, while you are on a near vertical slope, with only the toes of your crampons in, with a guaranteed death fall beneath you….how the hell do you control your emotions and fear in what appears to me is a near death situation. Let alone get back down again.

    Is it the faith in the fixed ropes or something else? Maybe just determination and confidence of your skills and the team around you?


    1. HI Cam, yes it was one of “those” moments in the climb. I’m writing my summit report now and this is the key excerpt for the traverse:

      “In the dark, I could see climbers ahead of me flashing their headlamps off the huge ice serac. It was like a monster sitting on it’s haunches waiting to pounce. I saw this and didn’t give it a second thought. I was self-absorbed wondering I could take another step …

      I looked at it as I came to a dead stop. I saw a few crampon scuff marks on the face. That was my path. I looked ahead and saw the vertical face become a steep snow ramp to the 70 degree slope leading to the summit. Again, I just stood and took on the thousand yard stare. No purpose, no motivation. I was stuck in my own world.

      I took a step onto the face, holding the line for balance using the crampon front points as my adhesion to the face. Standing upright, face to the wall, I began to side step across the face. I was not afraid, I was not scared. I was tired. I was full of doubts. I knew I could cross this. I have never been intimidated by exposure. If I fell, I believed the safety would stop me. If I fell, I knew it would be swift. If I fell, I didn’t think about falling, I focused on the mechanics of sidestepping across the 100’ vertical face.”

  10. Hi Alan:
    What an astonishing achievement. At 58 years young summiting the climbers mountain in what I think is your first attempt is remarkable.
    Congratulations on summiting K2 !!!!
    Be well

  11. Hi Alan,

    First and foremost, congratulations on your summit of K2! Such an achievement is absolutely incredible. My well wishes were with you throughout your journey, believe me! Also I think your willingness to take time out for comments and questions on this level is quite special, so I thank you for that as well.

    My questions comes from a recent experience. I returned from my first climbing trip fairly recently, making an attempt on Mt. Adams in Washington. I did not go for the summit due to a bad feeling in my heel (had a pinched nerve a few days later so I remain happy with my decision), but I spent the night at camp around 8500 ft. My question comes out of my own experience on my first climbing trip:

    After the “climb” and all throughout the night that followed back at sea level in Washington, as well as the next day and during my flight home, I felt like I couldn’t really relax and consider it “over” until I walked through my front door on the east coast. The chances of something going wrong after I was down from the trailhead decreased back to the normal, every day risks of highways and crossing streets, but I just couldn’t take that sigh of relief. I am not a nervous flyer, nor do I fear being away from home, so I really just attribute it to the entire endeavor of the climb itself. I was above 8000 feet for the first time in my life and remain proud. Grand scheme of climbing, its not a big deal, but to me it is and was very special.

    I cannot begin to imagine what such a continuous state or feeling must be like when you are trekking out of someplace such as K2 base camp. You have done what you need to do and are simply on your way home for a while, but it is still not “over.” Did/do you ever find yourself with similar anxieties, and if so, how do you best deal with them?

    Thanks again, Alan. Best of luck in any future project, and thank you, thank you, thank you for continuing to fight for a cure to Alzheimer’s.

    1. Thanks Perter for your kind comments.

      Something that is rarely talked about after climbing a big peak like Everest, Ranier, Mt. Washington or anything big for that person, is the let-down afterwards. I call it “Climber’s Depression”.

      You focus on a big goal, train, dream, talk about it endlessly to your friends and once it is over, regardless of the result – and I mean that even if you summit or turn back at the car or base camp – there is an empty feeling. What do I climb next, what do I tell my friends, how do I feel about myself, what could I have done differently – regardless of your personal results.

      The only cure I know of is to talk to other climbers about it – few will understand and many will scoff at the concerns not understanding what climbing is all about – mentally and emotionally.

      Take time, reflect on what you learned, what you could do differently next time and relish the fact that you put yourself out there – the result is immaterial if you gave it your best.

  12. Alan:
    Congratulations for your AMAZING K2 success!

    You have allways stated clearly that your K2 summit was possible only as a result of lot of people joining forces (to carry loads, to fix ropes, to open trail. etc. etc.). Unfortunately, many climbers not as humble and realistic as you are, often present themselves as if they were Messner or Kukukcza. In your experience, among the aproximately 40 K2 summiters this season (is this the right number?), how many would have been able to climb K2 basically on their own? I mean without O2 and sherpa support, fixing their own ropes, etc. I guess the answer is very few, if any.

    By the way, great blog and very noble cause!


    1. Juan, yes – I need help in many ways 🙂

      There were several people of the approximately 50 K2 summiters this year who moved “independently” including without supplemental oxygen.

      I put “independently” in quotes because everyone used a fixed rope from time to time put in by other people. Many of those leveraged tents, fuel and oxygen carried to High Camps by Sherpas or HAPs.

      A couple did climb carrying their own gear including my friend Samuli Mansikka aka Sammy from Finland and have my total admiration.

      So to answer your question, less than 5%.

      1. Thanks Alan for taking your time to answer my question!

        I guess Samuli is the one, in yellow suit, approaching the summit from behind you in the front page summit picture of your blog (where you are speaking to a cell phone, or radio). Is that right?


  13. Alan –

    I’m a long-time quiet follower of your mountaineering coverage and feats. While I’m a little skeptical of all the causes folks put forward as part of their climbing, I’ve really come to appreciate your sincerity and commitment to Alzheimers and how it is truly woven into your psyche and reports. I recently lost my grandmother to Alzheimers and have a sense for how truly difficult it was on all of us, but on my mother in particular. Thank you for leading us in fund raising and awareness.

