Karakoram Season Ends; Mingma G Gambles on Nanga Parbat

Last month, Sanu Sherpa became the first person to climb all the 8,000’ers twice. Summiting Gasherbrum I, he has now unofficially started circuit number three.

With climbers back from Gasherbrum I and Masherbrum, the summer 2022 Karakoram season has ended. But climbing continues, thanks to a gamble from Mingma G. His Imagine Nepal team has reached Nanga Parbat Base Camp, hoping to climb the Killer Mountain in what is usually considered the off-season.

Masherbrum: all safely down

Marek Holecek and Radoslav Groh have made it safely down from Masherbrum’s West Face just in time to avoid a storm that is now hitting the Karakoram. Their third member, Tomas Petrecek, who had to abandon the attempt because of a toothache, walked up the glacier to meet them. He reported that the two men are “thin but in good spirits”. But they are probably not as thin as they were last year after a storm trapped them on Baruntse for four days without food.

Rocky faces and broken glacier terrain at the base of Masherbrum, near Base Camp.

The foot of Masherbrum, near Base Camp. Photo: Tomas Petrecek

Gasherbrum summit video

Sajid Sadpara is currently hiking back to Skardu. Meanwhile, his home team shared a video taken as he reached the summit in the middle of the night. Climbing on his own and without O2 at an amazing pace, the son of Ali Sadpara topped out at 3 am, together with Sanu Sherpa and his client, Naoko Watanabe of Japan.

In the clip, Sajid kneels in prayer, and Sanu Sherpa chants “Ali Sadpara ka beta!” (Ali Sadpara’s son).

Sanu Sherpa, by the way, is breaking his own records. Two weeks ago, on Gasherbrum II, he became the first person to complete all 14 8,000m peaks twice. Now, by summiting Gasherbrum I, he has informally started a third round. Note that Eberhard Jurgalski of 8000ers.com does not recognize his Manaslu climbs, which stopped at the usual foresummit.

Sanu is one of the climbing leaders at Kathmandu-based outfitter Pioneer Adventure. Last year, as a lark, the flamboyant Sherpa did push-ups on the summit of K2.

Naoko Watanabe of Japan smiles to the camera with the gasherbrums at her back.

Naoko Watanabe, with Gasherbrum II behind. Photo: Naoko Watanabe

 

This time, Sanu Sherpa guided Naoko Watanabe. The Japanese woman has now summited five 8,000’ers this year: Lhotse, Nanga Parbat, Broad Peak, and the two Gasherbrums. She now has just Shishapangma to go (and Manaslu’s main summit, according to 8,000ers.com).

Scary moments at the Japanese Couloir

The climbers faced very hard conditions on Gasherbrum I, as shown in Sirbaz Khan’s video below. It shows hard mixed terrain, ice and rockfall, and high winds at the Japanese Couloir, right before a snowstorm hit.

 

Sirbaz Khan summited without O2 but showed symptoms of AMS on the way down. He is doing well, but he has not recovered enough to join Imagine Nepal’s team on Nanga Parbat, as he intended. Nanga Parbat was to be his 13th 8,000’er.

Khan had teamed up with Naila Kiani and  Sohail Sakhi. After a difficult descent, they flew from Base Camp back to Paiju and then were driven to Skardu. The helicopter also took record-seekers Kristin Harila, Pasdawa Sherpa, and Dawa Ongchu.

With 11 8,000’ers summited in 106 days, Harila’s 8K “women too” team has some intense diplomatic work ahead if they want to get permits Shishapangma and Cho Oyu, to finish all 14. Harila will rest days at home in Norway and then return to Nepal for Manaslu — presumably again with Pasdawa and Dawa Ongchu.

Photo from IG stories showing Pasdawa Sherpa, Kristin Harila and Dawa Ongchu at arrival back to Skardu. They look weathered and thinner, but otherwise in good spirits.

Pasdawa, Harila, and Dawa Ongchu are back in Skardu. Photo: Summit Karakoram

Next: Nanga Parbat off-season

While the mid-summer season has ended, limited climbing is still happening, thanks to Mingma G. He believes that Nanga Parbat in late summer is as good or even better than in June when the mountain is usually climbed.

This year, he and a group of clients are heading for the mountain after everyone else has left. So far, the idea looks awesome. They are alone in a bucolic base camp of grass, flowers, and grazing cattle. Fresh vegetables and other produce are available within a 30-minute walk. It is quite a contrast from the usual Karakoram desert.

There's grass and flowers at the base of Nanga Parbat now, where Imagine Nepal's team has set their BC. Their yellow and orange tents are the only ones in the entire meadow.

Imagine Nepal’s Base Camp tents at the foot of Nanga Parbat. Photo: Mingma G

 

The Sherpa crew started working immediately and are currently fixing the route to Camp 2. They hope to get there tomorrow.

“There are no ropes left from the summer expeditions, so we need to fix everything,” said Mingma G.

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides is a college-graduated journalist specializing in 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 corporations, press manager and communication executive, and a published author.