Opinion: An Open Letter to Mountaineering Policy Decision Makers

An open letter to Mountaineering Policy Decision Makers,

After each season, pictures emerge showing trash left by climbers and long queues of climbers seeking their time on the summit. The public demands changes to protect the mountains. The operators announce clean-up campaigns and ask for donations. Countries respond with new rules. However, history shows these new rules are ghosts and are often ignored. There is time before the 2023 season to make significant changes. Please use this time to save your mountains and the tourism industry.

Going for 8000er Record: Kristin Harila all 14 in Six Months

A new trend in 8000-meter climbing is how many you can get in one trip and how fast. Norweigan Kristin Harila is on track to smash long-time records this year. Thus far, she has eleven of the fourteen, all with climbing Sherpas, Pasdawa Sherpa, and Dawa Ongju Sherpa, of 8K Expeditions. I had the opportunity to record this interview with her during a short respite back home in Norway.

The current record is 189 days between April 23 and October 29, 2019, by Nirmal Purja Pun Magar and is recognized by Guinness World Records. However, a study posted online notes it took Nirmal five years, four months, and 25 days to complete all 14, primarily due to their conclusion that he didn’t reach Manaslu’s true summit during his 2019 campaign and only did in the autumn of 2021. Kristin’s first summit of the project was Annapurna on April 28, 2022. She will need to finish by November 3, 2022, to get the speed record.

She is no stranger to mountaineering. In 2019, she became the fastest woman to climb Everest and Lhotse in a record 12 hours. The 36-year-old is from Vadso/Norway and is a former cross-country skier. Today, she claims her profession is as a mountaineer, runner, and skier.

Next up for the trio are Nepal’s Manaslu true summit, before trying Cho Oyu and Shishapangma. She prefers climbing both from the Tibet side, but as we know, the Chinese have closed Tibet for climbing due to COVID since 2000. They will have to get an exception to enter the country for their attempt. She tells me she will attempt Cho from Nepal if she cannot enter Tibet.

K2 2022: No O’s, Unsupported Summits on Broad Peak and K2 – Interview with Andreas Frydensberg and Eric Gilbertson

K2 had a record year this 2022 summer. Most of the summits were by Sherpas or Pakistani climbers helping their paying clients, but a handful were the rare type: no supplemental oxygen, no Sherpa support, and no commercial team.

Danish climber Andreas Ritzau Frydensberg with American Eric Gilbertson summited Broad Peak on July 18th and K2 on July 28th. On his website, Country Highpoints, Eric describes their Broad Peak, and K2 climbs in detail. They climbed unsupported, using Pakastani Alpine Adventure Guides for base camp services. So they climbed with no on-mountain support – no Sherpas to set up tents, cook food, or break trail. They also didn’t use supplemental oxygen.

Before getting to their story, I admit that 2022 caused me to lose some hope in the sport I admire. Too many inexperienced climbers, too much talk of records, most important only to the individual seeking it, and teams with too many clients supported but too many Sherpas. It just felt out of control. I’m thankful we had a relatively small number of deaths, but as I learn more, I see many rescues and near misses, so this was a season of luck.

In looking at what Eric and Andreas did, they gave me hope. I am excited to see younger climbers demonstrate creativity, excellent judgment, and impressive results, all in good style. It gave me hope for our sport, and I’m proud of them and several others who climbed similarly. Now, onto the interview.

This relaxed-paced interview with Eric and Andreas only days after they returned home to Seattle and Denmark, respectively.

Climb On!
Memories are Everything

K2 Summer 2022: Behind the Scenes Report

K2 Summit 2014 ©www.alanarnette.com

K2 climbers are back home, and some are writing detailed reports on their experience. One that caught my eye was from American Eric Gilbertson as he described his no O’s, unsupported summits on K2 and Broad Peak with Danish climber Andreas Ritzau Frydensberg.

Meanwhile, there have been a few more summits in the Karakorum, but the mountain conditions are getting dangerous each day as the temperatures warm and moisture moves in. But, somehow, climbers continue to roll the dice. I hope their luck keeps up.

Big Picture

One of the topics from this summer’s Karakorum season has been the number of support the client climbers have needed, given their experience, and now about trash left on K2 allegedly from the large commercial teams. With somewhere around 200 summits on K2 and many on the other Pakistani 8000ers, 2022 was a season of excess: permits, inexperience, trash, and, yes, summits.

I’ve written for years about inexperienced clients, but, honestly, I never thought I’d be writing about them en mass on K2. But as I keep saying, times are a changn’.

