K2: One More Day to the Bottleneck, Two to the Summit

Alex Txikon, Pasang Sherpa and Cheppal Sherpa have climbed up the Black Pyramid and currently huddle in a tent at 7,050m, about 200 meters below the spot they had planned for Camp 3.

The optimistic weather forecast proved right only until midday. After a beautiful morning in which the men made good progress, southerly winds picked up and became too high to advance further. The climbers had to dig a tiny platform and pitch a tent for urgent shelter. “The wind got just too high, we were freezing, in spite of the gorgeous blue sky,” Txikon reported by radio.

The climbers decided to improvise a “low Camp 3” because the wide snow fields where Camp 3 is usually set up would be too exposed to the wind. “We would have had to fix as we climbed or use old ropes [fixed by previous summer expeditions] in high winds — far too risky,” said Txikon.

Otherwise, they are feeling well. “We’ve enjoyed each metre we gained, and now, inside the tent, we’re warm and seizing the moment,” Txikon said.

If the wind drops, they’re ready to risk a very long ascent and even try for the summit. “We won’t make it to the top tomorrow, but at least we could pass Camp 4 and reach the Bottleneck, if we keep the pace,” Txikon said. “However, if the wind keeps blowing, I’d rather not climb all they way up to the Bottleneck, only to freeze up there.”

Yesterday’s forecast predicted two days of good weather, not quite enough to reach the summit. With the winter season almost over — no matter how you define winter — Txikon and his mates may be gambling that conditions hold slightly longer than forecast.

For the moment, it’s all about the wind. Before night wrapped the Karakorum, long snow plumes were peeling off the summit and even down at Base Camp.

Recent story:

A Two-Day Window for K2 Climbers