K2: Plans for the Final Summit Push

Climbers on K2 have spent the day hunkered down in Camp 3 because of rising winds. The wind came as no surprise. Leader Nima Gyalzen says that it shouldn’t affect Thursday’s summit push.

Tomorrow, some will proceed to Camp 4, fixing as they go. Then they return for the night to Camp 3, from which the final summit push begins.

ExplorersWeb spoke with Sakahwat Hussain Sakhi, managing director of local outfitter Summit Karakoram. He is in constant contact with Base Camp and with Gyalzen on the mountain. Sakhi explained the team’s next moves.

Only six going up

Only six climbers will take part in the summit push. Joining Nima Gyalzen and sole client Grace Tseng are Chhiring Sherpa, Dawa Sherpa, Furi Sherpa, and Ningma Dorje Tamang. The other two members of the expedition will remain in Base Camp.

Grace Tseng is trying to become the first female K2 winter summiter and is one final push away. Photo: Grace Tseng

 

As for Tseng, she has counted on Gyalzen and his Nepal-based Dolma Outdoor to climb five 8,000’ers in the last two years. As she did on Kangchenjunga, she hired the entire expedition. All the Sherpas traveled from Nepal to Pakistan on her behalf.

Despite her lack of experience and strong dependence on O2 and her guides, the young Taiwanese has endured weeks of privation in the harsh Karakoram winter. Her project seemed way too ambitious when the expedition reached the Baltoro Glacier, after weeks of delay because of various visa problems. But now she’s within one decent weather window of the summit of K2 in winter.

Camp 3 is at its usual summer location on the Shoulder, at around 7,300m, above the Black Pyramid. This is a significant improvement compared to the C3 of some of the commercial clients who attempted K2 last winter. Back then, many of them were in a “lower” Camp 3. This meant an extremely long and arguably unrealistic summit push.

Climbers at the Black Pyramid on the way to Camp 3 the previous winter. Photo: Elia Saikaly

Camp 4: a key

If all goes according to plan, part of the team will fix the route as high as possible tomorrow. They will then return to Camp 3 for the night. Tseng will likely remain in C3 for one more day. The use of oxygen spares the climbers further rotations up and down the steep Abruzzi Spur.

Crucially, the fixing team will also establish a Camp 4, even though the climbers don’t usually sleep there. Typically, it’s at 8,000m, at the base of the Bottleneck.

“It will be useful both for the ascent and the descent,” Sakhi explained. “It gives a place to rest, melt snow for water, have some food, etc.”

A refuge at 8,000m stocked with supplies could have meant the difference between life and death last year for the three climbers who ventured beyond Camp 3 on the second summit push. John Snorri, Ali Sadpara, and Juan Pablo Mohr never made it back. Their bodies were found during summer expeditions to K2, not far above the location of Camp 4. Valentyn Sypavin, who found Mohr’s remains, believes that a tent at Camp 4 might have saved at least Mohr’s life.

Location of the bodies of Ali Sadpara (lower) and John Snorri, from Camp 4. Photo: Valentyn Sypavin

Timeline

For the final push, the team plans to start climbing on the evening of February 24. They’ll continue through the night and all the next morning. The exact departure time depends on the weather.

Although everyone will be on O2, it will be a long, hard journey, especially those in front, breaking trail and fixing ropes.

“They want to fix their own ropes, they do not want to use the old ropes still in place,” Sakhi told ExplorersWeb. Ropes fixed last summer or even last winter aren’t as reliable, especially on ice and snow, which describes K2’s Abruzzi Route above Camp 3.

Gelje Sherpa (currently on Cho Oyu) approaches the Bottleneck on K2 in winter 2021. Photo: Mingma David Sherpa

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!


Subscribe
Notify of
guest
23 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Reader from Israel
Reader from Israel
3 months ago

Thank you so much, Angela. Great explanation, as usual πŸ˜€

Praeriepanther
Praeriepanther
3 months ago

“To become the first female winter K2 summiter”
Which she would never become without the help of a herd of guides who fix the mountain and carry all her gear and oxygen for her. All she has to do is follow. What a fake claim. Any climbing record depending on guided assistance is worth zero. If you want a climbing record, do it based on your own knowledge and capabilities.

