K2: Everyone back at Base Camp

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.