K2: Base Camp Filling Up and A Ski Descent

After a snowy trek, teams are trickling into K2 Base Camp. “It snowed on the way and there is some snow at Base Camp, but it is sunny and warm and it is forecast to remain so until early July,” American climber Sarah Strattan told ExplorersWeb. Strattan arrived in Base Camp three days ago. “There are four other teams in place, so it’s not crowded at all…so far!”

Plans to ski K2

While not highly publicized, Strattan’s expedition is interesting. She is aiming for the first female ski descent of K2. Yet she is cautious when speaking about her plans.

“I am here to try and climb K2 this summer, but I will also have my skis with me. I want to ski what I can safely. Hopefully from the summit.”

Last year, Strattan attempted Broad Peak and skied from 7,700m. “When I saw K2 towering 13,000ft [3,962m] above Broad Peak Base Camp, I was in absolute awe. It was the most amazing, imposing, and beautiful mountain I had ever seen.”

Strattan’s first Himalayan ski experience was Putha Hiunchuli, also known as Dhaulagiri Seven, where she skied from the summit in 2017. She also climbed Makalu in 2019, but without skis.

Sarah Strattan sits on a rock in front of K2.

Sarah Strattan on her 2021 Karakoram expedition, with K2 in the background. Photo: Sarah Strattan

 

Strattan will climb the Abruzzi Spur route with supplementary O2 and a porter. “We are worried about crowding in lower camps,” she admitted.

You can follow her progress here.

Looking for space on the mountain

Word has spread that this year K2 will host a record number of visitors. This has triggered some concern. “It’s the largest number of climbers [ever] to attempt to scale the highest mountains in Pakistan…unfortunately the Gilgit Baltistan tourism department has no rescue operation plan,” Pakistani journalist Jamil Nagri posted on Twitter yesterday.

For most climbers, the prospect of a very busy mountain is forcing them to plan their strategy carefully. The issue is crucial for independent climbers going without O2 or porters. Such is the case for Flor Cuenca, who is now pondering a change of route.

“Mingma G could be climbing the Cesen (also known as Vasque) route and I would also like to,” she told ExplorersWeb. “I also plan to skip Camp 1, where there’s not much room for tents, and go all the way to Camp 2. [At least] these are preliminary plans.”

Climber Flor Cuenca in Skardu, wearing a headscarf in front of a jeep.

Flor Cuenca in Skardu last week. Photo: Flor Cuenca

 

“I am carrying a small tent, and I am open to joining forces with another climber to share the tent and save space,” Cuenca said. “However, it would have to be someone climbing in the same style, which leaves out all the members of my team. They are all going with O2 and porters.” Cuenca is at Broad Peak Base Camp and will move to K2 Base Camp tomorrow.

Cuenca, born in Peru and currently living in Germany, has summited six 8,000’ers so far, all of them without O2 or porters. Last year, she climbed Gasherbrum I in summer and Dhaulagiri in fall.

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.