K2 2023 Coverage: 1 death, Many Turned Back, Many Summited

K2 Summit 2014 © www.alanarnette.com

This is a developing story.

It was a difficult night and day on July 27, 2023, on K2. There is at least one reported death. Several teams pushed through, while others felt it was a death trap to summit, and some turned back. A few will try again as the inventory of aspirants clears out. K2 lived up to her reputation. Around seventy people summited.

A Pakistani High Altitude Climber, Mohammad Hassan, died in a slab avalanche (?), some say it was a serac release near the Bottleneck. Efforts to revive him failed. My condolences to his family.

Kristin Harila’s, 37, home team, confirmed that she and Tenjen (Lama) Sherpa summited their last 8000er, getting all fourteen in three months and 1 day (92 days.) Nima Rinji Sherpa climbed with them on this mountain. They are part of an international commercial team from Seven Summits Treks.

I will gladly go on the record to congratulate them on a phenomenal physical, mental and logistical achievement. While comparable to recent summit collectors who used identical techniques, it still does not compare with days of old when climbers walked between peaks and used limited support and oxygen. AND that takes nothing away from their achievement, as it was amazing. I applaud their achievement and simply say it was fast. Well done by all involved.

Other teams reporting summits included Imagine Nepal with “four clients, four sherpas, and a partner from Pakistan,” 8K Expeditions with forty, Seven Summits Treks with twenty, 7 Summit Club with several, and Pioneer Adventure with one. There were a reported 150 to 180 climbers on K2 today, with another 100 positioned lower for the next push. Many teams began their summit push from Camp 3 and not the traditional Camp 4 making for a  long er summit push:

There are multiple camps depending on conditions.

  • Base Camp: 17,500ft/5334m
  • Advanced Base Camp: 18,650ft/5650m
  • Camp 1: 19,965’/6050m
  • Camp 2: 22,110’/6700m
  • Camp 3: 23,760’/7200m
  • Camp 4: 25,080’/7600m
  • Summit: 28,251”/8611m

Nima Rinji Sherpa from Makalu, Sankhuwasabha, at age 17 years and 99 days, became the youngest person to summit K2. He’s knocking them off, setting an age record. He now has five 8000ers. Female Sherpa, Lhakpa Sherpa, 49, who lives in the US, finally got her K2 summit. She holds the female Everest record at ten summits.

Some teams have turned back because of deep, unconsolidated snow around the Bottleneck, creating dangerous climbing conditions. Furtenbach and Madison both turned back, feeling the upper mountain was too dangerous. I feared slab avalanches based on the previous heavy snowfall and not giving the mountain time to settle, but obviously, these teams all felt the pressure of threading this weather window.

Furtenbach gave this complete update:

Due to the recent snowfall on the upper reaches of K2, our team has made a responsible decision to abort their summit push. The current situation on the mountain was not compatible with our safety standards. In the Bottleneck, unfortunately, a climber of another expedition team died by a serac. The safety of our customers, guides and sherpas is top priority. Despite the team’s strong determination to reach K2’s summit, circumstances were not in their favor. Nevertheless, we are immensely grateful that our team is safe, and we eagerly await their return to base camp, which is expected later today. Once in Basecamp we will re-evaluate the situation and give you an update as soon as possible.
And Garrett Madison of Madison Mountaineering reported on his team:

With the recent snow on the upper reaches of K2, our team has made the prudent decision to abort their summit push. While ascending from Camp 3, the team experienced deep snow that accumulated in the days prior and had not fully consolidated. While the whole team made a strong effort to reach  K2‘s summit, it was not meant to be. We are so thankful that our team is safe and look forward to receiving them back into base camp soon. The team is making their descent now and is expected to arrive back in base camp later today. We are very proud of the entire teams effort and special thanks to our Sherpa team who played an integral role in the expedition, fixing lines above Camp 3 and to the summit. Congratulations to Siddhi Ghising and Ahmed Hussain who are both members of our rope-fixing team and did reach K2‘s summit at 8611m/28,251ft!

Another high-profile person to turn back was American Lucy Westlake. Her team noted:

Due to unstable weather conditions and heavy snowfall and avalanches on the upper reaches of K2 above C3, One of our expedition member @Lucy Westlake who was on a mission to become the youngest female person to summit Everest and K2 along with her climbing partner @Mingma Sherpa 16*Everest Summiteers have to withdraw their mission from the elevation of 7800m The Bottleneck

Thus far, we are seeing an identical risk profile we saw last Autumn on Manaslu. The Western operators feel the conditions are too dangerous for their clients, while the Nepali operators push through. We’ll see how this story ends in a few days.

Personal Note

Alan Arnette on K2 summit with picture of Ida Arnette on July 27, 2014.

On a personal note, as I watched the K2 climbers fight to summit this morning, and it brought back vivid memories of my own struggles on this peak on my 58th birthday, July 27, 2014. Unbeknownst to me, fluids were building in my lungs, causing me to gasp for air with each tortured step. While I can’t defend or explain my thoughts, I never considered turning back.

When I did summit along with Kami, Kami Rita, Fur Kancha, Matt and Garrett, tears flowed as I honored Ida Arnette and all those with Alzheimer’s, but also for the hope that my efforts might encourage someone to find their passion, their purpose and pursue it with grit and vigor.
On the summit, I called my climbing partner, Jim Davidson, who told me to “double-check everything” on the descent, prescient advice, as he could feel that I was in trouble. My difficult descent tested every skill I had developed on thirty-five earlier climbs. In the end, I returned home, relieved to be alive and grateful to all my followers who raised $70,000 for Alzheimer’s research. Thank you all then, now and in the future for your support.

Best of luck to all.

Climb On!
Memories are Everything

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2 thoughts on “K2 2023 Coverage: 1 death, Many Turned Back, Many Summited

  1. Hi Alan, I agree with you on mrs harila’s “fast climb” ie getting flown into each peak. 4 to 5 people Breaking trail in front of her. In my opinion, Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner’s North Pillar climb blows that whole feet out of the water! Thanks again for your amazing coverage!!! Happy Birthday as well.

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