Karakorum 2019: K2, the Gasherbrums and Nanga Parbat

As monsoon season settles into the Himalaya, it’s time to turn slightly further west, to the Karakorum. Here, porters and climbers are already approaching the base of Pakistan’s five 8000’ers. A number of climbing stars and innovative teams will share these peaks with ever more numerous commercial expeditions. This year we will also meet some familiar faces from spring, continuing their multiple 8,000m lists.

The Collectors

Sergi Mingote and Italian Mattia Conte en route to Islamabad. Next on Mingote’s list: Gasherbrum I and II.

Fully recovered from a pulmonary infection and a cracked rib after a no-O2 Lhotse ascent, Sergi Mingote aims to summit both Gasherbrums as part of his project to climb six 8000’ers within a year. His July deadline marks exactly 365 days since he succeeded on Broad Peak.

Meanwhile, the incredible Nirmal (Nims) Purba — who is trying to do all 14 8000’ers in seven months — has had to postpone Pakistan because of lack of funds. In spring, this formidable record seeker climbed Annapurna, flew to Kangchenjunga and topped that, then summited Everest and Lhotse back to back. Finally, after a quick helicopter transfer, he still had time to run up Makalu.

He had planned to bag the Karakorum Crown — Pakistan’s five 8000’ers — in the fastest time ever. But he admits that he has had to push back his start by four weeks, which makes it unlikely that even he will have time for all five. Nevertheless, he continues to be optimistic that he will complete the project somehow by October.

The Skiers

The Nanga Parbat skiers. From left to right, Cala Cimenti, Vitaly Lazo and Anton Pugovkin. Photo: Cala Cimenti

Summit climbs followed by ski descents were sorely missed in Nepal this past spring, but Russians Vitaly Lazo and Anton Pugovkin are already climbing Nanga Parbat and intend to ski completely down the steep Diamir face. The pair climbed and skied Manaslu two years ago and attempted Annapurna last year, although bad conditions thwarted them.

Skier and filmmaker Cala Cimenti of Italy will join them to film a documentary on their expedition. According to Cimenti, the three managed two trips to Camp 1 before bad weather arrived yesterday. Meanwhile, a French and a Georgian expedition have also reached Base Camp. Nanga Parbat is actually slightly south of the Karakorum, but its extreme western location means that the monsoon reaches it later.

The Trailblazers

Denis Urubko and María José Cardell, on holiday before leaving for Gasherbrum II. Photo: RussianClimb

Lots of novelty still awaits climbers in Pakistan: virgin rocky spires, unclimbed 6,000 and 7,000m peaks or new routes on its five mighty 8000’ers. Even permit fees are reasonable here. Among those eyeing new territory are Denis Urubko and María José Cardell. Over the last couple of years, the couple have combined rock climbing (her specialty) and high altitude (Urubko’s) in Patagonia, the Tien Shan and the Caucasus. A new route on Gasherbrum II marks their first 8,000m joint venture. The couple will acclimatize on the normal route, then will launch an alpine-style push on this new line.

The Adventurers

Fred Roux (left) and Mike Horn checking loads in Skardu. Photo: Mike Horn

Some say that K2 is not as savage a mountain as it used to be. This summer, high altitude porters and guides will fix the Abruzzi Spur route for clients on several commercial expeditions. Nevertheless, K2 remains a remarkable goal, especially without supplemental O2. Multi-adventurer Mike Horn is attempting this peak for the third time, together with Fred Roux. They left Skardu last weekend.

The New Generations

Muztagh Tower, 7,276m. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Simon Messner, son of superstar Reinhold, is also heading to Pakistan, although his plans remain veiled for now and refer only to a “project” around Muztagh Tower.

The Instagrammers

Stefi Troquet poses at Skardu, shortly before leaving for Nanga Parbat. Photo: Stefi Troquet

While virtually all climbers keep a profile on social media, some make an art of it. A search of #NangaParbat on Twitter and Instagram shows a large number of entries by an otherwise unknown Stefi Troguet. A resident of tiny Andorra, the 25-year-old poses with perfect looks and makeup (and six-pack abs). Her Twitter page introduces her as a “normal girl…chasing summits with red lipstick.” According to her posts, she is already on the way to Nanga Parbat Base Camp and will be guided up her first 8,000m peak by Ali Sadpara, himself fresh from Lhotse and Makalu.