K2 2017 Season Coverage: Missing Climbers, Cheating Climbers, Weather Windows

Nanga Parbat

The Karakorum season has begun in earnest with teams preparing to fix the route on K2 and those on Broad Peak waiting for the weather window to firm up before they attempt the summit. Also, there are missing climbing on two peaks: Nanga Parbat and Elbrus plus discord at base camps.

Missing Climbers


An American climber attempting Russia’s Mt. Elbrus, one of the 7 Summits, is missing. Steven Beare, a police officer, Army veteran and Colorado National Guardsman, lives in Colorado and left for the summit on  June 14 alone.  He was due back June 16, but never checked in. Bad weather forced other teams to turn back that day and reported seeing Beare alone climbing toward the summit in close to whiteout conditions.

An exhaustive search has been underway the past few days including by aircraft with no success. It is reported today that the formal search has ended. Canadian Don Bowie, participated in the effort posted this image of GPS coordinates for one day of helicopter flight patterns over Mt. Elbrus plotted on Google Earth:

Nanga Parbat

Meanwhile on Nanga Parbat, the Spanish-Argentinian team of Alberto Zerain and Mariano Galvan have been missing since June 24th when their GPS tracker went silent. They were climbing the long and dangerous Mazeno Ridge in alpine style. Helicopters teams search the route with no success. Bad weather has stopped the efforts as of this post.

Desnivle reports the details but also notes that in 2012 Rick Allen and Sandy Allan who performed the first ascent of the Mazeno Ridge on Nanga Parbat spent 18 days on the route and experienced communication problems. They cover it in this article.

The Mazeno Ridge of Nanga Parbat. The giant Rupal Face is on the right. by Doug Scott.
The Mazeno Ridge of Nanga Parbat. The giant Rupal Face is on the right. by Doug Scott.


K2 routes
K2 Routes: Abruzzi and Česen

It looks like K2 Base Camp is full and there will be activity on both of the major routes totalling around 82 climbers.

Minga Gyalje Sherpa thru his company Dreamers Destination reports there are 39 climbers on the Abruzzi Route: 18 foreigners, 13 Nepalese, 8 Pakistani and 41 on the Sechen Route: 20 foreigners, 3 Nepalese, 9 Pakistani.

The commercial team run by Russell Brice, Himex, arrived at K2 Base Camp yesterday. Brice posted this update:

This morning we had a traditional Sherpa Puja for the 4 Sherpa who are with us with the local High Altitude Porters (HAP) who are the local equivalent also sitting in. One of the very interesting aspects of operating expeditions in these remote countries is the close contact that we have to various religions. It is also very interesting to see just how much respect and understanding there is between these people, a fine example to others. This was followed by a trip to Crampon Point (CP) where our Sherpa & HAP had established a route the day before. This point is marked by one solitary tent for storage of gear. Hopefully tomorrow we will start work on the hill in earnest by starting the rope fixing to C1. However the forecast is not that favorable so we will have to see what happens in the morning tomorrow.

Camp 3 through a telescope from K2 Base Camp
Camp 3 on Abruzzi route in 2014 through a telescope from K2 Base Camp. By Alan Arnette

He also noted that he could see their tents at Camp 2, approximately 22,000 feet, using a telescope from base camp. He is hoping that some of their gear can be retrieved.

Last year, an avalanche on 23 July destroyed tents, buried fixed ropes and swept way the cache of food and oxygen bottles at Camp 3 on the Abruzzi. Most climbers were 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.

K2 is well known for avalanches and Camp 2 on the Abruzzi is home to shredded tents from the hurricane winds as shown in my photo to the right.

Brice was a bit surprised to see tents still there. He is on the Česen Route aka Basque Route, I  believe. He added to his update:

However we are very keen to get to C2 where much to my amazement I can still see 4 of our tents standing from 2015. With luck we just might find a considerable amount of equipment that we lost at that time, including oxygen, rope, and cooking equipment which will all save us a considerable number of loads that have to be carried from BC. Also various members have personal equipment and sleeping bags there, but we are dubious as to whether these will be useable or not. Time will tell. But at least members are excited that they might be reunited with some of their own gear.

