K2’s Abruzzi Route: What’s Going On, What May Lie Ahead

Under the leadership of Mirza Ali and Karakorum Expeditions, things are happening fast on K2. Ali is determined to prove that a Pakistani team can spearhead a climb up its country’s most treasured mountain.

The rope-fixers already set up Camp 1 earlier this week. Tomorrow, they’ll leave to establish Camp 2. Weather permitting, they’ll even start fixing ropes to Camp 3.

Ali and western guides Stefan Keck and Jordi Tosas continue their trek in but should arrive at Base Camp within the day. Meanwhile, they are coordinating the work on both K2 and Broad Peak. The rope fixers, mainly from Shimshal, are also removing the old ropes.

The K2 rope-fixing team. Photo: Karakorum Expeditions

Carlos Garranzo’s emotional trial

Next to arrive in BC was the team that included Carlos Garranzo, still processing the tragic memories of his time on K2 last winter. Back then, he was with his close friend Sergi Mingote and regular expedition partner Juan Pablo Mohr. Garranzo called his attempt off because of health problems. Mingote died in an accident soon afterward and Mohr went missing together with John Snorri and Ali Sadpara. Neither of the three ever returned.

So Garranzo is back, hoping to climb K2 as a tribute to his friends. Most of all, he hopes to retrieve their personal belongings for their families. Like others, he would like to help find out what happened to the missing trio after they disappeared in February.

Tomorrow he will go up to Camp 1 for a first night at altitude. He may then continue toward Camp 2. Readers can track him here.

In the company of a high-altitude porter, Garranzo is carrying all his gear to set up Camp 1. Meanwhile, Oswald Rodrigo Pereira, as well as Hugo Ayaviri and Anne Bialek of Bolivia, plan a no-O2 climb. Neils Jespers and Jeff Spellmans of Belgium will hurry up to Camp 1 in order to set their tent in a prime spot in that tight area. They will then head down and acclimatize on Broad Peak. The rest of that group has also opted to acclimatize on Broad Peak before tackling K2, Garranzo’s home team said.

Sajid Sadpara en route

Overall, there are three fully serviced expeditions on K2 and Broad Peak — Karakorum Expeditions, Madison Mountaineering, and Pioneer Adventure. The last two count on fixed ropes and strong Sherpa climbers. In addition, some independent climbers and smaller groups have hired local logistical support until Base Camp.

Meanwhile, Sajid Sadpara is in Urdukas with Elia Saikaly, filming the second part of a documentary about the fate of John Snorri and the Sadparas’ winter K2 attempt. Soon, they too will begin their search for the remains of the missing climbers.

The understandable personal interest of relatives and friends and professional interests for future documentaries aside, the likeliest to find the bodies are those who reach Camp 3 and beyond first, that is, the rope-fixing teams.

Camp 3 on K2’s huge Shoulder area. Its precise location varies with the season. Photo (from a previous year): Madison Mountaineering

What if the bodies are found?

When ExplorersWeb asked Garrett Madison what he would do if his team found the bodies of the missing climbers, he didn’t hesitate. “Our objective is to climb the mountain and we are not deviating from our route,” he said. “However, if we came across any deceased climber, of course, we would immediately report it to the [liaison officer] and the authorities and we would wait for their instructions.”

“Yes, I would like to find them, mainly because the families need to close that sad chapter,” Jordi Tosas said. “But for that reason, the first thing we would do is inform the families and ask what we should do.”

Tosas added: “But it’s not just that. We don’t know what we might find, where, and in what state. We have no resources to perform a retrieval operation with any guarantees.”

Renato Casarotto’s memorial on K2. Photo: Valenti Giro/Magic Line 2004 expedition


Tosas has experience with this sort of delicate situation. He has been on K2 before, climbing the Magic Line. Back then, his Spanish team discovered the remains of Renato Casarotto, lost in 1986 somewhere on the Magic Line. They found him at the Filippo Glacier near Base Camp.

“We found half his body buried in the glacier ice,” Tosas said.

The team contacted Casarotto’s fiancé in Italy. Following her instructions, they moved him and buried him at Casarotto’s memorial farther down. “We didn’t share the details back then, but in fact, it took us two days to free the remains from the ice,” Tosas said. “We had to melt around it with warm water.”

Finally, Tosas expressed some doubts about finding anything of the missing mountaineers. Mountain conditions change dramatically between winter and summer, he pointed out. “The large crevasse right above Camp 3 may have changed, or fresh snow might have partly closed it,” he said. “Winter conditions are usually drier.”