K2: A Break to Pack, to Mourn, to Decide

All climbers who were on their second rotation have returned to Base Camp to wait out the next spell of rough weather. Meanwhile, some of Saturday’s summit team are packing to go home: They will helicopter back to Skardu tomorrow, and an official celebration will follow in Islamabad. After the triumph and tragedy of the last few days, everyone in BC is also finding some quiet time in their tents to reflect.

One of the best-known summiters, Mingma G, has finally has shared a photo of himself, above. He promises that after he flies to Skardu, he will share details of the climb. Alan Arnette did speak to Mingma, who admitted that he used O2 during his climb.  Mingma also told The New York Times about the shock of heading off from C3 into the unbearable cold of the summit night. “My body became numb, I wanted to abandon the expedition,” he said. Reportedly, the climbers continued only because Nirmal Purja urged them on.

According to the NYT, Purja himself is also preparing to leave BC. Although everyone was on a Seven Summit Treks permit, 19-year-old Adriana Brownlee, for one, was  Purja’s client. She was hoping to train in the winter Karakorum for her spring Everest venture and to reach a higher camp (which she did). She may return home now. As we tragically saw with Sergi Mingote, the lower camps on K2 can be deadly, even for the most experienced.

The days ahead will not be easy for no-O2 climbers Juan Pablo Mohr, Tamara Lunger, and Alex Gavan. The death of Mingote weighs heavily upon them, especially since they were the first to reach the Spanish climber after he fell between Camp 1 and ABC.

“We did everything we could, but unfortunately there was just no hope,” Lunger wrote. “At least we were close to him.”

And although it makes her cry, Lunger shared a video on Instagram where she, Juan Pablo Mohr, and Mingote laugh and dance together one sunny evening at Camp 1. “I had found and so soon lost a wonderful friend, with a big heart so positive, happy and full of love for the mountains, others, and life,” she said. “Thank you @sergimingote! ❤️ For our dances even at Camp 1, for our laughter, for your Nivea for men!”

Also shocked was Mingma Gyabu “David” Sherpa, Purja’s teammate and a first-class Himalayan climber. “Returning to Base Camp, I was walking down with summit glory but…in tears of sorrow after finding out my friend Sergi Mingote left us,” he said. “I still cannot believe it.”

Mingma David and Sergi Mingote — great climbers, great friends. Photo: Mingma David Sherpa


John Snorri, Muhammad Ali Sadpara, and Sajid Sadpara are also dealing with grief after trying to rescue Alexander Goldfarb after he went missing on Pastori Peak. They later discovered his fatal fall. Goldfarb’s despairing partner, Zoltan Szlanko, is currently sharing their tent. At last word, Snorri and the Sadparas were still going for the summit of K2.

Antonios Sykaris, Atanas Skatov, and others have completed their second rotations, so they might be ready to try for the summit when the weather improves. Former track athlete Magdalena Gorzkowska also claims that she is ready and has decided to make no further acclimatization sorties. “Every rotation is a lottery with rockfall,” she says. “We are waiting for the weather window now.”

Magdalena Gorzkowska yesterday in Base Camp, clowning around for an Instagram selfie.


Still waiting for details

Three days later, we are still looking forward to details from the summit team. Is there a group summit picture, since the leaders waited so that everyone could step onto the summit together? What can future expeditions learn from the use of O2 by some climbers and the no-O2 effort by Nirmal Purja? Were any of the upper sections fixed? What were the conditions beyond Camp 3? Besides leaders Purja and Mingma G, the climbing community would welcome the points of view of the other eight climbers. This achievement is the perfect opportunity for individual members to stop being a silent “expedition Sherpa” and to share as equal protagonists in this great story.