The Swedish climber, Fredrik Sträng, is back on K2 this year. He was on K2 in 2008 when 11 people were killed in a variety of accidents and avalanches. He also played an instrumental role in the documentary film, The Summit.

Gasherbrum I/II

At 26,362’/8035m. GII is often considered the most attainable of the Karakoram 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. Last report had Juan Vallejo, Mikel Zabalza and Alberto Inurrategi at 6400 meters.

Nanga Parbat

At 26,660’/8126m Nanga is known 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. An attempt is scheduled for this upcoming winter by the Poles

According to the website Altitude Pakistan,  Korean Kim HongBin on the Kinshofer route has hit poor conditions stalling his progress.

Broad Peak 26,414’/8051m

The Austrian team lead by Lucas Furtenbach reports the route is in to Camp 3 and they are awaiting a good weather window. Spanish climber Oscar Cadiach is also there as is Canadian Grace McDonald.  Kari Kobler’s team has slept at Camp 2 and is ready to summit.

Furtenbach posted:

All team members back in basecamp. Acclimatization completed, route fixed to C3 by our sherpas. Now rest until a good weather window opens for a summit push. Strong team

Climbers “Cheating”

Finally, there are a lot of comments on climbers arriving at both Broad Peak and K2 assuming they can use other team’s ropes, and in some cases not willing to contribute money, supplies or labor to the route fixing effort.

This is quite common in the Karakorum. Each year this same story emerges. You can climb in Pakistan fairly inexpensively, well under $5K if you don’t use oxygen, and use other people’s tents and ropes. But clearly this is not in good style not to mention the animosity it creates at base camp.

Minga Gyalje Sherpa  pointed out the offenders from his perspective along with an apocalyptic prediction of a 2008 repeat:

On Abruzzi, I am working in coordination with Furtenbach Adventure and I have got 6000m ropes. Furtenbach Adventure will fix ropes on Broad Peak and we will fix on K2. Later on we will use their rope on Broad Peak and they will use our ropes on K2. Here are other teams on Abruzzi.

  • Karakoram Tour Pakistan: 2 Mexican+2 Pakistani- no ropes
  • Summit Karakoram:1 Mongolian+2 Pakistani-no ropes
  • Karakoram Expedition: 1 Swedish+1 Pakistani- no ropes

If this is how climbers come on K2 then we can expect Year 2008 again on K2.

Lucas Furtenbach on Broad Peak made the same observation:

Sad to say that not all other expeditions on the mountain agree to share work and costs for route fixing. It is a common rule and standard in the Himalayas and Karakoram. We have to deal with big groups that simply refuse without reason and independent climbers that claim to climb “alpine style” and refuse to share costs or work. But all of them are happy to use our fixed line. Route fixing on a 8000m peak is expensive and hard and dangerous work.

Don’t want to think about what else these guys use from other teams…

Imagine this happening on Everest.

This is not respectful and fair climbing. It is cheating.

By the way, this same behavior happens on Everest each year as well on other mountains where there are large teams. There are no “regulations” about this and governments that issue permits don’t ask if you have ropes or details of your plan.

But is has become a strategy for some logistics companies and independent clibmers to reach base camp a week or two after the large teams knowing they will have fixed the ropes to the high camps and kicked in the boot path. They can simply follow the rope, and the steps, making their climb significantly easier.

Sadly if they summit, the return home crowing about their “unsupported” summit to the admiration from those who don’t know better.

Independent climbers are fine, obviously, as are unsupported. In fact they are to be admired from some perspectives.

But if they arrive unprepared, not self sufficient they are neither independent nor unsupported. If they refuse to contribute to the route fixing effort and use other people’s work without contribution, then they deserve the ire they provoke.

Bad style, bad form, bad “climbers”.

Early Summits?

There is talk of getting the route fixed to Camp 4 on K2 by early July, this would be incredibly early. But there are two strong teams there with Himex and Dreamers Destination so it is not out of the question.

