Rumors Swirl Around Winter K2 Expedition

Winter 8000ers
Carlos Garranzo aproaches K2 on an earlier summer expedition. Photo: Sergi Mingote

The expedition to K2 this winter has inspired hope among the worldwide climbing community: Success at this Last Great Himalayan Problem might salvage an otherwise black year. However, the high expectations are causing problems, as organizers occasionally jump the gun in their enthusiasm.

Soon after ExplorersWeb reported that organizer Seven Summit Treks was interested in Sergi Mingote as co-leader, Mingote confirmed his acceptance. He will serve as deputy climbing leader on the route, coordinating with the overall leader, Dawa Sherpa, who will remain in Base Camp.

SST then rushed to publish a list of 12 members, including some of Mingote’s seasoned partners — regular mate Carlos Garranzo, Chilean Juan Pablo Mohr (the only confirmed no-O2 Everest summiter in 2019) and Atanas Skatov of Bulgaria — as well as a superstar Sherpa team. Most attention gathered, however, around a familiar name in winter 8,000m climbing: Italy’s Tamara Lunger.

Tamara Lunger needs time to decide whether winter K2 is for her. Photo: Facebook

Lunger attempted the Gasherbrum Traverse with Simone Moro last winter and made it to 100m below the summit on the first winter ascent of Nanga Parbat. However, her presence on the K2 list was premature, as she has still not decided whether to accept. When she made this clear on social media, her name quickly vanished from the list.

As of today, the list includes 11 climbers and 15 climbing Sherpas, according to SST. Climbers include Antonios Sykaris from Greece, British-Kenyan Bob Bhania, Peter Moerman from Belgium, Bernhard Lippert from Germany and a Swiss woman mysteriously identified only as Miss J.V. SST adds that the expedition is still open to new members.

Sherpa route-fixers include Temba Bothe, Pechhumbe Sherpa and Gelje Sherpa — all veterans of Alex Txikon’s recent winter attempts on K2 and Everest — as well as Ngima Dorchi Sherpa, Lakpa Temba Sherpa, Mingma Tenjen Sherpa, Pasang Dukpa Sherpa, Chhangba Sherpa, Dawa Finjhok Sherpa, Lakpa Dendi Sherpa, Mingtemba Sherpa, Gesman Tamang, Sona Sherpa and Sanu Sherpa.
There have also been rumors about others eyeing K2 this winter. Among them, John Snorri from Iceland, who already attempted the peak last winter. He hopes to climb in the (paid) company of Pakistani ace Ali Sadpara (who made the first winter ascent of Nanga Parbat). However, none of this is confirmed, and even SST’s plan obviously depends on the state of COVID-19 in Pakistan and elsewhere at the time.

Dawa Sherpa, expedition leader. Photo: Seven Summit Treks

Finally, questions about the expedition’s style persist. It is structured as a classic commercial expedition, based on a very strong Sherpa team climbing on O2 and fixing as much rope as possible, plus a number of members who pay for their spot on the team. None of these foreign climbers has ever attempted an 8,000m peak in winter before. They all have Himalayan experience, but not to that extreme.

In recent interviews, Mingote has stated that he prefers a fast climb to a long siege. He wants to be done by February 28 and will himself climb without supplementary O2. The Sherpas and other teammates, however, will use it.
Winter Himalayan veterans have openly lobbied for a pure, no-O2 first cold-season ascent of K2 by an expert team, rather than anything resembling an Everest-like, profit-oriented venture involving hundreds of bottles of oxygen and relatively inexperienced clients aided by Sherpa armies.
On the other hand, summit options — already scarce on winter K2 — drop to nearly nothing if oxygen is not a potential option. One wishes the present expedition the best, but it is clear that the debate will remain alive till the end of their climb, and maybe long after.

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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