K2: Nirmal Purja Speaks About Ropes, O2, and the Summit Plan

K2 Winter 8000ers
NIrmal Purja on Bulgarian television yesterday. Video frame from България Днес

In an interview on Bulgarian national television yesterday, Nirmal Purja confirmed that the Nepali team fixed all the upper sections of K2 as they headed for the summit.

“On the previous rotation we fixed from Camp 2, and on the summit day we fixed everything to the summit, and that’s purely because I knew we would be descending in the night,” said Purja. He added that they had previously planned to fix the whole route for safety reasons.

Purja on the summit of K2.

Purja’s comments echo Mingma G’s, who mentioned that descent was rather straightforward, thanks to the fixed ropes.

This contradicts Pakistani climbing legend Nazir Sabir’s recent speculations. Last week, Sabir accused the Nepali climbers of retrieving the ropes as they returned from the summit, implying that this could have affected the safety of John Snorri, Ali Sadpara, and Juan Pablo Mohr, who went missing during their own summit push on February 5.

Purja declined to comment about what happened at Camp 3, when the Seven Summit Treks climbers found so few tents for so many people, saying that he was not there at the time. But he did suggest how to prevent such events from happening in the future: “[Plan] everything meticulously, check everything in advance, and have contingency plans,” he said.

Purja explained that he made the extra effort to climb to Camp 2 ahead of time in order to check the state of the tents and gear after a wind storm and before the summit push. “You need to have a backup plan,” he said. “After so many days in Base Camp, you either need to go and check as I did or carry the gear yourself.”

In the interview, Purja stated that he had meant to climb without supplementary oxygen from “Day 1”, and that he was aware of the magnitude of the challenge: First, because he was not acclimatized enough. Second, on his first rotation to Camp 3, he frostnipped three fingers. Third, because from the outset, he wanted all the Nepalis to reach the summit together while singing their country’s anthem. And finally, because he was concerned that without O2, he would not be able to keep pace with his Sherpa partners, whom he described as always fast but nearly “superhuman” when climbing on O2.

However, everything went according to plan. He used no O2 and noted, “Some of my friends were like Wow, even on oxygen they couldn’t catch up with me.”

Here is the interview (in English):

When did the Nepalis plan their summit push?

In general, Nirmal Purja’s remarks suggest that all the Nepali climbers who headed up to Camps 2 and 3 on January 14 may have planned a joint summit push in advance. Back then, however, Mingma G’s group, the SST Sherpas, and Purja’s own men seemed to be heading up independently to further acclimatize, to rebuild Camp 2 (Purja’s group), and to fix the route to Camp 4 (Mingma G’s group).

Earlier, Purja confirmed that wind had seriously damaged his Camp 2, destroying tents and blowing away gear. “I am just a bit gutted about missing another summit window,” he wrote on January 10, “but the plan is still ON, and the summit plan will be pushed a bit late in the season.”

In fact, Purja didn’t miss that beautiful summit window after all and joined forces with Mingma G and SST’s Sona Sherpa in an all-Nepali summit push.

While this was going on, John Snorri’s team was in Camp 2, about to head to Camp 3. On January 15, Snorri posted: “Today we will take our tent and oxygen to Camp 3. We are making all decisions [based on] our former experience, weather reports, and insights. It is important to keep focus in these difficult circumstances, the unpredictable mountain K2, and the surrounding competitive spirit.”

John Snorri shows destroyed tents behind him at Camp 2 on January 15. Video frame from John Snorri’s Instagram

It was still windy, and Snorri was not sure if the weather would improve. But Mingma G explained later that the Nepalis had their own forecasts confirming the weather window, so they pushed ahead.

Meanwhile, Snorri ultimately decided to take a load of gear to their Camp 3 (lower than the Nepalis’), then retreat for one more night to Camp 2, after which they returned to Base Camp. Ironically, it was they who missed the summit window.

If Snorri and the Sadparas had reached and stayed in the “higher” Camp 3, they would have seen the Nepali team setting off toward the top. Would have they joined them, turning the push into an international one? Would it have been welcomed in the “competitive spirit” to which John Snorri alluded?