    Now my question. I’m strangely fascinated with hydration. You noted in one post that you carry a half liter bottle on summit day in your pocket and I’ve seen you note hydration as a limiting factor several times over the years. What’s the limiting factor on how much you drink up there? Appetite? Ability to melt enough water given the fuel you carry and time it takes? Additional weight of the water itself to haul? Willingness to ‘discharge’ more frequently? I don’t have any experience over 14,000, but I know water makes a HUGE difference in how I perform at any altitude, especially over 10,000ft. I’m sure you’ve experimented with this – anything to share?

    1. Thanks Ty and my condolences on your grandmother.

      I carried 2.5 liters in total, just half in my down suit pocket, the rest in my pack. I drank it all on the summit push and back to Camp 4 but was still dehydrated, as was most of our team.

      But your points and questions are very valid. It is tough to drink/eat anything once you get to the extreme altitudes and it is a vicious circle – for me. If I am not hydrated, I can’t eat but drinking liquids almost requires force. Strange but that is how I am.

      Water weight in a pack is a contributing factor with each liter weighing 2.2 pounds – and that is a lot at 8000m. Availability is not a general problem but it takes a long time, thus fuel, to melt snow at 8000m. We used the MSR Reactor stoves on K2 and found the very efficient, but still took a while.

      “Discharge” is usually not an issue for me since I can’t get enough in to get any out 😉 so I’m working on that for future climbs.

  14. Namaste! Alan,
    and congratulations to this remarkable feat! Wow! I’m happy you made it. My friend and Everest guide Jamling Bhote also summited, on July 27th, with his Singapore member. And for the second time! You probably ran into each other, while climbing or at BC.
    Say, I was wondering if K2 was kind of a mix between Ama Dablam – rock sessions, i.e. – and Manaslu, between C1 and C2 as we climbed it together last year. Of course, K2 is way higher and also the steep “pitches” seem to be much longer…

    1. Thanks Damien, yes saw them on the climb and have them on a video I took and posted on my blog.

      On comparing K2 to Ama Dablam (AD) there are some similarities as you note but the biggest difference is that K2 is higher, steeper and more sustained. On AD the technical sections are somewhat short, on K2 they go on for one or two thousand feet – with exposure.

      For me, I think the Black Pyramid was the longest, toughest (and most fun) technical climbing on the entire Abruzzi route. House’s Chimney was easier than I thought it would be but still challenging at just under 22,000 feet in altitude.

      The only similarity with Manaslu was between C3 and C4 which was a steep, of course, snow slope similar to C2 to C3 or C3 to C4 on Manaslu.

  15. Hi Alan,
    Congratulations on a successful summit! I’ve been following your blog continuously and appreciate your dedication to find a cure for Alzheimer. There have been some important scientific advancements in this field recently so I applaud your efforts and those of your supporters to find cure. I am a advocate for another community.

    There seems to be a fine balancing act between mental toughness and physical toughness. Mental toughness can push you beyond your physical capabilities and that is when most accidents occur. In similar fashion, you can have great physical toughness but mental weakness can quickly drain your physical prowess. On your post of reaching C2 for the first time, it seemed that you had difficulty or a tough time acclimitizing than normal. You stated it felt different. Is this just a fluke occurence that can happen on any climb or do you feel that age is becoming a factor and you will need more periods of acclimitizing in the future?

    You mentioned that you had a great weather window. I know from previous expeditions that K2 is notorious for its harsh weather conditions. John All at EBC commenting on the tradegy in the Khumbu Icefall this year, stated the changing climate conditions with numerous avalanches this year was a major factor. Himex pulled out in 2012 for this very reason. Were you concern about this possibility with the overhanging seracs on K2 and do you think that this is going to be a future concern by climbers on any 7- 8000 meter mountains?


    1. Good insights and questions George. Thanks for your role in addressing Alzheimer’s.

      As I prepare to write up my summit push, I think one factor in feeling bad at C2 (other than being at 22,000′ for the first time) was the sustained effort required on K2. There is never a break when climbing. Once you leave a Camp, you gain altitude continuously for 4 to6 hours. And this is hard technical rock or steep snow climbing requiring high concentration, huge physical demands and big oxygen requirements. In hindsight, I might have done a better job of nutrition and hydration during the actual climbs to keep my energy up.

      That said, every 8000m climb I’ve done (9 in total) the first night above 20K was tough so in many ways this was not all that different – maybe age is a contributor in that I am cranky 🙂

      As for the weather/climate change question, it did cross my mind that the serac may be more unstable based on warmer temps this year in the Karakorum/Himalaya but it appeared not to be the case – as far as I could tell with my untrained eye.

      There are many people saying a warming climate will impact high altitude climbing. I have no idea if these predictions will become true, obviously. My personal opinion and observation is that many of the high profile incidents we have seen (Everest, Manaslu, Cho Oyu) seem to be normal parts of ice and snow movements with people being in the wrong spot at the wrong time sadly.

      For me personally, and I want to emphasize this is my personal view only and not a recommendation, I will continue to climb high altitude mountains even by exposed or dangerous routes but will pay more attention to the objective dangers than ever before.

  16. Why in the world did you guys only rest one day at BC after the climb? This seemed ridiculous to me as all of you needed and deserved a rest before this return trek; this portion of your adventure is an achievement in and of itself?

    1. Great, great, great question Cliff!! 🙂

      Actually this is the norm on these big climbs – summit and get out there as fast as you can. As I had mentioned we used the base logistics of Seven Summits Trek who employed cooks, helpers, porters etc. Everyday is a payroll day thus the desire to exit ASAP. I have seen this with almost every operator. I left Everest 12 hours after returning to Base Camp ….

  17. Hi Alan, congratulations on an amazing achievement.. K2 is such a dangerous mountain. We’re there any true heart-in-the-mouth moments, where you were in a really exposed position and you thought to yourself, “WTF am I doing? This is SOOOO dangerous!!”??

