Karakoram Weather Preview: Will Weird Be the New Normal?

Last week, climbers experienced the full blast of Pakistan’s summer. Sophie Lavaud reported 43ºC as she visited Faisal Mosque, one of Islamabad’s best known monuments.

Those arriving in Pakistan these days would find last week’s heat wave hard to believe, given the cool 20ºC temperatures that currently prevail. Meanwhile, as we reported recently, the teams in Base Camp on Nanga Parbat endured heavy rain on the trek in and snow above 3,000m.

The difficult conditions have thwarted Carlos Garranzo’s K2 attempt even before it began. The Spanish climber and blogger slipped on an icy rock and broke his leg. He is now back in Skardu.

Broad Peak peers from behind the clouds. Photo: Ulises Corvalan

 

Yesterday, Lavaud reported that it was snowing at Nanga Parbat’s BC for the fourth day in a row. Adriana Brownlee estimated that 80cm of fresh wet snow fell just yesterday.

The snow has also delayed alpine-style teams, including the French climbers on Pumari Chhish East and the Americans on K7.

A meteorlogist speaks

The present cool spell in Islamabad is certainly unusual. Ogimet‘s daily data registered at Islamabad Airport show a decrease of 15ºC in under a week.

Daily summary of weather data at Islamabad Airport, by Ogimet

 

Rains are causing floods and landslides in several parts of the country. It remains to be seen whether this may affect climbing conditions in the mountains. After the extraordinarily sunny spring in Nepal, some wonder whether the unpredictable Karakoram weather could be equally abnormal this summer.

What do the meteorologists say?

Vitor Baia: Doesn’t believe in long-term forecasts

“I do not trust forecasts over seven days, and I definitely don’t believe in long-term forecasts for over two weeks,” Vitor Baia told ExplorersWeb. The Portuguese meteorological expert is working with several climbers and paragliding expeditions currently in the Karakoram.

“Strange weather is the norm in Pakistan’s mountains,” he said. “No two summers look the same. What I can say now is that [short-term] conditions will improve. In the next two weeks, we’ll see sunny days and weak winds.”

Meteoexploration.com’s multimodel site agrees with Vitor Baia.

 

Avalanches first

This is good news for the climbing teams, but they will have to include patience in their tactics. Everyone will have to wait not only for better weather but also for snow loads to release before heading above Base Camp.

Gelje Sherpa, who is climbing Nanga Parbat with Adriana Brownlee, admits that the snow that has accumulated for the past several days will make rope fixing difficult.

Snowy, grey Base Camp scene

Nanga Parbat’s snowed-in Base Camp today. Photo: Juan Pablo Toro

 

Overall, waiting is just part of the game for Karakoram climbers. At least, for those with a single goal. Patience will be harder for the record-seeking climbers eyeing several peaks before August.

Angela Benavides is a journalist specialised on high-altitude mountaineer and expedition news working with ExplorersWeb.com.

Angela Benavides 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 national and international media. She is also experienced in outdoor-sport consultancy for sponsoring corporates, press manager and communication executive, radio reporter and anchorwoman, etc. Experience in Education: Researcher at Spain’s National University for Distance Learning on the European Commission-funded ECO Learning Project; experience in teaching ELE (Spanish as a Second Language) and transcultural training for expats living in Spain.

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Gary Goldenberg
Gary Goldenberg
10 days ago

“After the extraordinarily sunny Spring in Nepal”? I was in the Manaslu region for the whole month of May and it rained at least part of every day. Sunshine was a rarity.

MV Alvarez
10 days ago

Gracias por la mención, Ángela, pero Carlos no se resbaló por el hielo, todo lo contrario. Falta hielo que sujete los bloques de roca debido a las fuertes lluvias y el terreno cedió. Carlos fue arrastrado por una avalancha de rocas cayendo unos 10m. Que tengan mucho cuidado todos los que transiten por allí, el terreno es inestable.