Sadly, Snorri will never be able to explain his version of events. Nirmal Purja did not mention the other climbers. But Mingma G did, in an interview with Dream Wanderlust:

On January 14, he said, “a few foreigners [Mingma means non-Nepalis, although his statement also includes Ali and Sajid Sadpara, who were at home there in Pakistan] were resting at Camp 2, right below the Chimney. On January 15, it was a little windy and not at all possible to come from [that] lower camp to Camp 3 directly. In winter, it takes a lot of time to climb up, nothing like in summer. They needed a middle camp between lower camp and Camp 3 since they lost the tent there on January 14. So they could not match our timeline on January 16. This is also why it was only the Nepalese team that went to the summit.”

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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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Magar
Magar
14 days ago

It’s good that more of the Nepalese team’s side of the events are seeing exposure now. They have been giving some detailed explanation to Nepalese interviewers but this interview of Nims along with Mingma G’s article in the Kathmandu post brings up the English side of things more or less up to date. At the end of the day other than Nims O2 usage, they have been pretty open from day one although maybe not as approachable for all parties. The team was no doubt competitive, and they wanted a Nepalese first summit but the big 3 of the group… Read more »

alp
alp
14 days ago

Seven Summit Treks, no instala tiendas suficientes en el campo3 y John Snorri , tiene que socorrer a los clientes de esta agencia, para que dormieran en su tienda. Una noche sin descansar ni poder hidratarse, por falta de espacio. Como es posible que Seven Summit Treks, organizando una expedicion comercial, no tenga previsto un campo4 para hacer cumbre con garantias a sus clientes y para colmo se marcha del CB estando una operacion de rescate. parece que la expedicion comercial ha sido una tapadera para los nepalis hacer cumbre.

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Don Paul
Don Paul
14 days ago
Reply to  alp

Es un negocio brutal, y ese incidente era negligencia criminal.

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Eli
Eli
14 days ago
Reply to  alp

I agree with you. I immediately recall Tomaz Rotar’s accusations against Mingma Sherpa, after last year’s strange winter expedition to K2 (organized by Mingma Sherpa with the participation of Tomaz Rotar and John Snorri). – https://www.delo.si/magazin/svet-so-ljudje/komercialna-odprava-na-k2-pustila-grenak-priokus/

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Bishwokarma dipak
Bishwokarma dipak
14 days ago

constructive plan, team work ,hard work, dedication passion fearless attitude paid off to our Nepali brothers to succeed to write the name in the history book by climbing on the top of the the k2 in winter season By hitting the Nepali national anthem with hoisting Nepali flag.. wowww moments proud of nimsdai and the whole team we are a history creator at some Point impossible is nothing

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Uttam
Uttam
14 days ago

Finally a nice rebuttal to Mr Nazir Sabir’s accusation, and to those who questioned Nirmal Purja on the use of O2. Nirmal Purja, Mingma G Sherpa & Co have carved a place for themselves among the mountaineering legends/greats of the first order such as Herzog/Lachenal, Hillary/Tenzing and Messner. Just the scale of what they’ve achieved – K2 in winter – the last “holy grail” of mountaineering – the most prized thing that had eluded the best and most hardened mountaineers/Alpinists of the day for decades – is mind-boggling! K2 in Winter 2021 will be long remembered as the golden ‘book-ending’… Read more »

Last edited 14 days ago by Uttam
damiengildea
Editor
14 days ago

“… Minmga G convinced Nimsdai to wait for a better window.
“He was worried that the foreign climbers would acclimatise and follow us to the top. I was too. …”

from: https://english.onlinekhabar.com/nepalis-on-k2-climber-narrates-their-journey-to-mountaineering-hall-of-fame.html

High-end mountaineering on the big peaks has always been competitive. I like that the Nepalis are honest about it and don’t pretend otherwise.

