Himalaya, Karakorum: When Will We Climb Next?

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Nepali guides like Tashi Lakpa still hope for a shortened post-monsoon season. Photo: Seven Summit Treks

So far, 2020 has been a year to forget in mountaineering. After the failed attempts on winter Everest, the mountain recorded only spring 50 summits from the one Chinese expedition. With that team now back at home — and Everest wrapped in silence again — it’s time to wonder whether the next climbing season will be summer, fall or winter.

In normal years, climbers would now be en route to their Karakorum base camps. But the only Karakorum news these days speaks of cancellations and postponements. Pakistan’s government is trying to facilitate the bureaucracy for those still willing to go (online applications, open borders, low prices, etc.), but cases of infection are soaring in that country — 90,602 confirmed as of June 5. However, Prime Minister Imran Khan believes that, “the country cannot afford to return to lockdown.”

Lonely K2 awaits. Photo: Alex Txikon

Steffi Troguet from Andorra is postponing her expedition to Gasherbrum II until next year, she announced this week. Sergi Mingote, aiming for Gasherbrum I on his No-O2 14×8000 record quest, told ExplorersWeb that he has 99% given up by now. “All my climbing mates have dropped out, and I am waiting until the very last possible moment to step back, but my hopes are really scarce,” Mingote said.

The absence of climbers and trekkers will hit tourism-dependent Gilgit-Baltistan hardest. Some international climbers suggest that this is the time for a major clean-up operation. “The Karakorum needs it badly, and the locals could really use the money,” Alex Txikon said during an interview with ExplorersWeb.

The only hope for climbing lies in late summer-early autumn expeditions: Though not realistic for the Karakorum, it is doable for westernmost Nanga Parbat. Mingma G of Imagine Nepal, who climbed the mountain in October 2017, announced a new autumn attempt on Nanga, although he has already cancelled K2 and Broad Peak for 2020.

Akbar Syed of Lela Peak Expeditions said in an email to ExWeb that they are keeping open all offerings for Pakistan mountains, in the hope of an improvement in the pandemic situation. “Trekking groups can be arranged until the end of September, and we are also planning to launch an expedition to Nanga Parbat by the end of August,” he said.

September-October marks the end of the monsoon rains, which usually signals open season on Nepal’s 8,000’ers. This year, everything depends on the COVID-19 situation in Nepal. Currently, numbers are on the rise, with 2,912 cases and 13 fatalities as of June 5. Although not great, it’s not as bad as Pakistan’s figures, and Nepal still has time to flatten the curve before the climbing season starts.

“We are planning to launch teams on Everest, Manaslu, Dhaulagiri and Cho-Oyu, if the situation allows,” Tashi Lakpa of Seven Summit Treks told ExplorersWeb. Meanwhile, the company is focusing its efforts on bringing local communities food and supplies by truck and distributing them to those in need. “We are using our own business funds, but if anyone wants to support the expedition workers collective of Nepal during this pandemic, we will be happy to help them get in touch with the families most in need,” Lakpa said.

Tashi Lakpa at work distributing aid supplies. Photo: Seven Summit Treks

Sergi Mingote is ready to hop on a plane to Nepal at the last minute, if a chance arises: “I’d like to climb Makalu and Cho Oyu,” he told ExplorersWeb.

International outfitters, also primed for a last-minute move, are currently helping the Sherpa community, either through donations or by continuing to pay their fees as if there had been a climbing season.

Indoors during the lockdown and outside when allowed, Sergi Mingote has not missed a day of training.

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 "ExplorersWeb BC" in 2018 and. Feeling right at home since then!

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1 Comment on "Himalaya, Karakorum: When Will We Climb Next?"

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Damien François
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Asking if we would be able to go to Manaslu in September, I received this from friend and guide Jamling Bhote of Ever Quest Expeditions in KTM:
“And talking about Covid situation, government is strictly implementing lockdown. But we are in standby. As soon as, government reopens the country we are good to go.”
Seems like Nepal, which had been spared long, is now facing a jump in Covid cases. Sad…