    1. Thanks Martin, no moments where I had those thoughts but several where I questioned my ability and strength to go on. However on the short section of the Traverse above the Bottleneck with my crampon front points clinging to the vertical ice wall with a 1000′ feet of air underneath me, I became extremely focused on the task, shutting out all thoughts of danger and risk … a coping mechanism for surviving.

    1. Duane, I have a lot of pictures in the Blogs (click on K2 Dispatches on the menu bar at the top of this page). I will be creating my usual mountain gallery collection over the next couple of weeks. I have 2000 pictures and videos so it will take some time to weed them down to a few.

  18. Hi Alan:

    I have a question about the rock climbing aspects of the climb. You mentioned in your blog about utilizing some very small handholds and footholds on certain sections of the climb. How are you able to utilize small hand holds while wearing thick gloves? Did you take your gloves off? switch to thinner gloves? It seems that frostbite would be an issue. I have rock climbed in the summer and can’t imagine trying to do it at high altitude under winter like conditions. Also how much did you reply on the fixed rope during the steep rock climbing portions of the climb?

    1. Great point Bill, I used The North Face leather work glove and was extremely satisfied. On Everest I had used the Black Diamond Mercury Mitt was temps were colder but also like the dexterity of it for manipulating ‘biners, anchors and the jumar.

      But for K2, I knew there was going to be a lot of precise rock climbing and a mitt simply wouldn’t work (I did carry two sets of mittens in my summit pack for backup however).

      The TNF Work Glove has Primaloft in it so it was very warm and I did use chemical hard warmers from time to time to take the edge off such as when leaving the summit.

      I know this sounds like a commercial, but the Work Glove was warm, offered the dexterity and allowed me to nab a nub every now and then. As I looked at them when packing upon leaving base camp, I noticed they had ripped on my right hand at several finger seams so I think i got my money’s worth out of them 🙂 Oh the cost about US$50!

      As for using the fixed ropes in the steep rocky sections, we used the extensively but as I noted earlier there were so many old ropes you had to be very careful.

  19. Dear Alan,
    first of, congratulations! I feel truly inspired by your dedication to alzheimer’s cause and your accomplishments. I came across your blog about 2 years ago when researching equipment for climbing and have been following your blogs ever since. I am a big fan of the effort you put into it.
    I am very new to mountaineering and climbing. Did my first climb ever when I turned 40 about 3 years ago. I had been up until then out-of-shape and led a sedentary life-style. Although I have done some ice-climbing, rock climbing and alpinism here in Switzerland where I live (I am originally from an almost flat country – Brazil) I am struggling to reconcile working full time, training, finding time to climb, have enough vacation to spend with family/friends and also using it to climb…. I wanted to ask you how did you do it before you retired? I think k2 is only a dream for me now, but hey, maybe in 5 years 

    1. Thanks Cecilia and congratulations for getting off the couch (I think there is a song about that 🙂 )

      I know what you mean about finding time to climb and live the rest of your life. For me we made climbing a priority and I was grateful my family supported my passion. I got a good education, a good job, worked hard and didn’t start until I was age 38. Today, it is a means to an end for my life purpose of Alzheimer’s Advocacy work.

      Maybe find friends who share your climbing passion so you can tick off two boxes at once during holiday?

  20. G’day Alan,

    I don’t have a particular question for you as I have followed the whole trip from start to finish.
    I just dropped in to read the questions of others and your replies, and I only wanted to leave another comment. And that is that – apart from your magnificent feat of having summited – I just want to heap some more praise on you for what you’re doing for the cause you so passionately care about. That is even more impressive than topping out on this most beautiful of peaks. And the wisdom that shines through in your clear and carefully worded replies, well, we knew you were gifted with such wisdom, even before you set out on this particular trip.
    Again; very, very well done!

  21. Hi Alan, Firstly Congratulations on your mind blowing exploit…of climbing K2 successfully.

    Are there cornices near the top just like Everest?

    1. Hi Dr. thanks for the years of loyalty to my blog!

      Yes there is a cornice on the summit that looms over Pakistan (east) created by the winds from the north and west (mostly China). I think I have the directions right but in any event, it was not huge but still we avoided standing directly on top of it – good advice for any cornice anywhere in the world!! You can see it in my summit video.

  22. Alan, you make us so proud of you. We at Cure Alzheimer’s are thrilled you are back and safe. Are there any residual effects of the altitude issues you had? Do you feel your body has/is normalizing? Did your legs/feet take a beating?

    1. Hi Mike and kudos to all you and the others are doing at the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund. It is a privilege to continue to raise money so the CAF can fund critically needed research.

      Also thanks again to the anonymous matching donor during the K2 climb.

      I still have a bit of a persistent cough from the HAPE but now think it may just be a common cold I caught on the airplane! I’m seeing a Doctor today, August 8.

      But overall, my body from toes to neck feels pretty good. I’m always amazed at how quickly we recover from beating it up so harshly whether from sports, strain, surgery or life.

      1. I can just imagine when you tell the doctor (or anyone else), well you see I summited K2 just recently, and now I’m having some minor health concerns… 🙂

  23. Alan,
    Congratulations on you incredible climb!!! It had to be so amazing for you, on so many levels. You are truly an inspiration for myself, and others. Your success has inspired me to not give up on my climbing dreams. At 36, there are many climbing adventures that I can still have. I know that K2 is an incredibly steep mountain, and that rockfalls are very common. Since precipitation was lighter this year did you experience or hear of a lot of rockfalls?
    Thank you again for letting me experience your journey with you. You are a truly amazing person for all that you do!
    Climb On!!!

    1. Hi Amy, I didn’t start climbing until I was 38 so you still have time!! 🙂

      Hard for me to judge if there was more or less rockfall in 2014 but what we experienced was more than enough.

