Avalanche perhaps stops summits on K2 and the Karakorum – Updated

K2 summit winds July 13, 2016. Courtsey of Dawa Sherpa Seven Summits Treks

Update 26 July : Gasherbrum II summits. Heavy weather moving. Team down climbing now.  Update 25 July : Nanga Summit. GII attempt underway. Broad Peak over.  K2 BC emptying. Independents give up also – no K2 summits for 2nd year in row due to weather and snow conditions.

A large avalanche reported on 23 July, 2016 on K2 has destroyed tents, buried fixed ropes and swept way the cache of food and oxygen bottles at Camp 3.  There were no injuries or fatalities reported. While not 100% certain, it appears for the second year in a row no one will make the top.

While most climbers on the large commercial teams and a few independents stayed safely at Camps 1 and 2, several reports said 25 Sherpas were on their way to fix ropes to Camp 4 when they found the destruction. It was at this same location in 2013 that professional mountain guide Marty Schmidt and his son Denali were killed while sleeping in their tent at Camp 3 by an avalanche. All the other teams that year had descended fearing such an event.

K2 Camps
K2 Camps

Camp 3 is perched on a steep slope just above the top of the Black Pyramid but a few hundred meters lower where the relentless angle of K2 finally lets up for a short distance thus serving as a perch for High Camp or C4. Camp 3 is usually located at 24,000 feet or 7,315 meters – still a long way from the summit.

K2 has always been tough, thus one reason so few attempt it. From 1986 to 2015, there were 11 years with no summits. From 2009 to 2015, there were only three years with summits – 2011 only from the Chinese side, and 2012 and 2014 each with between 30 – 50 people summiting – record breaking years as a result of a week of excellent and rare summit conditions. Everest went from 1974 to 2014 with summits every year – 40 straight years!

Efforts Continue on other Peaks

There have been no reports of similar events stopping progress on the other Karakorum peaks but conditions are not good throughout the region.

Teams received a good weather forecast a few days ago calling for a week of good weather, but with a small front coming thru the area on 21 July. But the area is notorious for sudden changes. The small front that came thru on Friday proved stronger than forecasted and stalled progress with high winds and heavy snow.

In addition to the heavy snow the previous week when teams were in base camps, this front brought additional fresh snow on the peaks.  Teams delayed climbing higher and stayed put at low camps waiting for the new snow to settle.

The poor conditions were not isolated to K2. Some teams, for example on the Gasherbrums, reported warm temps, rain at lower levels and weak snow bridges – all in all a dangerous environment, but somewhat normal for the high peaks of Northern Pakistan.

Colorado based meteorologist Chris Tomer told me this morning (Saturday) that the area received a lot of snow on Friday and was not surprised by the avalanche. He is advising a team on Gasherbrum that they will see calm conditions from Saturday thru Monday but turning poor again on Tuesday:

There is disagreement amongst sources.  Teams were told by other groups that Monday is going to bad and Tuesday better for summit.  I disagree with that.  I think Monday is better than Tuesday.  But at this point avalanche danger might be the trump card.

There has only been one peak summited thus far this season –  Broad Peak by Slovenian climbers Aleš ?esen and Luka Lindi?. They pushed on when other teams paused and summited with no fixed ropes or assistance. They were last reported to be attempting the West Face of Gasherbrum IV.

Broad Peak Summit – Over

On Broad Peak, Spanish climber Oscar Cadiach with six other climbers plus the five person Mountain Professional team were last reported to be climbing higher. After waiting for the last batch of new snow to settle (not this latest round!), MP posted on 21 July:

It was a long day up but we climbed almost 12 hours in total bypassing a stop at camp one and going directly to C2,. The weather tomorrow could be a bit lousy and some snow but as long as it is mild, we are going into the better weather and still have the morning of 24th as our target for the top.

I have not seen a recent report and would not be surprised if they encounter deep snow, similar to 2015, and will also abandon their summit bids.

