It is business as usual in the Karakorum. The weather is driving some teams crazy creating stop/start summits pushes on Broad Peak and the Gasherbrum while those on K2 seem to be taking their time to acclimatize.
Broad Peak: Stalled … Again
Òscar Cadiach stopped his attempt over the weekend due to deep snow above C3. They reported great weather but the deep snow and avalanche danger was too much. Another weather front is moving in thus Oscar will wait until 18 June to try again.
Grace McDonald also on Broad Peak posted a nice update in Instagram on Sunday that she is moving over to K2 given the poor conditions on BP.
So after days of snow and nasty weather that contradicted all reports, this was Broad Peak last night. There are at least 7 people heading for that summit now. Fingers crossed – perfect weather but DEEP snow. The number is down from the army of 20 I joined two days ago. We all split up yesterday. When my team retreating from C3 over avy concerns and a pile of new snow I decided to make it my final acclimatization rotation and returned to BC the next day. Some did a spin up to C3 and back and some stayed in C2. I know people are kicking themselves BUT we all have our own risk profiles and for most this just felt too risky. If this group of 7 does summit there will be a new member in the 14 x 8000er club and that’s worth celebrating. I’ve always said luck has a lot to do with summiting in Pakistan and I so enjoyed my last spin up the the mountain that I can hardly feel disappointed. So – I’m off to K2 in a couple days. We’re leaving the door open for one more shot at Broad Peak but later in the season.
Lucas Furtenbach of Furtenbach Adventures also stopped their summit plans for the moment. They are planning to try K2 do may move over as well. Kari Kobler & Partner is there as well.
K2: Climbers Acclimatizing
Climbers on K2 are at the lower camps acclimatizing.
The commercial team run by Russell Brice, Himex , on the Česen Route aka Basque Route, has not posted any recent updates.
Slovenian Davo Karnicar, who wanted to ski a direct line i.e. without stopping, from the summit of K2 has abandoned his effort due to a back injury. He also is reported to have said the key section of the South Face was currently snow-free. That section is extremely rocky and does not hold snow well.
Gasherbrum I/II Aborted Sumits
Karakorum Tours Pakistan has a small team of Americans and Spanish climbers. Last report had Juan Vallejo, Mikel Zabalza and Alberto Inurrategi had turned back from a summit attempt due to deep snow above Camp 2 on GI. They are planning a traverse from GI to GII
Nanga Parbat Summits
Kim Hongbin and Lakpa Sherpa summited on 7 July after taking nine days. They are reported by Altitude Pakistan to be safely made it back to Base Camp. Note that NB is relatively far away from GI/II, Broad peak and K2 thus has quite different weather.
Alberto Zerain and Mariano Galvan Search Update
Please take the time to read a very informative and detailed report by Alex Găvan, co-initiator, coordinator of the technical part of the rescue and helicopter searcher of Alberto Zerain and Mariano Galvan on the Mazeno Ridge of Nanga Parbat-8125m, between June 26th to July 1st 2017.
One of the more interesting parts are the description of problems with rescue insurance and getting information from the home team for the search. This is one of the sections:
But here is not Europe, here is Pakistan, and there are certain and precise steps to be made when organizing such an undertaking. There is only one company to do it, a monopoly, the military controlled Askari Aviation. And even if you have one of the best rescue insurance policies in the world, like I do (mine is done with the Global Rescue and it gets me covered up USD 500 000), you still have to deposit in advance via bank transfer 15,000 USD, money that you will get back, minus a service fee, if nothing bad happens. They got duped in the past by insurance companies or by people not getting them paid and now they will simply not fly otherwise. At the same time, it is their policy that a mission of such a magnitude needs and must be sustained by two helicopters flying in tandem.
This is good information for anyone climbing in Pakistan. As Gavan notes, the cash requirements alone are drastically different than in Europe or Nepal. And on the search itself:
Finally, on July 1st, the weather was crystal clear and I was picked up by the helicopter from the basecamp at 6 o’clock sharp. We soon reached the given GPS point and saw on that place precisely significant evidence of a massive slab avalanche: the fracture line, much debris and more disturbing, Alberto and Mariano’s tracks abruptly ending on one part of the fracture line and not showing up again in any other place. Other that this, absolutely nothing to be seen out of them.
We went back to refuel and in the meantime I consulted with Alberto’s wife and decided for one more search flight. Also, in a pretty heated conversation in Spain I found out more information in five minutes than in all those days when I was continuously asking for more information. According to the Racetracker device, Alberto and Marino went just uphill the Mazeno, had no return tracks showing the intention of an early retreat from the climb, seemed they never reached the Mazeno Peak (on the contrary they were pretty far from doing that) and on their last known position the GPS emitted signal from the same spot for more than ten hours before it stopped.
In my mind everything got clearer and clearer. We extensively again searched this area, looked up the open crevasses, searched the nearby valleys, searched the Mazeno up to almost 7400m, much farther than they could have realistically climb. The heli has one watch and when the indicator is on the red line the heli is going to crash. For parts of the flight, we were flying on the yellow line that is just under the red one, the impossible line. That far we went in our search.
The pilots Abid and Azar, together with their copilots were truly amazing professionals. It was not just another job for them, I felt them really engaged in finding Alberto and Mariano. They went wherever I suggested them to and at the same time the coming up with their own well useful new ideas. Still nothing.
I have climbed in the Karakorum twice and found both times dramatically different than in any other part of the world.
The mountain scenery is stunningly beautiful. I found the people exceptionally friendly and welcoming.
However, the terrain is steep, difficult and demanding. The weather is unpredictable and the snow is simply dangerous.
The logistics, while solid, remains basic compared to other large peaks around the world. This is not due to the skills of the companies but rather the long distances between “civilization” and the base camps. Simply put, it is challenging and hard.
To climb in the Karakorum is to accept that rescue is rare, support is tender at best and the mountains are unforgiving.
Best of luck to all as this season continues.
Memories are Everything