      It was frightening to see a microwave size rock careening down a snow slope directly at you with no idea how it would bounce. So we became like a baseball shortstop squatting down ready to leap to one side or the other avoiding a collision.

      Also, there was significant rock fall form other climbers above us (including ourselves at times) who inadvertently kick a loose rock. One of these from another team hit Kancha in the arm, ripped his suit and cut his arm.

      K2 is known for rockfall so I doubt this year was different is a large respect.

    1. 5-6 did, at least. 3 Nepalese (Dawa, Pasang, May), 1 Chinese, 1 Italian (Tamara Lunger), 1 Australian/New Zealand (?) (Burke). Not sure whether Weidlich summited (USA) – I think she did.

      1. Thanks Martin for the add. Web this was a great year for women on K2 with 6 summits: The Nepali womens team (Pasang Lhamu Sherpa, Maya Sherpa and Dawa Yangzum Sherpa); Chris Burke (New Zealand), Luo Jing (China), Tamara Lunger (Italy).

        I met most of these remarkable women at Base Camp. It was great to see such success.

  24. As I have commented before I am very impressed with your success .. Your humble ways speaks of a man who learns from his climbs and knows his limits.. Congrats!
    When you were climbing did you think about those who went before you like Fritz Wiessner, Bill house, Dudley Wolfe, Ed Vestures..etc. I would think I would be playing their stories, success’, and in some cases their demise over and over… Thanks !

    1. Web, I read many of their books but for me the poignant moment was visiting the Gilkey Memorial with all the plates chiseled with the names of the fallen climbers from K2 and the other 8000m mountains nearby.

      One plate/plaque had the name of Ger McDonnell who I climbed with in 2006 on Broad Peak and knew him well. He died on k2 in 2008 trying to to save the lives of other stranded climbers.

      When you look at the (too) many plates there and glance over at K2, looking like a monster just a mile away, it brings the danger into clear focus. It causes you to consider why you are climbing such a dangerous mountain, why they died, what you can do to avoid the same fate.

      This experience is not a fleeting moment as you can see the rock buttress hosting the Memorial from k2 Base Camp and even on the climb on the Abruzzi Ridge, so it is ever-present.

      The Pakistani team found a body of a Pakistani HAP just above ABC. They think he was one of those who also died in 2008. There are boots, bones shredded tents all along the route, so the reminder of the dangers never leave your mind.

      But it keeps you focused.

      Climbing is dangerous. People die. Climbers honor climbers and climb for ourselves and those who paved the way.

  25. Hi Alan,

    Thank you for keeping us updated throughout your journey, and for opening up your blog for Q & A such as this. I found myself quickly absorbed in each update you’d provide and I’d say that you’re writing talent is second only to your climbing ability – a book would be amazing.

    My question is regarding the fixed ropes. How much of the route was fixed, and how much does the climb depend on fixed ropes? You mentioned in one post that they may have provided only a ‘placebo’ affect, but would they sustain your weight in a fall? Also, are the ropes taken down on the descent?


    1. Hi Dallas (great name),

      It varies by year but for 2014 there were fixed ropes from 500′ above ABC to 300′ below the summit for our team. There are a few sections without it where it is not needed.

      They are left there after each season creating a huge snakes nest of old, dangerous line so one of the challenges was to clip into the newest line otherwise the old stuff would 100% fail upon load. BTW, this is common on all large mountains these days.

      What surprised me, and it shouldn’t have, was the low quality and thin nature of the line. In some places it was under 6mm which is very small for a “safety line” But it takes a huge amount of skill and manpower to haul this line to 20, 24, 26 and 28,0000 feet so it is understandable.

      K2 just doesn’t have the massive resources like Everest where the lines are thicker, but albeit used by 10X more people (500 summits versus 50 for example).

      My rule of thumb on any mountain is not to trust the fixed line. Climb with your feet, use your hands for balance. That said, in reality, I jugged on the lines, fell on the lines, arm-wrapped the lines, rap’d off the lines – trusted my life to the lines.

      Um, gald I’m here to answer this in hindsight 🙂

  26. Thanks for finding some (recovery?) time to answer all these questions. Glad to see at least your mind and fingers still work great (grin). Two oddball curiosities:

    1. While on top did you think at all, “oh man I wish I had a parasail or wingsuit so I don’t have to climb back down?” It looked especially feasible from your video and many other photos (grin).

    2. I’m a rockhound, so naturally I wonder what it would take to get a piece of the top of the world. (My fantasy usually includes a helicopter.) I’ve heard that on Everest people collect pebbles from an outcrop fairly near to the top… Just curious how close to the K2 summit you last saw rocks before finishing on snow/ice. (Can’t find the quote now but someone said something like this, “If I had to summarize all of geology in a single sentence, it is that Mount Everest is made of sedimentary rocks.”)

    1. LOL Alan, call me a traditionalist but I like to walk down from from summits, not jump off of them 🙂

      I have rocks from all the 7 Summits plus K2 now. However few are from the true summit because as you saw it is snow covered usually.

      The closest rock stash on K2 was probably near the top of the Black Pyramid which was totally rock covered where we climbed.

      I’m NOT a geologist but on all these high Himalayan Peaks I always enjoy looking at the rock stratification and thinking about what caused them, the underwater effect, the eons of time I’m crossing at with step. Pretty humbling if you ask me.

  27. I have a question. In all the peaks I’ve done, there have been a few where I’ve looked back and said, thank god it’s done. Then there have been a few where I was almost in tears when I was leaving and I promised myself that one day I’ll be back. Which ones are the ones you want to revisit?

