Hurricane Heading for Winter K2

“A Force 4 hurricane is heading towards K2, with winds of over 210kph,” Alex Txikon has just reported. On the phone with Portuguese meteorologist Vitor Baia, ExplorersWeb has further details.

“On February 21, Thursday, the gale will reach its peak, with 200kph winds at the summit and up to 70kph at Base Camp,” Baia said. “There can be some snowfall too.”

Such winds, he added, are indeed hurricane velocity. Luckily for the two parties, conditions will improve after Thursday.

Merteorologist Vito Baia, from Portugal.

Meteorologist Vitor Baia has spun forecasts for many high-altitude expeditions. Photo: Vitor Baia

“February 22 will see 30 to 40kph winds on K2’s lower slopes [6000 meters and below], but still 100 kph on the summit,” Baia noted. “On the 23rd, winds will decrease to 50 to 60kph at the summit and less than 40kph below 7,000 meters.”

The winds will continue to drop, and by the end of the week, things should start looking brighter — briefly — for the two parties of climbers. “By February 24, there’ll be about 40kph on top and less than 30kph below 7,000 meters,” he confirmed.

The key prediction: “February 25th could be the best day, with less than 30kph winds at all altiitude points, extremely cold and with some clouds wrapping the summit.”

However, this calm window will close fast and brutally. On February 26, the wind will blow strongly again. “It will be even worse on the 27th; they must be back in Base Camp by then,” Baia warned.

Enough time?

Will that be enough time for the expeditions to bag their coveted K2 winter summit and get down safely? According to Baia, who is working with Alex Txikon’s team, it is not. “The window is too short,” he said, “but at least they will be able to reach 7,000 meters,” the altitude at which they can set up Camp 3.

Txikon’s international team has kept busy through the weekend building a snow wall to protect their Base Camp from the rising winds. They’ll have some days to plan their next steps while they wait out the gale.

What is not clear is whether that short window might offer chances to the other, slightly more advanced team on K2. Pivtsov’s men have fixed ropes up to the base of the Black Pyramid, although at last report, they haven’t set up Camp 3 yet. News is expected soon, though, and the action could start by the end of the week. We’ll continue to update once either party is on the move.