Karakorum Update: K2, Broad Peak, Nanga Parbat and More

Heavy snow continues for climbing teams arriving at the head of the Baltoro Glacier and setting their Base Camps on K2 and Broad Peak. This snowy trekkers include no-O2 climbers Mike Horn, prepping for K2, and Billie Bierling, whose porters laboriously dug in deep snow to pitch tents at the base of Broad Peak. Horn reports that it will take a couple of days for the snow to crease falling. Only then can they head up on their first acclimatization round to Camp 2.

Avalanches sliding down the flanks of K2 have apparently damaged the fixed ropes of the K2 Japanese expedition. According to local guides, they have aborted their expedition.

Meanwhile, climbers are progressing on Nanga Parbat, despite heavy snow and frequent avalanches along the route. Ali Sadpara’s team had to retreat while on their way to Camp 2 because of the avalanche risk and incessant snowfall, but the Death Zone Freeride skiers managed to reach Camp 3, scout the sections above it and return to Base Camp for a two-day rest.

Death Zone Freeriders ham it up at Camp 3 on Nanga Parbat.

“We’ve got the hardest part done,” said Cala Cimenta. “After  Camp 3, it becomes much easier technically, and you can even use skins in many places.”

Not that their progress was totally without its hairy moments. Today, one of their number narrowly dodged an avalanche. “He managed to flatten himself against the rocks and let it pass over his head,” said Cimenta.

Beyond the famous 8000’ers, Pakistan is also a paradise for technical climbing on faces and spires over 6,000m, and the government is making a significant effort to promote mountain tourism, build airports, fix roads, keep prices reasonable and ensure safety — no doubt keen to avoid a repetition of the 2013 terrorist attack on Nanga Parbat that left 11 climbers dead.

All mountains below 6,500m high are officially designated as trekking peaks (although many of them involve very serious rock and ice climbing) and involve no fees. This is highly attractive to small teams of seasoned climbers, hoping to open new route or even bag first ascents.


The tantalizing peaks that lured the Italians to the Karakorum. Photo: Maurizio Giordani

Among these, Italians Mateo de la Bordella, Maurizio Giordani, Massimo Faletti and David Hall left for Pakistan last Friday to climb a group of peaks they’ve only seen from a photo. An old-fashioned climbing adventure, they don’t know the routes they’ll follow or even how exactly to get there. All they know is that they’ll try some new lines alpine style and that they will be voluntarily isolated, with no updates, posts on social media or other modern distractions. According to Planet Mountain, Giordani and Faletti previously made the first ascent of Kiris Peak, while della Bordella completed a new route on Uli Biaho’s West Face last year with partners Luca Schiera and Silvan Schüpbach.

Finally, search patrols have finally found the bodies of seven of the eight climbers buried in an avalanche on Nanda Devi East last week. The remains of the guide lost on Melvin Jones Peak in the Hindu Kush has also been retrieved.

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