K2: O’Brady, Others Hit By Rockfall

The mountaineer’s familiar cry of “Rock!” sounded often on K2 today, as a number of climbers left Base Camp on their second acclimatization round. “We’ve had some dangerous moments, lots of rocks plummeting down our heads at 100kph,” reported John Snorri, when he finally arrived safely in Camp 2. Colin O’Brady and his partner Jon Kedrowski were both hit on their arms by rocks while on a BC to Camp 2 and back trip, but no serious damage.

In a recent Instagram post, 14×8,000m summiter Ralf Dujmovits warned about precisely that danger on K2: “In winter, rockfall on the 8,000m peaks is triggered by high winds….and in this particular case, by the sheer number of climbers,” he said.

Yesterday, Dujmovits told ExWeb that many imagine that rocks are frozen into place in winter, but strong winds can set even boulders hurtling downslope. And as always, climbers can accidentally dislodge rocks onto their colleagues below. It is one of the real dangers between Camp 1 and C2. “It’s a shooting range,” noted Dujmovits.

Safe for now, Snorri and his tired team intend to spend two nights in Camp 2, waiting out tomorrow’s bad weather, then proceed to Camp 3 on Friday. They found all their gear and tent secure at C2, except for a single oxygen bottle, which they can easily replace back in Base Camp. John Snorri has previously said that he will not use O2, but Ali Sadpara and his son Sajid, hired as high-altitude porters, may well be using it.

Muhammad Ali Sadpara (left) and John Snorri in Camp 2 today. Selfie sent (badly) over their InReach’s Iridium connection. Photo: John Snorri


Snorri noted that Mingma is also in C2 (although there is a second Mingma, we assume that he means Mingma G). Purja’s group, meanwhile, is on its way to Camp 3. They and Seven Summit Treks’ Sherpas will fix the route between C3 and C4. At least two SST climbers, Sergi Mingote and Juan Pablo Mohr, are in Camp 1.



Above Camp 2, from the end of the Black Pyramid to the Shoulder, climbers will face an even more serious hazard than rockfall. “Camp 3 to Camp 4 is textbook avalanche terrain,” Dujmovits explained.

On the 25- to 35-degree slopes, the aggressive wind blows around the spiky snowflakes, breaking the arms of the crystals and rounding them so that they no longer stick together. The stability of the whole slope then becomes tenuous. “The slab avalanches build up in pockets,” says Dujmovits. “Sometimes 10 people can cross them safely, and the eleventh will release it.”

On a final note from Base Camp, Carlos Garranzo was airlifted to Skardu this morning, thanks to the stable weather. According to his wife back home, his health improved as soon as he lost altitude.

Simone Moro (left) and Alex Txikon in Manaslu Base Camp. Photo: Phelipe Eizaguirre


Meanwhile, on Manaslu

Alex Txikon and Simone Moro have reached Manaslu BC and will start working on the route as soon as possible. Despite the recent snowfall, the pair consider the mountain still exceptionally dry. The sort of avalanches that Moro suffered on his two previous winter attempts is off the table for the moment. However, the climbers have noticed that hard ice covers parts of the route and will require more fixing. The Nepali team of Tenji Sherpa and Vinayak Jay Malla have abandoned their plans to climb Manaslu alpine style and will instead join forces with Moro, Txikon, and their team.