Using my experience of my successful summit of K2 in 2014 and covering the action in 2015 and 2016, I will once again be covering the 2017 K2 climbing season from my home in Colorado this year.
I try to do it the same style as my annual Everest coverage but information is much more difficult to obtain from Northern Pakistan than Nepal. I’ll do my best to throw in occasional coverage for climbers on Broad Peak and Gasherbrum I and II.
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The Savage Mountain
As I covered in a post a couple of years ago, “Why K2 will not become Everest“, K2 is a totally different climbing experience requiring a different set of skills and experience. It is the second highest mountain in the world at 28,251’/8611m.
The climbing is technical – meaning you are using feet and hands to climb; the exposure is extreme – meaning if you fall you will most likely die; and the weather is extreme – meaning it is less predictable due to it proximity to other nearby mountains. It is common to have very different conditions on K2 than on Broad Peak or the Gasherbrum only a few miles away.
The number reason listed for death is “disappearance” suggesting the climber fell in a highly exposed area, was blown away by winds or buried in an avalanche.
These are not bravado or ego based comments on my part given I have summited both peaks, but my effort to help readers understand that K2 is in a different league than the 8000ers. Just because you summited Everest, doesn’t mean you are ready for K2.
If you attempt K2, you must accept that dying is a real possibility.
It is well documented that K2 sees significantly more deaths than Everest. Thru 2017, I estimate 8,250 summits with 290 deaths on Everest – 3.5% compared to 355 summits with 82 deaths on K2 – 23%. Annapurna remains the most delay 8000er. While some will quibble with these statistics, it is a measure of risk.
Years with No K2 Summits
From 1986 to 2016, there were 12 years with no summits. From 2009 to 2016, there were only three years with summits – 2011 only from the Chinese side, and 2012 and 2014 each with about 40 – 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!
I will not be keeping a location table like I do for Everest given the lack of detailed information but these are a few of the teams on K2 this year.
- Himalayan Experience (Himex)
- Furtenbach Adventures
- Dreamers Destination
- Adventure Tours Pakistan
- Karakorum Tours Pakistan
If you have a team and want coverage, please contact me. Also, Raheel Adnan has a great site for all things Karakorum.
A few of the climbers are back after being stopped the last two years. Himex was there last year and British-American Vanessa O’Brien is back for the third year in a row. Vanessa has become a bit of a celebrity in Pakistan thru building a good relationship with the local press. She and her team were highlighted in this recent article in the Tribune Experess.
These are the teams with climbing permits for the Karakorum this summer in Pakistan. Keep in mind that all foreign operators must use a local Pakistani owned and operated company to obtain permits. Also they have been required to hire Pakistani High Altitude Porters and discouraged from bringing Sherpas from Nepal/Tibet to support their teams, however many teams do albeit at a higher expense.
The Easy Part of Climbing K2
Every K2 from Pakistan starts in Islamabad. This year it appears about 50 foreigners streamed into Islamabad to begin their journey to K2 Base Camp. Many are almost there this weekend.
Most teams try to fly directly to Skardu via a daily Pakistan International Airline flight, but due to regular bad weather in Skardu, it is canceled 20% of the time and very delayed another 25%. Thus some teams are forced to take the 30 hour, 2 day drive along the very dangerous Karakorum Highway.
Russell Brice reported on his initial journey:
We all arrived into Islamabad on 12 and then attempted to fly to Skardu on 14, however the weather suddenly changed and so when we were just 15km away from our destination we had to return to Islamabad. We were met at the airport by our bus that was then to take us on a 9 hour journey to a mountain resort which we were beyond the attention to even know the name of at 01.30 in the morning. The same morning we were up at 05.00 and started our next part of the journey at 06.00 travelling over the Babusar Pass at over 4,000m and then continuing on the Silk Highway winding our way around a twisty narrow road with a large drop into the river below. After another 15 hours in the bus we were all pleased to reach Skardu late last night.
Many of the teams arrive at Skardu and stay at the time honored Concordia Motel, enjoying Internet (slow) and evening cookouts (fantastic) with great views of the Indus River. It is here that you begin to feel like you might be a climber and not a tourist as most every climber in the Karakorum stays there, chatting, sharing dreams and talking mountains.
Once they being the trek to their base camps, most teams will take 8 days hike up the Baltoro Glacier enjoying some spectacular views anywhere in the mountains.
At 26,362’/8035m. GII is often considered the most attainable of the Karakoram’s 8000ers. There have been about 340 summits of GI and 935 of GII. Karakorum Tours Pakistan has a small team of Americans and Spanish climbers in 2017.
The ‘Killer Mountain’ has a deadly reputation not only for climbers but also as the site of a the 2013 massacre at base camp where 10 people were savagely killed allegedly by terrorists. At 26,660’/8126m Nanga is know to be one of the more technical 8000ers. – some will say harder than K2 by some routes.
There have been around 360 summits including several in the 2016 winter leaving K2 as the only 8000er not summited in winter.
Minga Gyalje Sherpa was reported to have summited a few days ago with 8 people including with his Chinese member but now posts he thinks they missed the true summit. Pakistani climber, Ali Reza who reported summiting Nanga Parbat in 2005 was with them.
We were supposed to climb through left gulley from around 7400m but he led us through right gulley which made our climb harder and longer. Reaching at one ridge’s summit, he mentioned we reached the summit. But that place didn’t look like Summit which I had figured out to be snow and two snow bars. We didn’t agree him and climbed 2 other Summit points but still we didn’t find the place. By then we already climbed for 20 hours and it was already getting dark and our members were running out of oxygen. We tried to take advantage of full moon time but we couldn’t go further to another last summit point because of less oxygen and returned back. Once Ali told that is Summit, some of our sherpa and member took pictures. I am still in dilemma about our summit. Coming back to Base camp, our cooking team told we went higher than Summit which we laughed at them. Since we are doing 14 peaks, we prefer to get same summit pictures as others have done so my Chinese members and I plan to go back and check it again in future.
Mingma thru his company Dreamers Destination is doing the logistics for Vanessa O’Brien on K2 plus three Chinese, another American, two Icelanders, one Norwegian and one Singaporean who in total are attempting K2, Nanga Parbat, and Broad Peak.
BP is often concerned a warm-up for K2 but that grossly understates the difficulty of this 26,414’/8051m peak. About 415 people have summited Broad.
Spanish climber Oscar Cadiach is registered for Broad hoping to complete in summit of all the 8000ers. Furtenbach Adventures is attempting both BP and K2.
A Busy Summer in Pakistan
Best of luck to all this summer. Hoping the winds are not like they were on Everest last month and the K2 climbers nab a summit of two.
Memories are Everything