K2 2021: Interview with Graham Zimmerman – West Ridge

This summer K2 will see a rare event, an attempt on the fully unclimbed West Ridge. Canadian Ian Welsted and American Graham Zimmerman will make an alpine attempt with no oxygen. While the route has been partially climbed three times, the final few hundred meters have never been completed for various reasons. They leave for Pakistan on June 17. After an extensive acclimatization program which may include climbing the 8000er Broad Peak, they hope to summit near the end of July.

Ian and Graham have a long impressive history of difficult technical climbs. Graham has climbed the 7000-meters peaks including:

  • Southwest Ridge of K6 West (7040m), Pakistani Karakoram
  • North ridge of Changi tower (6500m), Pakistani Karakoram
  • Northeast buttress of Mt. Laurens, Alaska
  • Southeast Face of Link Sar (7041m), Pakistani Karakoram.

Graham told me:

The Karakoram is the mountain range that I find most inspiring. It is where I have seen some of my biggest success as an alpinist, and it is where I have learned some of my most important lessons.There is one peak in the Karakoram that literally stands above the rest, a peak that I have seen on the horizon from several different summits and has always attracted my attention, the majestic and steep 8611m Chogori, or K2.

Ian is a professional mountain guide in Banff, Canada. From the Canadian Alpine Club on Ian:


Ian is best known in climbing circles as one of only two Canadians to be awarded the Piolets D’or, for his first ascent of K6 West (7000m) in Pakistan. Born and raised in Brandon Manitoba Ian moved to Chamonix France at the age of 17. From this year in the mountains he returned to Canada to attend Ottawa University and McGill University where he studied economics and philosophy.

In his youth, Ian ski raced but was exposed to the full gamut of mountain pursuits in Chamonix. From skiing and snowboarding the backcountry powder of Nelson and Rogers Pass he moved to Canmore in 2005. Quickly integrating into the climbing community, he pursued waterfall ice climbing with 100 day winters before turning his attention to alpine first ascents. With this experience he began casting further afield and undertook expeditions to the Coast Range, Patagonia, Denali, to the Khumbu area of Nepal, and 3 trips to the Pakistani Karakoram. In 2016 Ian began the process of gaining ACMG certification so that he can share his experience gained over 25 years, and his love of the mountains.

I was able to get Graham for an extensive interview on the climb. We cover a lot of topics including:

  • His and Ian’s history (both Piolet d’Or winners)
  • The style of climbing
  • The route
  • And their plans on how to return from the summit
  • and more
K2 2021: Interview with Graham Zimmerman - West Ridge

Best of luck to Ian and Graham. Let’s chat when you get back.

Climb On!
Memories are Everything

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5 thoughts on “K2 2021: Interview with Graham Zimmerman – West Ridge

  1. Alan, your video interviews are the BEST. You are a natural on camera, and have the knowledge and experience to lead discussions that are insightful and fun. And so refreshing to hear from Zimmerman, a top-class climber with such a healthy philosophy and good judgement about extreme climbs. Best wishes to Zimmerman and Welsted!

  2. Fantastic! I don’t mind people climbing Everest with fixed ropes, Sherpa support, and bottled oxygen, but it’s not always inspiring to hear about. I really look forward to hearing how this will go. Thank you for your coverage, Alan!

  3. Thanks so much for responding and for the info. I love everything about your blog and coverage. I will never in my lifetime be able to climb any of the high mountains, but I love to live vicariously through all the climbers. So, thank you again for your amazing coverage and interviews.

  4. This may be a stupid question, but is there a post monsoon climbing season every year on Everest? And, do you cover that as well? I’ve been loving following the climbing season, sad it’s over. Thanks for your amazing coverage!

    1. Hi Ryan, Yes, there is a post-monsoon opportunity on Everest every year but not every year are teams there. That’s because most commercial teams use their resources on other 8000er in the Autumn – Manaslu, Cho Oyu, etc and focus on Everest in the Spring. Also, the season is pressured by approaching winter with shorter and colder days compared to warmer and longer ones in the Spring. I do cover anyone who is there. We are approaching K2 season now and I’ll cover it as well.

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