Alpinists Get An Early Jump on K2

K2 has started differently this season. While the commercial teams that usually dominate the former Savage Mountain are still trekking in or acclimatizing on Broad Peak, a small group of alpinists have K2 to themselves. Briefly, Chogori seems like it once was.

Ambitious goals

Kazuya Hiraide and Kenro Nakajima are engaged in one of the most ambitious goals of the last decade: a new alpine-style route on the West Face of K2. The Japanese pair are in their Camp 1, doing exploratory day trips. On Sunday, they reached 6,700m and then returned to Camp 1. Yesterday, they planned to go even higher, to check conditions and explore their potential route.

Benjamin Vedrines of France has an equally ambitious, if more sporting goal. He aims for a FKT (fastest known time) on K2 without oxygen or Sherpa support. Furthermore, he wants to complete it in a single day, following the normal route. He then intends to paraglide down from the summit.

Vedrines and photographer (and IFMGA guide) Seb Montaz reached Base Camp well ahead of the commercial teams and are acclimatizing quickly. They have already completed a first rotation to Camp 2, from which Vedrines paraglided down.

On their second rotation, a blizzard stranded them in Camp 2 this past weekend, but yesterday Vedrines left for Camp 3. It is unlikely that rope-fixing teams have reached that far, so the climbers may be relying on old ropes and their own skills.

Livingstone and Cesen to mystery goal

Today, Ales Cesen of Slovenia and Tom Livingstone of the UK are trekking up the Baltoro. Local outfitters say they have permits for K2 and Broad Peak, but there is no word about their exact plans.

“Here in Karakoram, as everywhere else, the idea of mountaineering is changing a lot in terms of radical commercialization,” Cesen wrote from Concordia. “However, we are not giving up just yet, and the spirit of alpinism is still alive.”

The background in Cesen’s photo, top, indicates that they could reach the base of either K2 or Broad Peak tomorrow.

Which 8,000’er will see the first summits?

Meanwhile, progress for expeditions on normal routes varies, depending on the peak.

Climbers are ready to attempt the summit of Nanga Parbat, but the weather is not cooperating. On Broad Peak, Karakorum Expeditions says they have fixed the route until Camp 3, usually the highest camp they set up ahead of time.

Sajid Sadpara of Pakistan is also on Nanga Parbat, working with Seven Summit Treks. He is in Camp 1 today and heading for Camp 2 tomorrow. Others are already on their second rotation and aiming for Camp 3 for the night.

Sajid took advantage of Camp 1’s Wi-Fi connection to post a short video showing a big avalanche near the normal route on K2.

Gasherbrum II troubles

Delays continue on Gasherbrum II, a popular goal this season. Finding a way through the glacier and icefall continues to thwart all climbers, according to Horia Colibasanu of Romania, who has not attempted it yet.

“For 10 days, no one has been able to cross the icefall that covers half of the route to Camp 1,” he wrote. “Nine Frenchmen and 2 Poles tried, on foot and with drones, along three variants, but the heat and the fragmentation of the glacier thwarted their efforts.”

head and shoulders shot of two climbers against mountain background

Horia Colibasanu, left, and Silviu Balan. Photo: Facebook


Nevertheless, Colibasanu and his partner Silviu Balan will try. “We plan to take a tent and two drones and push forward as far as possible, then set up a scouting point with the drone and try to find an acceptable route,” Colibasanu wrote.

They will leave for Camp 1 early tomorrow. Colibasanu says he will carry a heavy pack for that altitude, about 17kg.

Uta Ibraimi of Kosovo is currently on her way to GII after her unsuccessful summit attempt on Kangchenjunga this spring.

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides graduated university in journalism and specializes in high-altitude mountaineering 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 corporations, press manager and communication executive, and a published author.