Big winds and extremely cold temperatures have everyone at Base Camp just trying to survive.
Many of the clients have been to C1, a few to C2. Thus far the highpoint for anyone is 7050-meters/23,130-feet just below traditional Camp 3. The long term weather forecast calms for low winds only one day in the next ten, Sunday. Wind chills at 23,000-feet/7,000-meters hover around -50 to -60F or about -48C
Welcome to winter on K2! It’s cold, it’s windy, it’s miserable. Seven Summits Treks reports that all their clients have spent at least one night at C1 at 6050-meters, or the lower “Japanese” Camp, at 5,700-meters, and a few at C2. It’s the same for the Nepali’s and Sherpas with Nim’s, Mingma’s, and Snorri’s teams. So that’s good news. But C1 is far, far away from the summit and everyone will need additional rotations, especially the climbers not using supplemental oxygen. It’s time to be patient. They may be in for a long wait.
What do you do in conditions like this? Well, thankfully, the organizers understand this situation, after all, it’s not dissimilar from summer, only colder. It’s extremely common to have long periods of poor climbing conditions on 8000-meter peaks, so the double-walled dining tent becomes the Town Hall. It has kerosine or LP gas-fueled heaters that bring the temp up to bearable, but the key is to get close to it, especially for your toes. The cooks do a fantastic job of providing hot water for drinks, and the meals come regularly.
They pass the time chatting, reading, playing cards or chess, or try to get in an extra nap. Most teams have access to the Internet through satellite modems from Thuraya or Immarsat. The organizer usually buys “unlimited” plans and people connect their phones or other devices via WiFi – even from their tents. But few people stay in the personal sleeping tent, too cold and a bit lonely. This is a tough time and brings into focus why a person has chosen to take on this challenge. Some will say “enough” and end their effort.
There are four main teams on K2 this winter:
- Mingma Gyalje Sherpa: 3 people, all Sherpas
- Nims Purja : Nims plus six Nepalis/Sherpas in support, One client looking to experience BC and perhaps C1
- John Snorri Sigurjonsson with Muhammad Ali Sadpara and son: a three-person independent team
- Seven Summits Trek’s (SST) 49 person commercial team with over 22 clients with various experience on 8000-meter winter climbs and 27 Sherpas in support.
I spoke with Karrar Haidri, Secretary of the Alpine Club of Pakistan and he positioned this effort from his viewpoint:
Most of the climbers are aiming for a no-O2 summit. The 8,611 metre-high K2 is the only peak that has never been conquered in the winter season, and has become one of the biggest challenges for veteran climbers. Summit options that are already scarce in the winter drop to nearly nothing if climbing without supplemental oxygen is not an option. The international expedition included climbers from Britain, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium and Bulgaria besides scores of Nepali Sherpas who will accompany the climbers and assist them with fixing ropes along the route Most climbers have experience of climbing in the Himalayas. Iceland’s John Snorri had already attempted the peak last winter. I hope they would climb the peak with Pakistani ace Muhammad Ali Sadpara who has made the first winter ascent on Nanga Parbat. The winter ascent on K2 is one of the toughest climbs where climbers have to brave extreme weather conditions such as hurricane strong winds and below 20 to 30 degrees Celsius temperatures and fatigue.
Mingma G – At BC
Mingma Gyalje Sherpa is resting at BC. He and his small Sherpa-only team have reached 7000-meters, roughly at the top of the Black Pyramid.
Nim’s – At BC – Cold!
Nims Purja and Co’s are also at BC waiting for the next good weather window. Nims teams consist of Mingma David, Dawa Temba Sherpa, Pemchhiri Sherpa, Gelje Sherpa, Mingma Tenzi Sherpa, and Sandro Gromen-Hayes. His high has been 7000-meters. He posted:
We are at basecamp of K2 at 5200 metres in elevation . The conditions right now is not very pleasant and it’s expected to get even worse for next few days with the temperatures upto minus -50 degrees Celsius . But we are still on the internet and able to update the world on our progress thanks to InmarsatGlobal and their BGAN unit
Snorri – At BC
Seven Summits Treks: All at BC
Seven Summits Trek’s commercial team has regrouped at K2 Base Camp. They suggest a summit bid after January 14, 2021. The leader of the SSST team, Dawa Sherpa posted this update on Wednesday, January 6, 2021:
Bad weather in base camp, but satisfied, we got our first acclimatization round on the mountain. All members spent 2-3 nights on the mountain and are now waiting for the next opportunity to go up.
Tamara Lunger gave us this update from her last rotation:
It’s all different here at K2 compared to the summer of 2014! Alex and I returned to Base Camp after 2 nights on the mountain, one night at the Japanese Camp, at about 5800 m. and one at Camp 1, more or less at 6100 m., right before a few days of nasty weather.
From what I see and hear, I understand that the key thing to be able to summit K2 without oxygen will be a good acclimatization. So let’s get it right. K2 with its power won’t make it easy for us. At the top it is always so windy! I imagine it will be the hardest thing I’ll ever do!
This moment of my life makes me discover every day a new strength inside me and I feel very confident and smiling, even if the conditions here, between cold and wind, are not the easiest. Being so close to nature so strong gives me equally strong feelings!
Broad Peak – En Route
Manaslu – En Route
Simone Moro, Alex Txikon, and Iñaki Alvarez have left Kathmandu for their winter attempt of Manaslu. They anticipate arriving at Base Camp around January 11, 2021. Tenji Sherpa and Vinayak Jaya Malla, both Nepali internationally certified mountain guides (IFMGA) are also on Manaslu. Currently, they are back in Samagaun resting after doing acclimatization hikes in the area.
Memories are Everything