K2 Climbers Move Up Tomorrow; Sherpas Edge Toward C4

Most K2 climbers are ushering in the New Year in Base Camp while packing to move up tomorrow. And a few on the leading edge continue to work through the holiday.

Seven Summit Treks leader Dawa Sherpa has detailed the plans for the next few days: The four-man Sherpa rope-fixing team left BC yesterday to set up Camp 4 over the weekend. Tomorrow, SST’s climbers will set off on their first rotation, although it is unclear how high each one will get, and most of all, how so many will squeeze into the few available tents at ABC, C1, and C2.

It’s also unclear if Dawa’s timetable is realistic, given the tough road ahead.

Mingma G explained yesterday that they had reached the end of the Black Pyramid, which is not a monolith but rather an accumulation of walls, ridges, and traverses on brittle rock in summer, and over the same, only ice-coated, in winter. “The end of the Pyramid is a 60 to 70m steep rock gully that ends with a short (7 to 10m) traverse under a large boulder,” explains Polish veteran Jacek Teler. “Above that, a field of blue ice begins.”

That steep field of blue ice continues until the so-called Shoulder at nearly 8,000m. Huge avalanches sweep down these ramps, summer and winter, as ExWeb’s Abruzzi Spur Route breakdown indicates. Adds no-O2 K2 summiter Ralf Dujmovits: “From the end of the Black Pyramid, past Camp 3 (7,300m) up to the Shoulder, the danger of slab avalanches is enormous. It’s textbook avalanche terrain, with wind slabs typically forming after each storm.”

In other words, conditions will be extremely tough for Dawa’s men, and they will need to progress very fast, both for safety and to complete their work on C4 by this weekend. Although K2 forecasts are particularly difficult to get right, the outlook suggests a bitter cold but sunny weekend with relatively low winds.