Update 25 July: Deep snow and yet another whiteout stopped summit attempt near Col. Teams returning to BC. Mountain Professional posted this update:

Last night we left high camp at 11 pm to battle with the infamous slopes to reach the Col. It was essentially us and some Spanish climbers making the track all night long, we are the only two teams here in a very unusual season. The net net is that after 11 hours of 600 meters gain we were just below the Col. Or we thought, steep icy slopes with old fixed rope marked our final obstacle , but in reality it was just another slope with about one more hour to go to the Col, and wouldn’t you know the weather turned to total whiteout and wind. We waited on the lines but nothing was changing. We decided that going into even more technical terrain in that weather after working so hard was questionable for a safe descent. So with tearful back and for the we decided to go down. I will go over and over this trip and take away lots of valuable lessons as an expedition leader. I can say that Broad Peak is a challenging climb, I climbed it without O2 exactly 10 years ago, and to me the upper summit day feels harder than back then. Our group was ready and I think they were strong enough to reach the summit.

Nanga Parbat SUMMIT!!!

After another stalled attempt a couple of weeks ago, Ferran Latorre and team are pushing for their summit again:

Already in the c3 to 6.500 meters in altitude.

You can follow their push in real time at http://bit.ly/HIMALAIATRACKER. However their tracker has shown no progress recently and they are still at C3. The recent snow has created avalanches on Nanga creating poor climbing conditions so teams have a lot of work ahead. Other teams include Korean expedition lead by Kim Hongbin’s and Kim Migon’s team of Korean-Chinese-Taiwanese climbers.

Update 25 July: Ferran Latorre and team appear to have summited according to their tracker. Other teams in BC looking at next week for attempt.

Gasherbrum I/II – Push Underway

Over on Gasherbrum II, the US team left their base on 19 July looking t0 summit on the 24 but probably lost at least one day with the storm. The Czech and Polish teams are also on their push but are changing plans due to the poor conditions.

Update 26 July : Gasherbrum II summits. Heavy weather moving. Team down climbing now.  

K2 Summit Push – Probably Over for ALL

More on K2: Yuri with Kari Kobler posted (translated from Spanish by google):

We just received the news that today, July 23, there was a huge avalanche in the upper part of the k2. Fortunately there is no loss of life and the entire team of expedition, including Laura and Yuri, it’s okay. In these moments are found in the c2 to 6,700 meters in height. The flood swept away with the whole team for the attack on the summit that was in the c3: 45 bottles of oxygen, all the strings fixed and houses of campaign; in addition to all of the deposit that had already been done in the c4.

Broad PeakOther teams that were on their way up K2 included Adventure Peaks, Seven Summits Treks and the Polish team . They were looking for a summit on July 26th. The heavily supported commercial teams of  Madison Mountaineering and Kari Kobler were are also moving higher. Vanessa O’Brien confirmed the avalanche on her InReach:

K2 United can confirm an avalanche wiped out all the tents at camp 3 But all teams are ok

Update 23 July: Discontent on K2

There seems to be a lot of emotion at K2 base camp between at least one “independent” climber, Nicholas Rice and one “commercial” team, Kobler and Partners. Rice wrote a scathing blog post the other day and today took more shots at the weather services and commercial expeditions on Facebook.

What he does not make clear is if he had paid his share of labor and material to use the fixed ropes on K2 while accusing Kobler of asking for payment for Sherpa support. In any event, Rice keeps open the possibility of attempting K2 this year.

An avalanche wiped out Camp III on the Abruzzi Route, signalling the end of the expedition for the three big commercial expeditions (Kobler, Madison, and 7 Summits) since the vast majority of their members’ oxygen tanks, and equipment was lost. Unfortunately, despite the fact that the avalanche cleared the excess snow from above Camp III, making the route safer than it has been thus far in July, many other independent climbers are also calling it quits. Due to the inaccuracy of the MeteoTest forecast, many went up in horrible weather only to suffer in high camps. Therefore, they are less enthusiastic about returning to high camps and more prone to bend to the pressure of the big expeditions to follow suit and call it quits. I have also heard that some of the Sherpas have decided to take down fixed lines between Camp II and Camp III, making it even more difficult to make any kind of attempt to reach higher camps and reach the summit. This type of behavior reminds me of something a young child would do… something like, if I can’t have it, no one can. I hope their intention is only to remove damaged ropes and that they will leave the vast majority of rope in place, however, based on my experiences thus far with these expeditions, I’m not very confident that’s the case. These coming days will be incredibly challenging.