    1. Thanks for posting here Priya. I guess we should both say Denali! 🙂

      But seriously, I would go back to Alpamayo, Ama Dablam, Everest (but North side this time), Shishapangma, anything in Antarctica, Kumbu Trek, and anything in New Zealand. Ah, so many mountains, so little time 🙂

  28. First of all, big congrats Alan!

    I watched your gear preps video in youtube. Will you also share about the gear preps for this K2 expedition?
    You climbed Ama Dablam before. What do you say regarding the technical climb in several specific sections eg. the House’s Chimney, Black Pyramid and the Bottleneck compares to what Ama’s eg Yellow Tower, Mushroom ridge, etc.

    again big congrats to you and your team!

    1. Thanks Cak,

      As for gear, it was mostly the same I used form Everest, Manaslu and other 8000m climbs. The only big change I made was to use the Black Diamond Cyborg crampons instead on the BD Sabertooth Pro. The Cyborg have longer, sharp front points that were useful on the rock on steep snow. My teammates however both used the Sabertooth Pro.

      I did a new down suit – Mountain Hardwear and La Sportiva 8000m boots. Pleased with both.

      Great question comparing K2 to Ama Dablam (AD) there are some similarities as you note but the biggest difference is that K2 is higher, steeper and more sustained. On AD the technical sections are somewhat short, on K2 they go on for one or two thousand feet – with exposure.

      For me, I think the Black Pyramid was the longest, toughest (and most fun) technical climbing on the entire Abruzzi route. House’s Chimney was easier than I thought it would be but still challenging at just under 22,000 feet in altitude.

  29. Hi Allan

    Congratulations on your Summit of K2! I have read books and studied quite a bit on K2. Truly the stuff of dreams.

    When you come out of the traverse what is the steepness like on the summit snow slopes, is the exposure still huge and is there false summits as you near the top? I havent seen any photos of what it’s like after the traverse, does it follow some kind of snow ridge?

    Also how many 6000ers should one have before they attempt an 8000er?

    Once again congratulations…your a huge inspiration to us all 🙂


    1. Thanks Bumble, after clearing the traverse, it is a 45 degree sustained climb on a snow slope, zero exposure other than if you fall and cannot self arrest you would go a long way. It goes directly to the summit but there is a slight left hand turn once you top out to reach the true summit – another 3-8 minute walk along the summit ridge to the top.

      I suggest at least one or two 6000/7000m climbs before your first 8000m. Aconcagua, Denali, Mont Blanc and most anything in Peru, Canada or Alaska are all great training.

  30. Congratulations yet once again. I realize this question has been asked and answered a few times already, but regarding physical conditioning. Can you offer any additional tidbits on how to achieve something even remotely close to “K-2 shape”. My mouth literally fell open when I read of you climbing Long’s Peak in the winter with 70 mph winds and not stopping until getting knocked down not once or twice but THREE TIMES!!! Wow. Did you have a daily workout routine? Special diet? Follow a work out program? Or was it more on the fly. Also as a gear head I’m very curious on what you used, but hopefully that will come with the full report at some time. Keep it up – You are an inspiration.

    1. Hi Tony, No secrets or special diets but could have used some at times!

      I like real-world training and am fortunate to live here in Colorado giving me access to 14,000′ mountains. As I previously mentioned, my goal was 1 14er plus 2 other outings a week with 20-30lb packs.

      I used to do a lot of indoor workouts with weights, elliptical machines, running etc but found I was horrible when I got to the climb. Also, I don’t have an ACL in one knee and had surgery on the other in January 2013 so I really can’t run like would like thus the real world, long days on the mountains.

      As for gear, it was mostly the same I used form Everest, Manaslu and other 8000m climbs. The only big change I made was to use the Black Diamond Cyborg crampons instead on the BD Sabertooth Pro. The Cyborg have longer, sharp front points that were useful on the rock on steep snow. My teammates however both used the Sabertooth Pro.

      I did a new down suit – Mountain Hardwear and La Sportiva 8000m boots. Pleased with both.

  31. G’day Alan. I was just wondering at what altitude did you start to use oxygen? Also did anyone climb the bottleneck traverse without the use of fixed ropes?


    Cam, Australia.

    1. Cam, We started a very low flow upon leaving C2 or 22,000 feet a bit lower than C3 on Everest where O’s are also begun. I didn’t see anyone make the traverse without using the fixed ropes and can’t imagine anyone doing it except for those leading who by definition were clipped into protection as they were leading.

      It can be free climbed but one slip and you are dead. And at 8000+ meters, a slip is easy. The issue would be more on the descent rather the up climb in my view.

  32. Hey Alan! Congrats again on an amazing accomplishment! I just want to know anything about the bottleneck and the serac? Any pics of it? How did it feel? Was it terrifying, or not as bad as you thought? Was it 90 degree slope? Did you fix lines through there? I know it’s a lot I’m throwing at you, but I’ve never known anyone who has summited K2 ha ha…

    BTW lemme know if you’re still interested to come speak at my house in San Diego this November. I can get my Stone Brewery connection to get refreshments and get a good audience together for you and to help fight Alzheimer’s! 😉

    Thanks Alan!

    1. Thanks Randy, I am coming to San Diego to speak details to be announced but probably in November.

      I posted a couple of pictures on this blog post of the serac.


      There was a short section of 90 degree ice where only my front points supported me – scary indeed.

      There was a team of 4 Sherpas who expertly fixed this section.

      As I climbed up it my thoughts were totally about how was I going to down climb it. It was around sunrise 5am so I knew I was not seeing everything.

      The exposure at 8000m was like nothing I had ever climbed – technical ice climbing in t he Death Zone. I knew this was going to be tough so I was prepared physically for it but when it cane to actually doing it, it was tough.

      I followed Matt up and Kami was behind me and gave me a couple of words of encouragement. Garrett gave me motivation on the descent. As I will always say, it was a team effort.

      Finally, I am so glad I had extensive ice and rock experience here in Colorado to prepare for this or it wouldn’t have happened.