Ron
Ron
3 months ago
Reply to  Praeriepanther

Everyone relies on a herd of sherpas to fix ropes and carry gear. Its simply impossible do to this without that manpower.
The type of purism you are talking about is a fairytale, and reeks of someone who doesn’t know what they’re talking about. The closest we ever got was Denis Urukbo’s solo attempt.

And in those conditions I doubt the sherpas can render as much ‘assistance’ like they do on Everest. They’re near their limits.

Steve
Steve
3 months ago
Reply to  Ron

What are you talking about?
Pure alpine style ascents have been done all the time and will be done in the future. Do you think Messners Everest Solo was a fairytale?

It’s just that most of the new influx of people are not able to differenciate between an unguided, guided, no O2, expedition style etc. ascent.

Last edited 3 months ago by braeuni
Ron
Ron
3 months ago
Reply to  Steve

Pure alpine style ascents have been done all the time and will be done in the future.”

On K2, let alone winter? Sure mate.

Praeriepanther
Praeriepanther
3 months ago
Reply to  Ron

You clearly do not understand my point. No, not everyone relies on a herd of sherpas to fix ropes, although an ever growing number of climbers are trying to sell summit successes and even records that were reached with full commercial expedition logistics support and being guided. You cannot claim a mountaineering record when you are guided. Period. Strong team of mountaineers are able to do this without sherpas. This is not purism, I am not talking about pairs climbing in pure alpine style. Teams of capable climbers can pull off traditional expeditions, working together. Dozens of teams tried –… Read more »

Ron
Ron
3 months ago
Reply to  Praeriepanther

No, not everyone relies on a herd of sherpas to fix ropes”

On winter K2 they all rely on and are guided by fixed lines. Even so called professional alpinists like your Tamara Lunger.

I understand everything you’ve said, the problem is you evidently do not know the facts.

I’m not saying Ms Tseng deserves a ‘record’ if she summits. Just want to correct grotesque misconceptions, as if the ‘alpinists’ don’t also implicitly rely on and collaborate with commercial teams – they do. You might not like hearing this but its true.

Praeriepanther
Praeriepanther
3 months ago
Reply to  Ron

“On winter K2 they all rely on and are guided by fixed lines.” They never did, before the first commercial “hybrid” expedition of SST appeared on the scene in 2019. The first climber to collaborate with sherpas was Alex Txikon on winter K2. He practically tought them winter climbing on 8000ers. Those guys built the foundation of the first nepalese success. Before Alex: none, I repeat, none of the winter K2 expeditions hired sherpas. 1987/88 Polish/Canadian/British, 2002/3 Polish/International, 2011/12 Russian, 2017/18 Polish. They all relied on their own manpower. My point was not the _use_ of fixed opes but the… Read more »

Ron
Ron
3 months ago
Reply to  Praeriepanther

“So, talking about grotesque misconceptions, you might do some research first before calling out someone not knowing the facts.” Don’t need to when you’re clearly wrong anyway. The 2017/18 Polish expedition hired high altitude porters, as disclosed by Denis Urukbo. https://explorersweb.com/alex-txikon-troubled-k2-winter-base-camp/ Secondly, there’s the fact of ‘alpinists’ heavily relying on ropes fixed the previous summer anyway – as Alex was saying about the 2019 Russian team in the same article. Thirdly, who knows about the earlier ones getting hired help, as Alex even says people dont want to admit it. Pakistani climbers like Ali Sadpara, etc had to learn their… Read more »

MuddyBoots
MuddyBoots
3 months ago
Reply to  Ron

It’s one thing to be a contributor to the team uses fixed camps and ropes. It’s quite another to be short-roped up the mountain, as the photo here on Explorersweb (in a previous article) showed. And that photo was lower on the mountain!

Last edited 3 months ago by MuddyBoots
UberRox
UberRox
3 months ago
Reply to  Praeriepanther

Great summary of the issue,imo.

Mike
3 months ago

The majority of truly world class alpinists are all dead, those who pushed the limits of the impossible without Sherpa support, bottled oxygen, fixed ropes, etc. I’m certain they’d be disgusted by what’s become of high altitude alpinism today, particularly the lack of respect and vision.

