Mingma G Answers K2 Summit Questions

It’s been a busy month for all the Nepali summiters of K2, but team leader Mingma Gyalje (aka Mingma G) caught up with ExplorersWeb between flights, to clear up some of the questions about this historical climb. He succinctly puts to rest the controversy around any “cut” ropes, since no one can speak with more authority: He was the last to rappel down during their descent from the summit.

Mingma also details the summit moment, when all the Nepalis took the last few steps together. Several commenters have pointed out that only eight climbers can be seen in the video of their arrival, while others (including ExplorersWeb) wondered about the lack of a group summit photo, which would surely have become iconic.

Here is what Mingma G has to say:

“I think there are three shots in the video where you can actually see 10 people. Bear in mind that we are at 8,611m, where every step takes a few seconds, and we are not exactly in line. Some are a bit behind, but we are in a row.”

Photos 1 to 3: Frames from the Nepali summit video, with names marked in black by Mingma G


“We can see: Dawa Temba in yellow, Nims [Nirmal Purja] in red without O2 mask, Mingma Tenzi in light yellow, Mingma David in black a little behind me, myself in red with a red hat, and Kili on the far left. The last one, holding the Nepalese flag, is Gelje.” [Check the other pictures marked by Mingma G to locate Sona, Pem Chhiri, and Dawa Tenjin.]


“[On] reaching the summit, everyone started taking pictures for their own sponsors, with their banners and the Nepali flag. At some point, Nims started down, nobody really noticed when, and we all followed. Nims just has only one picture of the summit, I guess. The reason is, we got really late to the summit and winds were picking [up], so we had no time to take group pictures.”

As Mingma G, Kili Pemba, and Dawa Tenjin took their summit pics for sponsors, other climbers (in the back) started moving down. Photo: Courtesy of Mingma G


“You can find all 10 Sherpas in the video. Except for Dawa Tenjin, Kili, and myself, all the down suits were different and you can easily figure out how many persons there are in total.”

Ropes above Camp 4

About the overblown rope issue, Mingma says ironically: “Of course, reaching the summit at sunset and in increasing wind, at such a crucial time, our only thought was to cut ropes — that’s an awesome calculation! … Lower down, on steep ice, fighting exhaustion and at -50ºC – do you think we would have made it back safely if we had tried to cut ropes?”

This rumor had been given wings by famous Pakistani climber Nazir Sabir. However, Nirmal Purja confirmed in an interview that all the ropes have been left in place. Soon afterward, Mingma David shared two pictures from above Camp 4. One of them, below, shows Gelje Sherpa at the bottom of the Bottleneck, clipped to a yellow rope, which casts a shadow on the snow.

Gekje Sherpa approaches the Bottleneck on K2. Photo: Mingma David Sherpa


Mingma G also mentioned that particular picture in his talk with ExplorersWeb. “I was the last one rappeling down so I know all the ropes were left,” he explained. “That yellow rope in M. David’s picture is the first rope above Camp 4. [Ropes continued] from that point up to the summit.”

Mingma G also noted that beginning 250 to 300m above Camp 3, the Nepalis fixed rope all the way to Camp 4. “It took us more than eight hours to cover that distance while fixing on January 15 [after which they returned to Camp 3] Once fixed, on the following day [summit day] we needed only three hours.” They also placed ropes across the crevasse.


K2 World Cup

As for the secrecy in which the entire summit push was kept, Mingma previously explained that he and Nirmal Purja had agreed to join forces to summit on behalf of Nepal.

Mingma told ExplorersWeb, “When there is a football World Cup, do you ever want your country lose? No, never, you always want your country to get the trophy. And the team and the coach always keep the strategy secret to make those wishes possible. We were the same on K2 this time. We had our plan to become first but we never threatened to cut ropes. Once we are done with the summit, it doesn’t matter to us who climbs later.”

The controversy over the Nepali’s secret summit plans centres largely around how it affected John Snorri, Ali Sadpara, and Sajid Sadpara’s own planning. When the Nepalis prepared to move toward the summit on January 4, Snorri and the Sadparas were in Camp 2, planning to move to Camp 3 the following day.

Some have asked why Snorri’s team didn’t join the Nepalis. In previous interviews, Mingma G explained that Snorri’s decision to remain at C2 on January 15 was due to different forecasts: Snorri’s was wrong, the Nepalis’ was correct. It was also windier in Camp 2 where Snorri was than in Mingma G’s location at Camp 3. See a video of Mingma G’s Camp 3 here, in which their tents are not fluttering in the slightest.

Some sources have suggested that John Snorri and Ali were misled into thinking that the Nepali team was not going for the summit. But Mingma G denies having any role in the Snorri team’s decisions — or with their expedition at all.

Mingma G’s tent in Camp 3, shortly before the Nepali team launched their successful summit push. Frame from Mingma G’s video


“I didn’t exchange a single word with Snorri,” Mingma G said. “We never visited each other’s respective camps.”

Mingma G added: “They had two low-frequency radios, good for a construction site but not for the mountain. This is why Sajid had no contact with the summit team [on February 5]. He could contact Base Camp but not the climbers.”

“Regarding January 14 and 15, Snorri’s team’s weather report failed and they couldn’t reach Camp 3 on January 15…He also posted a video on January 15 from Camp 2, showing quite a strong wind — more than enough to make anyone quit in winter.”

By the time that the SST climbers and John Snorri’s team had launched their own summit push in early February, Mingma G had left Base Camp. However, as an accredited and highly experienced mountain guide, he had some insight to share: “Some of the climbers in the team were very experienced and they had over 120kph winds on January 23, so they should have checked everything before making the decision to launch a summit push [in early February],” he said. “These are the reasons I didn’t accept any commercial clients this time — because I saw [what happened] on K2 last winter.”

Last year, Mingma G launched a commercial expedition to winter K2 with Gao Li of China, Tomaz Rotar of Slovenia, and John Snorri of Iceland. The expedition was called off because of health issues affecting Mingma G and one of his climbing Sherpas. Gao Li had already left the expedition by this time.

Back home, John Snorri and Tomaz Rotar both posted highly critical comments about Mingma G’s expedition management and doubted that he ever intended to try to reach the summit. This year, John Snorri launched his own expedition and Tomaz Rotar joined the Seven Summit Treks group. As we know, Snorri went missing during his summit push. Rotar reached nearly 8,000m before turning around when he was unable to find a way around a huge crevasse.

The main voice still largely silent is Sajid Sadpara’s. Sajid is a quiet person who does not speak English fluently. However, ExplorersWeb has contacted his inner circle for further information about the events of February 5 and also how the decisions were made on January 15, when Snorri and Ali Sadpara remained in Camp 2, while Sajid himself carried loads to Camp 3, where he met Sergi Mingote and Juan Pablo Mohr.