  33. Hi Alan,

    Many congratulations on your K2 climb. My question is that will you consider packing it in mountain climbing wise? After K2, there aren’t many challenges left apart from of course a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.


    1. Hi Jeff, there are many, many challenges left in the 8000m climbing world especially for someone my age and skills. Besides, this is my passion, my world ,so I will try to keep climbing as long as I can.

      But to your point, my focus may shift as I look into what is next. Challenging routes, climbs of historical significance may top the list.

      If I can continue to capture the world’s attention with my climbs on behalf of Alzheimer’s, I will do it.

  34. Alan, I tweeted to you before your climb about our family’s experience with Alz, and you kindly replied. So I’ve been cheering for you and checking at reasonable intervals, not obsessively 😉 throughout your climb for updates, and marvel not only how well you performed an extraordinary climb, but also shared generously your experience.

    A trekker & scrambler, but not climber, tho a snowshoer in winter, I’ve wondered about K2 mix of rock, ice and snow. Is there more of a percentage of exposed rock than the other mountains of its class? I’ve read that wind blows quite a bit of snow off of K2. Anyway, am just curious if the proportions of the 3 surfaces are different on K2 than others.

    Congratulations on an amazing achievement. Grateful for the safety of you and your team.

    1. Thanks Christina, yes we share in the challenges of dementia/Alzheimer”s. Thanks for your support during my climb.

      There is a lot of rock on K2 – a lot. From above C2 to C4 it is 70% rock climbing along ridges, faces, outcroppings and buttresses – all dangerously exposed. If I had to pinpoint the physicality of K2, this would be the headline.

      Of the other 8000m climbs I’ve done: Everest, Shisha, Manaslu, Broad Peak, Cho Oyu none have as much rock as K2. Routes on Makalu and Nanga Parbart have a lot of rock and so do others.

  35. Wow! So many questions. Hmm as I want to one day attempt an 8000 meter peak what is the one piece of advice you can offer. Also, are you going to climb another 8000m peak as you have climbed the two highest plus another?

    1. Hi Elliott, thank for your years of loyal following.

      I like Manaslu as the 1st 8000m mountains it is a great trek in, achievable and logistically easy being with Nepal. Cho Oyu is the second option in Tibet but complicated by politics. Gasherbrum II in Pakistan is the 3rd option but is significantly more complex with the trek in and politics.

      As for overall prep ideas, climb a 7000m snow climb before like Denali or even a tough route on Mont Blanc or in new Zealand. Get to know the snow and ice systems, test your body at altitude and in stressful conditions.

      Develop your own system for climbing, create mental toughness and know why you are climbing.

      As for me, yes I definitely want to climb more 8000m mountains – full stop 🙂

  36. Alan, congrats on your achievement!
    There is a photo of the down climb directly below the infamous serac. Did you see any ice fall at any time? Was there any evidence that it was solid this year or were you just plain lucky that nothing gave way? Must have been terrifying until you were clear.

    1. Doug, climbing under K2’s ice serac is like watching television under a guillotine strung with rotten cord.

      We climbed at night and passed under the serac in the dark but Finish climber Samuli Mansikka, climbing without O’s, was ahead so we saw his headlamp on the towering surface of the serac. It was like getting glimpse of a monster about to pounce.

      But I never heard a crack or saw any releases during our 12 hours in the area. There were new ice blocks in the Bottleneck that caused us to take a slight detour thus avoiding the bottleneck but there was no way to tell if the ice blocks were new, a week or month old.

      When descending the danger was clear in th bright sunlight so we moved as fast as possible.

  37. Alan, I think what impresses me the most, besides your summit, was the 75 mile trek out of there. 25 mile days, immediately AFTER climbing an 8000m mountain, is beyond my imagination and something my legs would never allow. I know you climbed many 14ers in training, but did you also train for such long days in term of that distance or was it a death march?

    1. Ugg Mike in many ways this was my personal non-climb crux. It was difficult with the fatigue, HAPE and heat. I hurt big time. My teammates came through for me by walking slowly with me never leaving me alone – the power of a tight team. Al Hancock, Adrien Hayes, even though not formally with our team were step by step with me along with Matt Dy Puy, Garrett Madison and Kami Sherpa.

      In hindsight I wished I had spent one more day at K2 BC hydrating and resting plus had consumed more fluids on the trek out .. next time! 🙂

      As for preparing, I did visualize a 12 hour day on Longs Peak in the summer with dry mouth and exhaustion during the K2 trek out .. but it didn’t help 🙂

      1. Alan – you are totally inspiring. I just climbed Longs successfully on Monday, on my second attempt, and your videos and your example helped me make it. I think it was 50 degrees and windless on the summit, so I didn’t need to visualize the dry mouth on the way back, I had it first hand! Thinking of your trek after K2 I knew I couldn’t complain. Thanks for sharing this incredible journey.

  38. Congratulations Alan, I am so incredibly happy for you and your acheivement.

    With regard to mental prep, I am trekking to EBC next year and although I fully appreciate that this is simply a walk to the main event for a hero such as yourself, I am finding myself falling for attacks of vertigo in what in my youth would have been pretty benign situations.
    As I am trekking on behalf of the charity who saved my young sons life, I know I will not allow myself to be beaten by this but wondered if you could offer any mental tricks to help me tackle this hurdle before the hurdle becomes a hurdle.
    The reputation of K2 must have held a lot of gravity with you in preparation, so I hope you are ideally positioned to offer advice here and my overwhelming respect for you will surely help this bed into my mind.
    Feel free just to tell me to stop being a girl and just get on with it 🙂

    1. Paul, vertigo is real so I take your question seriously.

      As you know there is medicine for it but for me I was once afraid of heights and courtesy of AK Hacket in 1995, I cured it with a Bungie jump in New Zealand!