K2 Summer 2022: Chasing Records

Summits continue but mostly for the record seekers. The mainstream press has picked up on the K2 crowds. It’s Everest all over again. Let the hand wringing begin!

Big Picture

Without a doubt, the summer of 2022 will go down as when things changed in Pakistan’s Karakorum. Thus far, there are around 200 summits on K2, dwarfing the previous record year in 2018 of 62. Also, we saw at least ten women summit, also smashing any pretense of a “female curse” on K2. I estimate somewhere between 25 and 30 women have now summited K2.

We also saw multiple commercial teams use extensive Pakistan and Nepai support resources to fix lines, establish and stock camps with supplemental oxygen that allowed climbers, who in previous years would never have considered K2, not only to attempt it but summit, some without O’s.

I’m seeing many articles in the press about K2, quoting expedition leaders who talk about crowds, rockfall, dangerous conditions, too many people on the route at one time, and some now marketing other routes on K2 as safer. There is a reason the Abruzzi is the most used route on K2. But this generation of operators has a risk tolerance, they would say they are better climbers, which is different than the old timers, and in some cases, they have been correct. As I’ve said many times this season, times are a changin.

K2 Summer 2022: Weekend Update July 30, 2022 – A Summer of Summits

K2 Summit View into Pakistan. © www.alanarnette.com

And the summits keep going with many firsts, records, and races to the top thanks to this summer’s, and for that fact, this spring’s, unusually stable weather across the Himalayas. It’s not uncommon for climbers to have three, four, or even five, or more 8000er summits this year. Let’s run a few down with more to come before it’s all over.

Big Picture

The season is winding down. I think the action is over on Nanga Parbat. The snow conditions were getting too dangerous a couple of weeks ago, and several highly skilled and experienced climbers abandoned their efforts. On Gasherbrum II, there are a few climbers, mostly the record seekers, still to make attempts, the same for Gasherbrum I.

Several K2 climbers are moving to Broad Peak to attempt their double. And on K2, you never know for sure, but I think it will be quiet until winter when someone will try. Well over 90% of the K2 summits occur in July. Still, some seep into mid-August, and there have been a couple in October, but that was decades ago when the weather was much different.

Note, expect the same for Everest – a winter, no O’s, perhaps with a “solo” label even though attached to a commercial team for logistics. Life has become interesting, and I’m not sure in a good way.

This year, 2022, the weather has been good overall. Occasionally, heavy snow storms have offered challenges to teams, but on the whole, most people will not claim they didn’t summit because of bad weather. As of July 30, I estimate 190 K2 summits and three deaths or 1.6%. I have reached out to Pakistani Officials for an official count.

K2 Summer 2022: Deaths on Broad Peak and K2

Down Climbing K2 Alan

After what had been a relatively safe season in this summer’s Karakorum region, we see more deaths on K2 and Broad Peak.

CTV News Channel out of Montreal, Canada, reports that Canadian Richard Cartier, 60, and Australian Matt Eakin of Australia died on K2. They were part of a small team using Adventure Pakistan Treks and Expedition logistics.

K2 Summer 2022: Weekend Update July 24, 2022 – Summiting Like Never Before

K2 Traverse

Well, the K2 climbers pulled it off. Congratulations to the 150++ who summited and especially to the Sherpas who fixed the lines to the summit. The weather cooperated, and there were limited problems, albeit with one death and one K2 climber is currently missing. We are approaching 200 K2 summits.

Big Picture Summits Continue, Missing K2 Climber

Several media outlets report that Canadian Richard Cartier, 61, is missing while descending from a rotation to lower Camp 4. He was last seen between C2 and C1 by teammates. A search is underway. They had mentioned using the Cesen route but were on the Abruzzi when he disappeared.

At least 10 more K2 summits brought the total ever closer to 200. Summit Karakorum reports that Abid Asad Sadpara, the nephew of the late Ali Sadpara, who died on K2 last year, made the top with no O’s. Also, Paul Etherdge, Peter ? and Muhammad Hussain Pakista. Makalu Extreme team reports summits from French alpinists Pascal Claude France and Christophe Jean France with Pasang Lama and Pasang Dorjee Sherpa.

This has been a great year across all the 8000ers for female climbers. Adding to the K2 list is Spanish (Andalusian) climber Lina Quesada. She is joined by these female summiteers this season: Andorian Stefi Troguet, Taiwanese Grace Tseng, Chinese He Jing, Pakistanis Naila Kiani and Samina Baig, plus Iranian Afsaneh Hesamifard and UAE’s Saeed Almemari. Also, American Sarah Stratton made the top.