Alex Gavan and Tamara Lunger Reveal Their K2 Strategy


As individuals, Alex Gavan and Tamara Lunger are two serious contenders for summiting K2 this winter. Gavan has climbed seven 8,000’ers without oxygen; Lunger has climbed K2, also no-O2, and with four 8,000m winter expeditions on her resumé, is no stranger to climbing at this extreme time of year.

To increase their chances, the formidable pair have joined forces, with their own climbing strategy and acclimatization schedule. Most importantly, they have brought Everest-like professionalism to collaborating with other expeditions. Although they will remain focused in their own bubble at Base Camp, they will share supplies and help fix the route, as they detailed by phone to ExplorersWeb from Islamabad, where they have just arrived.

“We are bringing along 600m of fixing rope,” Alex Gavan said. “Given the number of climbers on the mountain, that’s a more than a fair share for us to contribute.”

No supplementary O2

As we reported earlier today, some of the climbers currently flocking to K2 Base Camp have tried to differentiate themselves or their mini-team from the general mass of aspiring summiters by stating that they will climb K2 more or less independently. But Gavan and Lunger are the first to reveal a thorough strategy: They will use no supplementary O2, for ethical — and spiritual —  reasons. “To me, K2 is a great teacher and a great master which I revere, not some gigantic pile of rock to be desecrated by a Victorian mindset of conquest,” said Gavan.

Both are aware that they lack the acclimatization that they would have acquired in autumn during any normal year. “We will just go one step at a time,” Gavan said.

The last time Alex Gavan had a good glimpse of K2 (in the background), he was on the summit of Gasherbrum II, in summer 2019.

A new climbing partnership

Lunger and Gavan have never climbed together before, although “we have, in spirit,” Gavan said. They first met in Skardu in 2014. That’s actually a sweet story.

“We clicked immediately and trekked up the Baltoro together,” Gavan recalls. “She was going to K2 and I was going to Broad Peak. When we parted ways [the BCs are a couple of hours away from each other], she lent me one of her ice axes, which I took to the summit. Back in Base Camp, I returned it to her, and she brought it to the summit of K2. It was a strange connection, and we’ve been in touch since then.”

That’s likely why they jumped at the chance of going to K2 together. Lunger was the one who phoned Gavan. “He immediately told me that he already knew the reason I called,” said Lunger.

Gavan didn’t hesitate. “I felt the question coming before she asked. It was surreal,” he said. “I didn’t consider whether the mountain might be crowded. I had the belief that what is meant to happen, will happen.”

A shared ice axe began six years of friendship between Alex Gavan and Tamara Lunger, above, before she climbed K2 in 2014.


“I have no expectations about how it will go with so many people,” said Lunger. “All I know is that Alex and I will try to follow our intuition from beginning to end.”

“We intend to stay in our energy and keep that energy high,” Gavan added. “We will have our own dining tent in order to keep our expedition as private as possible: Not to seclude ourselves from others, but simply because this is the best way [for us].”

Background on Lunger and Gavan

Tamara Lunger of Italy is one of only 11 women in history to have climbed K2 without oxygen, which she did in 2014. In 2016, she was part of the team making the historic first winter ascent of Nanga Parbat, a mountain with no less than 30 previously unsuccessful winter tries. She stopped 70m short of the summit. She also had winter attempts on 8,156m Manaslu, 8,080m Gasherbrum 1, and 8,035m Gasherbrum 2, all with Simone Moro.

In 2018, she and Moro did a first winter ascent of 3,147m Peak Pobeda in frigid Yakutia, near Russia’s Pole of Cold. She is a previous world champion in ski mountaineering and has also won mountain running competitions. Should she summit K2, she will become the first woman to make a first winter ascent of an 8,000m peak. As an Italian, this would also close a circle opened 66 years ago by K2’s first summiters, Achille Compagnoni and Lino Lacedelli.

Alex Gavan has reached seven 8,000m summits without supplemental oxygen: Makalu, Gasherbrum 1, Shishapangma (all first Romanian ascents),  Manaslu, Broad Peak, Cho Oyu, and Gasherbrum 2. This will be the first time a Romanian climber attempts a winter 8,000er.