F v
F v
3 months ago

C4 reached and fixed! To much wind at the moment, plan is start summit push tomorrow morning. Lucky for the team weather window is not closing on friday so fingers crossed

bagra
bagra
3 months ago

well let’s face it, Tseng surprised many of us !?! ok, all.
guided or not, that is one helluva climb ! she did show some admiring perseverance.

@Praeriepanther
you’re just jealous you won’t be the first female on winter K2 :-l
πŸ™‚

Praeriepanther
Praeriepanther
3 months ago
Reply to  bagra

Oh yes, I am jealous as hell, not to be the first female πŸ™‚ Might need to have a gender reassignment surgery first πŸ™‚ I am not saying that what Ms Tseng does is easy. What I am saying is that thousands of other, sporty women would be capable to do this, with that amount of assistance. I am not surprised she got that high on the mountain. I would not even be surprised if she summited. That is my very point. With enough manpower and loads of oxygen K2 in winter is much less impossible than many think. K2… Read more »

Ron
Ron
3 months ago
Reply to  Praeriepanther

“thousands of other, sporty women would be capable to do this…..With enough manpower and loads of oxygen K2 in winter is much less impossible than many think. ” Loads of manpower and oxygen in 2021 did not prevent the death of very strong climbers from exposure, most famously Ali Sadpara. Alpinists and elite athletes like Tamara (who had winter experience)/Magdalena didn’t come close despite simply following fixed lines. Nobody came back in 2022. Clearly its harder than you think and by positioning herself to even have a chance of summitting; Ms Tseng has already raised eyebrows and defied all expectations. I… Read more »

Last edited 3 months ago by Ron
Praeriepanther
Praeriepanther
2 months ago
Reply to  Ron

I was talking about climbing WITH O2. If you want to compare results, at least do it on the same terms. Tamara was not using oxygen, plus took all her gear on her back by herself, had no sherpa support to carry her gear and put up the tent. Ms Tseng has done very well, but for god’s sake, look at her 2 kg running backpack, following behind the 5 sherpas all with serious backpacks on them. She has EVERYTHING prepared for her, a personal guide takes care of her even in the tents. All she has to do is… Read more »

Praeriepanther
Praeriepanther
2 months ago
Reply to  Praeriepanther

*cannot buy

Ron
Ron
2 months ago
Reply to  Praeriepanther

“but for god’s sake, look at her 2 kg running backpack, following behind the 5 sherpas all with serious backpacks on them.” The only picture here I can recall showing her on the mountain shows she is carrying a sizeable load. https://explorersweb.com/snowmageddon-time-running-out-for-winter-teams/ She may not be doing it all the time, but she’s not that pampered either. So again you’re painting a grotesque misinformed picture that doesn’t fit the more complex reality. “Tamara was not using oxygen…..Magdalena became ill. Ali Sadpara died because of exposure while NOT using oxygen” That Tamara didnt use oxygen is irrelevant if she didn’t even… Read more »

Praeriepanther
Praeriepanther
2 months ago
Reply to  Ron

You’re right, my mistake, during the summit push Ali used O’s, as did Snorri. JP did not. Sajid’s system did not work so his father sent him back from below the Bottleneck (so he made it above 8000 without O’s but carrying the system – and came back alive). I can’ remember all details and did not check. Tamara’s no O’s approach is relevant because all other climbers on SST used O’s above C2 except for Conte. It is a totally different pshychological weight from day one than knowing that you’re going to have the relative safety and warmth of… Read more »

Ron
Ron
2 months ago
Reply to  Praeriepanther

” It is a totally different pshychological weight from day one than knowing that you’re going to have the relative safety and warmth of supplemental oxygen. But in that sentence the point was that she carried all her gear. Everything.” Psycho babble. She doesn’t need to carry oxygen gear, is jumaring up fixed lines, and is sharing equipment with a partner. Hence she is hardly much disadvantaged from some others below C3. And do I need to repeat no one came back in 2022. I recall Magdalena even admitted she’s sticking to summer. “I never said summiting.” Read in the context… Read more »

Last edited 2 months ago by Ron
Jahan
Jahan
3 months ago

Getting to C4 would be an accomplishment in itself in winter. I must confess Grace Tseng has impressed me. She looks so fragile in pictures yet she is proving to be a strong and determined woman… I am rooting for her.

Reina
Reina
2 months ago

I love Grace!