      The trek to EBC has little extreme exposure. But tell your teammates of your issue and ask for help- they will come through.

      Have someone hold onto your pack to give you confidence and stability in areas of concern, follow closely to a teammates looking at their boots – not the edge. Have someone hold your hand.

      Your fear is real so embrace it, cope with it and enjoy the trek – it will change your life.

      1. Alan is 100% correct. The EBC trek will change your life, but for reasons you may not have yet thought of. The scenery is spectacular however the people are even better. You will experience culture shock, a little drama (it’s a Third World country so things seldom go fully to plan) and some manageable adventure/excitement but it is truly all good. More importantly, you will make some wonderful friendships, some of them lifelong. Everyone who loves mountains owes it to themselves to go to Nepal at least once in their life. But be forewarned, you will almost certainly return again and again! Have a great trip.

  39. Well done Allan!

    What was the most technical aspect to the climb and why? Do you have your next adventure in mind yet?

    1. Nic, the Black Pyramid was the most technical. House’s Chimney was actually fairly straight forward but the Black Pyramid was endless rock climbing with exposure and altitude – and it was full-on fun!!!

      As for the next climb … I have a huge idea and am working on it. I once again want to show that we can achieve seemingly impossible results when we set our minds to it – all for the Alzheimer’s world.

  40. Alan,

    Congratulations on a great adventure and thanks for sharing it with us. I awaited every update with complete faith that you would have a great climb. Well done and welcome back.

    Every athlete experiences a moment during an event when we struggle. Sometimes, those struggles color our retrospective on the total performance. I read in your posts a few instances that you seemed less enthusiastic about your performance. Do you think a few instances might have adversely colored your post-climb account? From my perspective, I think you did a bang up job and regardless of any blemish you experienced, I think you should be unabashedly proud of your accomplishment. Hopefully you feel the same way.

    How long do you expect to relax before your next adventure?

    1. Hey Patrick, good to hear from you.

      You are very kind to note the overall success but it came at a price.

      I was candid during the climb as to my struggles and now I want to be equally honest and real. It was hard. I will account for all in a trip report, book or in talks.

      I’m not hiding from anything but need time to come to grips with my own performance, the risks and the real human struggle of climbing and more importantly, getting down.

      I just can’t go there now.

  41. How did you measure and assess your CV fitness while you were preparing, and what targets/milestones did you set yourself, if any?

    1. James. For K2, I would have never attempted it without my extensive 8000m CV: Everest, Manalsu, Broad Peak, Shishapangma, Cho Oyu, etc.

      However, my performance on Manaslu in October 2014 was key plus the encouragement of Phil Crampton of Altitude Junkies who said “Alan, you are not getting any younger so if K2 is on your radar now is the time.”

      As for milestones or targets, I knew I had to train harder than ever so I set a goal of 1 14,0000 each week plus 2 other outings.

  42. Have you ever had a battery-operated device fail because it was too cold for the batteries? I have put some thought into how to get “battery-free” (watch, camera and so on) if it were necessary, but I’m not sure how to tell whether it would really be necessary. For example, many devices with Lithium batteries have published lower temp limits that suggest they would fail at K2/Everest summit temps, but do they really, if you take sensible precautions, like keeping them close to your skin when not in use?

    1. Hi James, no not really. I leave BC with fully charged batteries. When they have failed it was my fault like leaving my Hotronics batteries on from a lower camp- duh! The key to batteries is to warm them up before you use them. If you start them cold – they will drain almost immediately so keep them warm or warm them to body temp before using.

      1. Hi Alan. Apologies – when I wrote “CV” I meant “Cardiovascular” rather than “Curriculum Vitae”. The question was about how to assess how fit you are in that respect, and what progress you’re making, particularly whether the training/prep you’re doing is going to be enough…

        1. Jams, my only real measure of cardio performance during training here in Colorado was speed. I targeted climbing 1500′ hour between 10,000 and 14,000′ with a 30lb pack. On K2, and Everest, I average about 300-500′ per hour above 21,000′.

          As to if that is enough? Well, I get to the mountain and see but this rule of thumb works for me personally.

          1. Thanks Alan. I was afraid you might say that! I live in a very flat part of England, so no chance of copying your method on a frequent basis. Nearest I could get would be a stepping machine (appropriately calibrated) with a hypox mask, to simulate the altitude.

            I think simulating the 30lb pack load would be easy enough, even if the other gym users did think I’m bonkers.

  43. Alan,

    First: Congrats! I didn’t honestly think you could do it, so it was a truly remarkable accomplishment.

    My question is related to the costs. Obviously, I could look at rates and such from guides’ sites, but was more curious about recommendations for increasing mountaineering experience on a budget. I will be OK in Colorado for the most part, but I am thinking about 5 years out on the horizon.



    1. Umm, thanks Eric for the confidence? 🙂 However, I had my doubts as well!

      On costs, it is all over the map but as the saying goes you get what you pay for. Costs include: food, support and backup.

      If you are an expert some of this may not matter but for normal people it does and is worth the money. K2 is not the mountain to go cheap on, like any other 8000m mountain. Save your money, go with a guide service that matches your experience.

      You can overpay for a guide service with too many frills or high profit margins, but going alone, on the cheap or trying to save money can often cost you the summit or your life.

  44. Hi Alan! Your success and 2014’s exceptional K2 season leaves me worried. I fear that many people will look at this year’s stats and think that K2 has finally been tamed and made readily accessible to guided climbers. This overconfidence could lead to tragedies of prevoiusly unimaginable magnitude. What is your take on this possibility?

    1. Martin, I 1000% agree. First let me say one person died on K2 this year. That should put a pause in the conversation.

      The last thing I want is for someone with limited experience to say “Hey this 58 year-old guy made it so can I.” However, I think the formula for climbing K2 is being found – Sherpa support, good weather windows, solid base camp support BUT it can all change in a blink.

