K2 and Nanga Parbat: Storms and Crowds

Long expedition convoys are heading toward K2 and Broad Peak under relentless rain that turns to snow as they gain altitude. Needless to say, the usually spectacular views have not been great on this approach trek.

This season could break records for the number of climbing permits. The biggest crowds are flocking to K2 and Broad Peak, where official sources estimate over 350 permits so far, according to Karrar Haidri.

A crowded season

But neither Broad Peak nor K2 is suitable for crowds. The long summit push on Broad Peak can get dangerous if there are problems or traffic jams. This happened last year on Broad Peak, with tragic consequences.

K2’s standard Abruzzi Spur route is unremittingly steep. This keeps most climbers clinging to fixed ropes in a single line. In addition, Camps 1 and 2 are perched on narrow spots with no room for a tent city. Recently, climbers have tried to spread out between the camps’ traditional locations and some lower spots, but these too have limited space.

by the light of headlamps, a line of climbers head up K2 at night

Climbers queue up the Bottleneck during the summit push last summer. Photo: Lakpa Sherpa/8K Expeditions

 

Climate change adds further challenges. “Rockfall and heat-related crevasse issues are a growing threat [in Pakistan],” said Ralf Dujmovits. “Climbing at night and choosing the time of descent wisely will help prevent accidents.”

In addition, climbers on K2 are a mixed bag, ranging from large, heavily supported groups to individuals going without supplementary O2 or Sherpa support.

Some teams are already considering a switch to the Cesen route. Although it merges with the Abruzzi above Camp 4, it offers more space for campsites. This could be interesting for small, self-sufficient teams ready to fix the rope themselves.

Lines showing the Cesen and Abruzzi Spur routes on K2

The Cesen and Abruzzi Spur routes on K2. Photo: Niels Jespers

 

For now, climbing will have to wait for better weather. A large part of Pakistan is under a heavy rain alert until Wednesday. Some landslides from the rain have affected the Karakoram Highway. Climbers of all stripes, from the huge Seven Summit Treks team going to K2 and Broad Peak to Jeff and Pritti Wright who reached K7 Base Camp yesterday, reported a tough hike in under relentless rain. In the base camps, the precipitation continues as snow.

Nanga Parbat

Snowy, grey Nanga Parbat Base Camp

Juan Pablo Toro says that 50cm of snow fell in Nanga Parbat Base Camp, and about one metre higher up. Photo: JP Toro

 

Nanga Parbat climbers managed to do some work before the storm hit. Juan Pablo Toro returned to BC just in time from Nanga Parbat’s Camp 1. Outfitted by Lela Peak, he completed his second rotation.

“C1 is in a very protected place, right where the Kinshofer route begins,” he said. “Until then, [you are mounting a] glacier, not very technical but demanding and quite delicate with a 700m drop.”

Toro also said that Lela Peak porters have fixed rope up to about 5,250m.

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides is a college-graduated journalist specialised on high-altitude mountaineer 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 corporates, press manager and communication executive,and a published author.