Everyone is Ready for K2, but is K2 Ready for Everyone?

In Broad Peak and K2 Base Camps, climbers are ready for a summit push but have had to wait in their tents for over a week because of bad weather.

The weather is supposed to improve by Sunday, but conditions may remain unsafe for days afterward. Yet summit fever, tight deadlines, and ego-driven decisions may drive some climbers to take risks, especially on K2 above Camp 3.

Recent failures on Broad Peak show haste to get things done, as well as too few tents for everyone. If such dynamics recur on overcrowded K2 next week, the final result, whether triumph or tragedy, will be mainly a question of luck.

Broad Peak — pushing the limits

Indications of impatience with the prolonged delay occurred on Broad Peak two days ago, after some failed attempts in bad weather. Saulius Damulevicius of Lithuania reported that he had hoped to take advantage of a half-promised weather window between July 10 to 12. So on July 9, he set off from Base Camp.

He had to dodge falling rocks on the way to Camp 2 and passed a porter who had been injured in the leg by a flying rock. The wind picked through the night and conditions worsened, so Damulevicius decided to turn around.

On his way back to Camp 1, he crossed paths with “a lot of Sherpas and clients going up…in the brewing storm,” he wrote. Eventually, Damulevicius changed plans again and followed them back to Camp 2. He noted that one of the members of that team had taken over his tent. Damulevicius had to “ask him kindly to look for another place”.

The wind turned into a gale that night. By the morning of July 11, it had flattened some tents and covered the others with fresh snow.

“You can’t fight the mountain,” he thought while preparing to go down. The commercial team, however, had set off to try to reach Camp 3, despite the conditions.

Damulevicius asked one of them, Stefi Troguet of Andorra (climbing with Elite Exped), “Do you really hope to reach Camp 3?”

“Maybe, Inshallah,” she replied.

No window in the end

Their determination lasted for some 150 vertical metres, then they also turned around, the Latvian climber discovered later. He had already hurried back to Base Camp, which he reached in four-and-a-half hours, just before it started to rain.

Neither Elite Exped nor its members are sharing many details about the expedition. But the company did post a video of climbers clinging to fixed ropes in the wind, with the caption: “Look at them go! A little bit of wind? No problem! As long as you are prepared, with the right mindset, the right kit, and most of all top guides from Elite Exped, you can conquer anything!”

Stefi Troguet reports that the team set off toward C3, but turned around about midway after Nims got a fresh forecast from BC showing summit winds of 65kph. Since then, the weather has been bad at the head of the Baltoro Glacier.

Stefi Troguet on a windy day on Broad Peak. Photo: Instagram

 

No ropes on Bottleneck yet

All the outfitters say that they’re ready for a summit push on K2. At least some of them have managed to pitch tents in the tight quarters at Camps 1 and 2. Meanwhile, Camp 3, on K2’s huge shoulder, has plenty of room. This is where the Sherpas have stocked the oxygen supplies, and where their clients will start using gas (if not earlier).

There are also plenty of ropes, which have not yet been fixed up the Bottleneck. Like last year, the plan seems to be for the Sherpas to fix the ropes as they go, with the O2-supported clients right behind.

But forecasts show heavy snow and high winds on K2 until Sunday. Pakistan’s National Weather Forecasting Centre warns of “vigorous monsoon activity”. Three days of clear but also very hot weather will follow.

Such radical weather will cause instability on the mountain’s upper slopes, especially on the avalanche-prone sections between Camp 3 and the Bottleneck, at the Great Serac, and also on the final ramps leading to the summit of K2.

Listen to the mountain or the Siren?

 

“With this quantity of snow, you need to wait at least three days for the mountain to settle, because if the slope above C3 is loaded, it’s like Russian roulette: You never know if it’s going to flush as it did in 2016,” Canadian alpinist Louis Rousseau told ExplorersWeb. Rousseau attempted K2 in 2007, 2009, and 2019.

“Amazing weather after…long waits in Base Camp can lead to crazy moves,” Rousseau added. “I made a mistake like this in the past: not enough patience. I just wanted to climb after waiting for a long time in base camp. Things get crazy, and it’s too easy to listen to the Siren…rather than the mountain.”

Louis Rousseau and Gerfried Goeschell fix ropes on the Bottleneck in 2009. Photo: Louis Rousseau

 

After the wait

Mingma Gyalje, aka Mingma G, explains climbing techniques at K2 Base Camp earlier this week. Photo: Imagine Nepal

 

Most expedition leaders on K2 are typically secretive about their summit plans. But Mingma G of Imagine Nepal has declared himself ready to wait for the other teams to finish, “so that we can have the whole mountain to ourselves and can climb safely”.

He may not have much choice. His group reached Base Camp later than most others. They still need to supply their high camps, and the clients must acclimatize. Given that everyone has been weather-bound for a week, this is proving difficult.

“Rockfall is a major problem on K2 at the moment,” said Mingma G. “Three climbers from my team were hit by rocks, luckily with no serious consequences.”

A message from Lina Snorri

K2 is not a mountain that rewards impatience or a too-bold stance. In winter 2020-21, five good climbers lost their lives. The body of one of them, John Snorri of Iceland, remains on the mountain, right on the route up the Bottleneck. Climbers will have to pass by it as they ascend.

Meanwhile, expedition leaders in Base Camp (and media outlets, including ExplorersWeb) received a message from Snorri’s widow, Lina Moey.

Last summer, Sajid Sadpara retrieved the remains of his father and buried him in the snow lower down. At the time, Lina had asked Sajid not to move Snorri’s remains.

Portrait of John Snorri and his wife Lina

John Snorri and wife Lina at home in Iceland before the ill-fated winter K2 expedition. Photo: Instagram

 

After much thought and family discussion, she eventually decided that she would like to have her husband’s body buried close to his friends, Ali Sadpara and Juan Pablo Mohr, who also perished up there. She has asked that if anyone is able to do it safely, to either bury her husband below the Bottleneck or at least move his remains away from the main trail.

“The family would appreciate it if there would be no filming and taking photographs of John’s body,” she added. “At least if there are photos or films to be taken for some reason, at least contact me to receive explicit permission to use them.”

Where Ali Sadpara’s body was buried. Photo: @sajid_sadpara

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides is a college-graduated journalist specialised on high-altitude mountaineer and expedition news. She has been writing about climbing and mountaineering, adventure and outdoor sports for 20+ years.

Prior to that, Angela Benavides spent time at/worked at a number of local and international media. She is also experienced in outdoor-sport consultancy for sponsoring corporates, press manager and communication executive,and a published author.