      First I want to make clear I am no rookie. I have climbs on 9 8000m peaks: Everest (4X), Manaslu, Cho Oyu, Shishapangma, Broad Peak, plus Alpamayo, Denali, the 7 Summits and lots of climbing in Colorado including 150+ summits of the 14,000′ mountains. So I knew what I was doing … and I struggled on K2.

      I addressed “Why K2 is not Everest”is this blog post and I encourage you and others to read it.


      All this said, K2 is achievable by “normal” people. f you have the experience, team support and drive – go for it but be careful who you climb with.

      I was at a Big City Mountaineers event in January this year and spoke with Ed Vestures about K2. I asked “Ed, what about k2?” He looked at me and simply said “It’s hard.” The he wnet on. “When I climbed with other people they called out ‘Ed this is hard.’ to which I responded “This is K2, what did you expect?” He went on to say they turned back but he kept going.

      K2 is a deadly, difficult climb I suggest only for those with solid rock, ice, extreme altitude experience and the right team – less than that – don’t even think about it – you will die.

  45. Alan,
    I watched and read your every step on K2 and am so impressed with your summit. I have 2 questions. 1. Again regarding mental toughness. Specifically what did you do to develop that in the build up to K2. Secondly I am always struck by the coverage of the ascent of a big mountain and nothing much is written about the decent. I know from my experience on Everest that the really gnarly stuff happened on the way down. Will you include this in your blog at some point. Again well done Alan. I do hope there will be a book at some point. Gavin

    1. Thanks Gavin from someone with great mountaineering experience.

      One mental toughness technique I used was to leave home at midnight to climb as high as I could on Longs Peak in mid winter aka January. I dressed in my full down suit plus 8000m boots.

      My goal was to climb as high as I could above treeline where I knew the winds would touch 70 mph. After getting knocked down three times – not one or two but three – I would turn back. This seemingly mechanical exercise helped me understand I would not die if knocked down, it helped understand the quality of my gear and built my confidence that I could climb in harsh conditions.

      As for the descent, it was epic for me and I will write about – just need to comes to grip myself before I tell the world.

      1. Thanks for that Alan – very useful insight into what you did for prep and how you thought about it. The relationship between mental toughness and physical toughness seems to be key.

        I was on a volcano in Ecuador this summer and aborted because of high winds. The decision to abort was based on not having any prospect of summitting safely. Didn’t realise until later that I could have gone on another hour or two quite safely and got in some useful practice – much needed, since I live in one of the flattest parts of England. Had my brain been in the right place at the right time, I could have got another few hours of “hard snow” under my belt for no extra money or time away from family. You live and learn…

  46. Alan, what assurances did your group have from the Pakistani government regarding safety, considering the tragic attacks that took place around K2 last year, I believe. Were you ever concerned?

    Welcome home!

    1. There were zero formal assurances just what you would expect a host country to say. Personally I never felt in danger in the least however it was “interesting” going through so many checkpoints along the Karakorum Highway.

      I felt 2014 was as safe as climbing could be because of the massacre on Nanga Parbart last year (note it is quite far way from K2). It was the 60th anniversary of the first K2 summit so there was more interest than normal. There was a Pakistani national team climbing K2 plus the Pakistani mountaineering community wanted to prove climbing was safe in the Northern Territories and they proved correct for 2014.

      Overall, I think Pakistan did an excellent job of making us feel safe.

  47. Fabulous updates. I loved the humor describing the ride out to civilization. Exhausted but funny. Great read!

    My question is regarding mental toughness. Do you prepare for this over and above the recall of previous experiences?

    I am not a mountaineer but am taking on trekking mountains. At 63 I understand “quitting too soon” and the gap between my mind and my body…as in mind not knowing what my body can deliver.

    Thanks for any input. Climb on!

    Bless you.

    1. Corky, thanks – got to laugh at some of this stuff!! Mental toughness is a constant struggle. As I prepared for K2, I pushed my training in terms of loads, climb speed and duration. Every time, I started to struggle, I would look at why – hydration, nutrition, rest, terrain and try to learn so I could apply it on k2. While not totally successful in that I struggled on k2, I felt my mental toughness was at an all time high due to my preparation, cause and support from so many people.

  48. Hi Alan,
    Congrats again on such a remarkable achievement. I always struggle with the mind over body equation. Pushing yourself further than you think possible is a proven way to achieve a difficult summit. BUT the danger lies in the fact that you are now at your true physical limit and have no reserves in case of trouble. This can be deadly on any mountain, obviously even more so on big mountains like K2. How do you know when it’s time to turn around?

    1. Great points Robert and unique to each individual. After 36 major climbs, I know my body (and mind) pretty well. But on K2 I also knew it would test me not only due to the altitude but also the extreme technical nature of the climb (plus the mental side of climbing under the serac, etc.) So while I was prepared somewhat, I still had to dig deep to keep going after a horrendous start from Camp 4. If I had been coughing on the ascent like did on the descent, I would have turned back without the summit – full stop. Climbing with trusted people like I did was also a help as I sought their advice to keep going.

  49. Alan:
    At what camp do you switch over to your down suit?
    I know you have a nice section on camera on your site. Which camera did you actually carry on the summit push? Where do you keep it while climbing? A pocket? What else do you have handy in your pockets on the summit push?

    1. Hi Paul, We actually climbed from C2 higher in the down suits primarily to reduce the weight of carrying them higher. I used the new Canon PowerShot SX600 HS 16MP Digital Camera – great battery life, zoom, HD video and resolution. I carried it my chest pocket in my down suit. Never had to use the extra batteries I carried. Also in my pockets were hand warmers, Honey Stinger gel and a half liter Nalgene water bottle in my inner pocket.

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