K2: Everyone back at Base Camp

K2 Winter 8000ers
Group photo after the Puja ceremony in Base Camp today. Photo: Seven Summit Treks

Queridos Reyes Magos [Dear Wizard Kings]. This is how Spanish kids begin their letters to the Three Wise Men, from whom, according to Catholic tradition, they get presents on the night between January 5 and 6. This year, Melchior, Gaspar, and Balthazar have granted Sergi Mingote and Juan Pablo Mohr a safe return to Base Camp.

Sergi Mingote at Camp 1 on his way back to BC today. Photo: Sergi Mingote

They had to battle wind, vertical blue ice, technical down-climbing, sleep deprivation, extreme cold, and the unstable glacier between 5,300m and Base Camp that the recently evacuated Waldemar Kowalewski described as a game of Russian roulette.

Kowalewski, who is now back in civilization, has shared some reflections on winter K2:
The route to Camp 1 is more challenging now than in summer, he says, because of the hard vertical ice, icy wind, and constant spindrift. But the view from Camp 1 in the morning is worth a million dollars.

Waldemar Kowalewski at Camp 1. Photo: Waldemar Kowalewski

After two attempts, Kowalewski is convinced that there is no way to attempt winter K2 without supplemental O2. It’s too cold, especially on the fingers and toes. You’d need battery-powered warmers for hands and feet that last at least 50 hours, and there’s nothing of the kind on the market yet.

Even melting water is a problem in winter because the butane mix freezes. Also, spending hours inside the tent melting snow that’s at -40˚ is extremely time-consuming. And yet, proper hydration, especially at altitude, is essential.

“Nevertheless, if someone makes it [to the summit without O2], the whisky is on me,” he says.

Puja ceremony in Base Camp. Photo: Seven Summit Treks

Tamara Lunger, who does plan to attempt the mountain without canned O2, commented today, “I imagine this will be the hardest thing I’m going to do!

Meanwhile, with everyone back in Base camp, the Seven Summit Treks group performed a Puja ceremony “to a make connection with the mountains and pray for a safe and successful expedition,” said Dawa Sherpa.

The ceremony typically takes place before leaving Base Camp for the first time. The Buddhist Puja ceremony is rare in Pakistan, where 96 percent of the population practices Islam.

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About the Author

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides

Senior journalist, published author and communication consultant. Specialized on high-altitude mountaineering, with an interest for everything around the mountains: from economics to geopolitics. After five years exploring distant professional ranges, I returned to ExWeb BC in 2018. Feeling right at home since then!

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Mikel Echeverria
Mikel Echeverria
10 months ago

Thank you very much for the updates. You are giving very accurate information and very fast.

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Ahsan
10 months ago

Anyone making video after returning from c1 or c2 or sherpa was climbing to c4?

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Usman
Usman
10 months ago
Reply to  Ahsan

Maximum reached upto camp 3 last week by nirmal purja fixing ropes at black pymaird, now all at BC due to adverse weather condition..

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Chogoree
10 months ago

Thank you for the information.

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Jerry
Jerry
10 months ago

So glad for your coverage Angela. Also extremely pleased Sergi And Juan Pablo are back at BC, it sounds as if the teams are starting to get an idea of just how monumental this challenge is.
Fingers and toes are crossed for the teams, for ‘good’ weather and the safety of all.

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Don Paul
Don Paul
10 months ago

With all of their technology, I’m surprised they haven’t found a way to extend the life of the battery-powered socks.

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Shahzad Khan
Shahzad Khan
10 months ago

The main challenge is to conquer the peak in winters without O2 cylinders…. Why so brutal? One should be given the leverage to use it…. Anyhow best of luck to the climbers

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