Update 23 July: Madison calls it quits

posted just now from Madison Mountaineering:

Massive avalanche on K2 this morning, Camps 3 and 4 totally gone without a trace: All members currently safe in Camp 2. Expedition now finished as all equipment for summit attempt (tents, oxygen, ropes, food, etc) has been lost. -Garrett Madison

More Details July 25: Madison posted this:

Our team is now back down in base camp after our K2 summit attempt. Tomorrow was supposed to be our summit day, the weather currently looks perfect as predicted, clear skies and no wind. We had everything in position for our summit attempt, after about 5 weeks of preparations, we had established our high camps, had climbed to camp 3, and were looking forward to our summit. But it was not meant to be, as when we were preparing to climb from camp 1 to camp 2 on the morning of July 23, we saw a big avalanche come down the mountain. We later learned that this avalanche was massive, had started somewhere near our camp 4, and had covered nearly a third of the mountain down to the base,  taking out our camps 3 & 4, nothing was left. We were lucky that we were not in these camps when the avalanche occurred. Without our equipment for our summit attempt (tents, oxygen, ropes, food, etc) we cannot continue our climb, we are now heading home, as are all teams. Yesterday we searched the avalanche debris field at the base of the mountain, about 7000? below where the slide began,  but found nothing,  as the debris was around 10-20 ft. deep in most areas. We will leave base camp in a couple of days and trek out,  then fly or drive to Islamabad and fly home

Update 24 July: K2 Climbers want to continue

Most of the climbers on K2 this year are associated with the so-called ‘commercial’ teams who employ Sherpas and Pakistani High Altitude Porters to set up the fix ropes and tents at the high camps. In years past when there were no commercial teams, the ropes were fixed by a loose federation of all the climbers who were on the mountain. And in some cases, an individual climber would show up at K2 with no ropes expect to draft off the work of others – sometimes paying a small fee and others times paying nothing creating ire amongst the community towards them. In all cases, all teams use a middleman for logistics within Pakistan (and Nepal) to obtain climbing permits, travel details, meals at base camp and in some cases to bring rope and protection to the mountain – and, finally, to help fix the ropes even tho their customer continues to call themselves ‘independent’

In 2016, with the commercial teams now leaving K2 after the avalanche, the question of who will fix the missing ropes and the final ropes to the summit comes into question. The independents are meeting on 25 July to sort this out. If there is enough material (ropes, pickets, anchors, etc.) and labor, they MAY attempt to climb targeting 1 August as their summit date.

It is unlikely the independents will continue but wishes if they do.

? More Details 25 July – Independents have also called it  quits.

You can read more on the avalanche at the Himalayan Times and Altitude Pakistan. I will post additional updates as available. Best of luck to all on their plans.

Climb On!
Memories are Everything

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7 thoughts on “Avalanche perhaps stops summits on K2 and the Karakorum – Updated

  1. Thank you for all the exciting updates. I am relieved that the climbers are safe but there must be a lot of very disappointed guys. I really do miss the Everest season so I will just have to hang in there for 2017 but time is not on my side ! Cheers Kate

  2. I have been trying to learn something about this fascinating subject. I have been reading a lot of posts and opinions of experienced people. It seems to me that the climbers this year had a good luck. Nobody in C3 during the avalanche is really very lucky….

  3. I have to confess I do not like commercial teams on K2. Sorry but it is all getting out of hand (IMHO).

  4. There were no fatalities, so that is great news.

    I am quite disappointed to read what Nichalas Rice had to say vis a vis the big expeditions and their attitude and the way they were leaving the mountain. I sincerely hope they will leave the new ropes as is, and give those that stay behind at least something of a shot to get to higher camps.

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