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Joanna
Joanna
14 days ago
Reply to  damiengildea

Well, John Snorri and Mingma G. had a history from the previous K2 winter expedition – heard about it directly from John but Tomaz Rotar – last and this year on K2 too – described it all in detail for public: https://www.zobozdravnik.si/tomaz-rotar.
Magdalena Gorzkowska and Oswald Rodrigo Pereira, SST expedition members from Poland, claim that Mingma G. told Snorri-Sadpara team they were going to Camp 3 just to fix something on that day:
https://sport.onet.pl/alpinizm/magdalena-gorzkowska-i-rodrigo-pereira-opowiadaja-o-zimowej-wyprawie-na-k2/hkcg687
For me it’s difficult to see this ‘competition’ so 100% pure.

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Uttam
Uttam
14 days ago
Reply to  Joanna

In his Facebook Post, Mingma G has acknowledged some of the mistakes made and offered an explanation for why they had to abort the K2 Winter 2020 expedition. The main reason, he cites, is the weather of course, among other things. No surprise there: it’s always the weather (the #1 make-or-break factor in mountaineering) or something like that on eight thousanders!

Alas, no competition on K2, or any eight thousander, is ever going to be 100% pure – rules of mountaineering are kinda sketchy, with no umpire to enforce them like in other sports …

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Last edited 14 days ago by Uttam
Don Paul
Don Paul
13 days ago
Reply to  Joanna

The second article with the interview of Magda and Oswald is full of details I haven’t seen elsewhere. Towards the end, Oswald says they mostly climbed up ropes from previous seasons, and had no idea which ropes were old and new. So, I’m sticking with the theory that this is how Atanas Skatov died. The different statements that “a rope broke” and that he died changing over at an anchor are not too inconsistent with this. I’ve seen old webbing in Yosemite that would break under your body weight. A cloud of dust comes off of it as it disintegrates.… Read more »

Don Paul
Don Paul
13 days ago
Reply to  Don Paul

Look at the anchor at the top of the House Chimney, in this video from 2019:

https://youtu.be/d5H1JzwB6Qk?t=292

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Last edited 13 days ago by Don Paul
MuddyBoots
MuddyBoots
13 days ago
Reply to  Joanna

Thank you for posting the interview, it was extremely interesting!

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Samson Simon Sharaf
12 days ago
Reply to  Joanna

Raises more questions

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swiss_dude
swiss_dude
13 days ago
Reply to  damiengildea

Well, Winter K2 was one of the last remaining big “firsts” , so no wonder all of them went there to be the first.

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Samson Simon Sharaf
14 days ago

Just saw Sajid Sadpara’s Press Conference from Skardu Pakistan.
It was a thanksgiving presser. No details 8200M onwards when Sajid Sadpara returned. Events were intervisible for next 3-4 hours.
RIP.

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Farukh Ali
Farukh Ali
14 days ago

”Meanwhile, Snorri ultimately decided to take a load of gear to their Camp 3 (lower than the Nepalis’), then retreat for one more night to Camp 2”

The supplies were deposited by Sajid at lower C3. John Snorri and Ali Sadpara stayed at C2.

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Samson Simon Sharaf
12 days ago

Certainly a question I will ask the survivor. In addition, also the view of Nepalese being bifurcated by bad weather at C3, when Sadparas and Snorri retired to base camp missing the mid January window.

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Samson Simon Sharaf
12 days ago
Reply to  Farukh Ali

Is it the same camp Ella stayed at?

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F v
F v
11 days ago

Yes it is called japanese c3. Mohr and sergi also slept there on their rotation 15th of jan. It height is about 7000m

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F v
F v
13 days ago

I maybe found the reason for not preparing C3: it seems that the sherpa’s have a right to a bonus of 1500 by crossing C3. https://www.sevensummittreks.com/trip/k2-winter-expedition Costs excluded: Summit bonus for climbing Sherpa, if unable to summit but cross the Camp III 1500 USD. Magda already mentioned SST didn’t expect the climbers make it to C3. There was no rope from 7200 according to Colin, but with Mohr, freeclimber and he had some ropes with him, they made it to C3. (Mohr’s tracker showing a zig-zag on what it looks like a steep snow wall, just beneath C3. Later climbers… Read more »

Samson Simon Sharaf
12 days ago
Reply to  F v

This if true vindicates Nazir Sabir

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