Karakorum Weekly Recap: GI, GII Successes, K2 Likely Over

8000ers K2
K2's infamous Bottleneck. "I’ve been waiting to see if the real thing lives up to almost 30 years of reading about it," says Adrian Ballinger, who took the photo. "It does."

This has been “The Week” in the Karakorum: the brief core period when everyone is hurrying toward the summits of K2, Gasherbrum I and Gasherbrum II. Although the weather has been exceptionally good, conditions on some upper sections have created mixed results. Climbers on Gasherbrum II were successful, but deep snow and avalanche risk foiled a record number of aspirants on K2.

It’s also been a week of records. Sergi Mingote bagged his sixth 8000’er within a year, and Nirmal Purja has seemingly hit nine (and counting), although secrecy and poor detail somewhat detract from his amazing achievement.

Gasherbrum I

In a 13-hour marathon, Csaba Varga summited Hidden Peak today. Photos by Kalifa

While most climbers have focused on either K2 and Gasherbrum II, Csaba Varga of Hungary has just fought his way up Hidden Peak in 13 hours from Camp 3 to summit. His outfitter, Kalifa, reports that he returned to Camp 3 for the night and will continue down to Base Camp tomorrow. Details to come about the others who accompanied him.

Gasherbrum II: Urubko, Skatov and –- yes — Nims

Meanwhile, Atanas Skatov of Bulgaria reached the top of Gasherbrum II yesterday, on his ninth 8000’er. He is now back in Base Camp. Denis Urubko completed his acclimatization by summiting and returning at an amazing speed, according to local outfitters.

The biggest curiosity remains Nirmal (Nims) Purja. Sergi Mingote wrote two days ago that Purja and his Sherpas were poised to to join their summit push. While Purja’s own social media maintained an uncharacteristic silence, The Himalayan Times revealed that Purja summited both Gasherbrum II (as expected) and Hidden Peak (Gasherbrum I) on July 15!

Sergi Mingote himself has climbed six summits in just over a year, but this remarkable accomplishment pales next to Purja chain-climbing nine 8000’ers in 2019. The hyperactive Purja is now heading for Broad Peak and K2. Mingote himself called off his climb of Hidden Peak earlier this week.

Label-festooned Nirmal Purja on what looks like a summit. Photo: Facebook

After worldwide media picked up the news, Purja’s PR team turned from idle to full throttle. They posted a long list of epic quotes and heroic adjectives, two self-portraits and these details: “Summited Gasherbrum I (8,080m) and Gasherbrum II (8,035m) within three days after covering eight days trekking from Nanga Parbat in just three days.” They also promised that details will follow soon. This will hopefully include valid summit pictures and the names of the Sherpas with him.

K2: All over?

On K2, climbers have returned down to Base Camp. Many are packing to leave. What was supposed to have been a massive summit wave amounted to nothing.

“We are almost sure not to make another attempt because of too much snow above the Bottleneck,” said Mingma Sherpa. “If it was just deep snow, then we could still try, but given the high avalanche risk, it’s best not to put anyone’s life in danger.”

Fredrik Sträng of Sweden expressed his turmoil on Facebook:

”It was my fourth attempt on K2 without supplemental O2: 12 years of training, 6 months on the mountain overall, unprecedented favourable weather, no wind on July 18’s summit attempt, a full moon lit our way … and then waist to chest-deep snow on the last section — the traverse and the final 200m snow ramp – made it unpassable and furthermore dangerous. Several people got caught in small but destructive avalanches that could have sent them into oblivion but luckily stopped.”

He went on:

“We are all back down in BC now. Some are frustrated at having the best weather imaginable and still not making it, others are processing the experience of surviving an avalanche. I’m trying to recover from a devilish viral infection that simply won’t let go.”

“Yeah, not everything on Facebook is … pretty, polished and Photoshopped,” said Fredrik Sträng about his middle-of-the-night selfie at 8,000m.