But anyone who has followed K2, knows the weather is the wildcard, so we can fully expect a big front to move in, dumping a lot of snow along with high winds which usually cover the existing ropes, and delays progress.

K2 and Broad are usually summited in late July. We will see how this season unfolds.

Climb On!
Memories are Everything

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15 thoughts on “K2 2017 Season Coverage: Missing Climbers, Cheating Climbers, Weather Windows

  1. Dear Alan, so kind you do alot home work and keep people updated about various adventure activities across the world,specificially, Himalaya’s and karakorum,

    i just wanted to share here you posted Mingma post of Facebook, you can understand there are different services climbers seek while attempting different mountains, be its Nepal,tibet or Pakistan, there is full Board service and Base camp service, in full board service outfitters provide base camp plus high altitude service that includes, food,oxygen tanks,ropes and other hardware. in base camp service the company only provides base camp service and is not responsible for member activities above base camp and its responsibility of the climber to arrange all required material,equipment for the climb, hence blaming outfitters those who are only for base camp service is NOT CORRET !THIS is a damage to the business without cross check

    Our company M/s Karakorum Expeditions Pvt Ltd is only responsible for our member base camp service and we have nothing with his high altitude activities, he should be asked for the rope and other equipment not our company! above base camp …since we didn’t take the responsibility .. we are only responsible for his base camp service! this is causing serious dent to our reputation!

    thank you

    1. I agree it is not the logistics company at fault but rather the individual climber.

      Anyone can sign up for any level of service and tell the logistics company what they plan but then not follow thru, thus my comments are directed towards the climbers not paying their share.

  2. > It is also very interesting to see just how much respect and understanding there is between these people,

    As someone from Pakistan, it’s very heartening to see comments like this.

  3. Thanks Alan for covering this. It is not only poor style, it is in fact a big issue that will be reported to the officials in Pakistan (Pakistan Sports Board in government and Alpine Club of Pakistan). This has to change.

    We are still open for climbers and teams on Broad Peak that change their mind now after this article.

    Come to our basecamp, have an italian coffee and pay your share if you are using our fixed rope.

    We also asked the LO’s to intervene in this regard. If nothing happens we will follow Mingma’s example and post all teams by names that came unprepared and are refusing to contribute money, equipment or labor.

    Summitclimb contributed money spontaneously from the beginning. The only team so far. Thanks!

  4. Quick question, does phurba Tashi still roll with russel b? MR Tashi is the best of the best in my book true climber as well as a Hero

  5. Great post Alan! I totally think these people are crazy but it sure is fun to see those stunning views from the pictures they take!! This mountain, The K2 is truly the real deal! Everest sure looks pedestrian compared! 800 feet can’t make it the top prize, true climbers take the k2 on! Thanks again Alan..Jv:)

      1. No Doubt, ment no disrespect, i as a spectator can see that from the very first steps k2 is just straight up and down top to bottom and would think that you would absolutely have to be a very well trained climber to attempt it. Death has to be on the mind ever so:/ The achievement of that summit is incredible and your part of a group under 400 I believe, that have done it since 1954? I know conditions are a factor but you have to have some serious cahones?

  6. Hello Alan …I have been following your reports from climbing Everest to now and the previews years and what I have notice is climbers with so bad ethics unbelievable so is the communication in between teams and that is not becose language barrier but becose arrogance and unrealistic expectation. How you are dealing with this issues when you ave to focus on climbing 28.000 ft mountain…?

    1. Thanks for following for so many years. The key to climbing is to take care of yourself and your team and ignore all the distractions. There are always characters on the mountains, some are fun, some are distracting but it is best to stay focused on your own climb.

  7. Gosh that really sounds like bad form to deliberately arrive late so that ropes are already there and claim to climb unsupported. In my opinion, they should named and shamed.

  8. Are they “independent clibmers” or “bad “climbers””.
    Inquiring minds want to know.

    1. as I said Independent is to be admired, but to freeload is “bad” thus “bad clibmers” as in style and ethics … of course imho 🙂

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