K2 Preview: Hiraide+Nakajima and Vedrines Arrive

Two of the most exciting expeditions of the season start today in Pakistan. Kazuya Hiraide and Kenro Nakajima have just landed in the country, bound for one side of K2. Benjamin Vedrines of France will target the other side.

Piolet d’Or winners Hiraide and Nakajima will soon begin acclimatizing for Hiraide’s dream project: a new route up the the West Face of K2.

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Vedrines’ paragliding attempt

Benjamin Vedrines of France has been training intensely for his own K2 dream: a one-day ascent of the second-highest mountain in the world without supplementary oxygen or support. He will then paraglide down.

In addition to ski mountaineering training, Vedrines has followed some intense workouts with coach Leo Viret. He also has a new prototype paraglider designed by badass pro pilot Jean-Baptiste Chandelier. Vedrines’ new ultralight weighs just 925gr for a 15-square-meter sail.

Climber with a heavily-loaded trolley at an airport

Vedrines on the way. Photo: Benjamin Vedrines/Instagram


More paragliders

Antoine Girard flying above Broad Peak with K2 in background

Antoine Girard flies above Broad Peak, with K2 in the background. Photo: Antoine Girard


Vedrines may not be the only French climber with a paraglider on K2. Altitude News mentioned (but didn’t confirm) that six other French climber-paragliders could be planning to fly near or from K2. These include Jean-Yves “Blutch” Fredriksen, Bertrand “Zebulon” Roche, and Liv Sansoz, who could attempt a first tandem flight from K2.

Antoine Girard, who already reached 8,400m in a record flight above Broad Peak, could also plan to fly above the summit of K2. Last year, Girard and his team flew above Spantik. This year, they have been in Pakistan since May 22. According to their last video, they are acclimatizing at 5,000m.

Commercial teams

Meanwhile, the commercial expeditions start their approach trek in two to three weeks. Unlike in Nepal, the teams rarely acclimatize on other peaks. Rather, they get used to altitude by trekking up the Baltoro Glacier and then doing rotations up K2 itself.

Those who plan several 8,000’ers in the season usually start with lower peaks first, typically Nanga Parbat or Broad Peak. This way, they avoid rotations on the harder and riskier K2.

Last year, the weather only allowed a single summit push at the end of July, with tragic consequences. Pakistani porter Muhammad Hassan died while climbers stepped over him on their way to the top. It is yet to be seen if local workers’ conditions will improve or if measures will reduce the alarming amounts of trash left on the approach trek and on K2 itself.

Alpine-style teams

While K2’s commercialization resembles Everest more every year, alpine-style teams have plenty to choose from in Pakistan as long as they seek out slightly lower mountains.

David Klein of Hungary will begin his second attempt on 7,403m Istor-o-Nal, located in the Hindu Kush, on the country’s northwest frontier. Klein will pair up with Nagy Marton. They will be completely alone, not just on the peak itself but in the entire region.

Istor-o-Nal has just one documented ascent route. The climbers will keep an open mind and decide their line depending on conditions.

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides graduated university in journalism and specializes in high-altitude mountaineering 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 corporations, press manager and communication executive, and a published author.