At least, some participants enjoyed an exciting descent. Paraglider Max Berger jumped  from the Shoulder and took some impressive footage through his helmet cam. Watch it here:

No risk of avalanches for Max Berger on his descent from K2.

So, is it all over on K2? Not entirely. A handful of cautious ones, who did not deplete themselves prematurely, still have a faint chance. No-O2 climbers Adrian Ballinger, Esteban Mena, Carla Perez, Namgye Sherpa and Pemba Geljen renounced the crowded summit bid earlier this week because they felt they needed further acclimatization.

Now, they have time, fixed ropes, set camps and fewer people to deal with. “I can’t wait to get back up there,” said Adrian Ballinger.

Adrian Ballinger clowns around. Photo: Adrian Ballinger’s Facebook page

Pakistan 7,000’ers

The worldwide climbing community is starting to appreciate the amazing feat achieved by first-class climbers Kazuya Hiraide and Kenro Nakajima on Pakistan’s Rakaposhi (7,788m). Thomas Huber and Simon Gietl are currently in the Choktoi Valley, perhaps targeting 7,145m Latok I, which they attempted last year. Huber is circumspect about their exact plans, and at 52, he has no interest in climbing with one eye on his Instagram likes, so don’t expect to hear from them until they finish.

This week, promising young climber Janez Svoljsak of Slovenia died in his tent on an expedition to 6,651m Tahu Rutum. He was 25.

Finally, speaking of young climbers, 10-year-old Selena Khawaja became the youngest person ever to summit Spantik (7,027m), in northern Pakistan. Spantik is considered technically easy, but easy or not, she is thought to be the youngest ever to climb a 7,000m peak. Selena climbed with her father, Yousaf Khawaja.

Spantik is only the first notable peak in her training. Broad Peak is next on the list, followed in theory by Everest in 2020. This would make her, at 11, the youngest Everest summiter. Her biggest challenge may be getting around the regulations: The current youngest (Jordan Romero, 13) raised such a controversy that Nepal and China banned climbers less than 16 years old from the flanks of Everest.

Pint-sized Selena Khawaja, 10, summited Spantik earlier this week (archive photo, shot during a previous climb)

Related story:

K2 Summit Push Aborted


About the Author

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides

Senior journalist, published author and communication consultant. Specialized on high-altitude mountaineering, with an interest for everything around the mountains: from economics to geopolitics. After five years exploring distant professional ranges, I returned to ExWeb BC in 2018. Feeling right at home since then!

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1 year ago

How could Mingote’s accomplishments “pale” in front of Nirmal’s ones? Mingote climbs without o2, no helicopters moving him back and forth, and with no sherpa team breaking trail. Nirmal is extraordinary but Mingote is superhuman…

Observing and Reading
Observing and Reading
1 year ago

Yes. No doubt, for 2019 expeditions, Mingote is the crown winner, above any Lhotse efforts. His story, start to finish, is remarkable. Even in the Karakoram Nimsdai refers to Mingote’s “trail blazing” in lower camps. Mingote is fierce and strong. The Kakakoram story for 2019 still has much to reveal. Nims’ team, including 5 sherpas, arriving at Nanga Parbat base camp, was reported in several leading mountain news journalism reports. Then it was retracted, or deleted, or edited. I found this “odd”. I have saved screen prints of the original reporting with the reports of Nims’ team at Nanga base… Read more »

Not an Everest climber
Not an Everest climber
1 year ago

Great to see the commercial clowns get defeated on K2. This will sort out the big boys/girls from the social media crazed “climbers”.


keeping fingers crossed for Carlita and Topo! Ecuador is very proud of you!

1 year ago

Angela, I find it strange you are reporting the ‘success’ of the young woman on Spantik when that is clearly not a photo from the summit of Spantik. And yet you imply doubt about Nims on G1 & G2?

Nims may be a boastful egomaniac, but I don’t think anyone has any doubt that he has the ability to summit fixed normal routes with Sherpa helpers! 🙂

PS. That is a photo of Ballinger, not Mena.