More Summits and a Bitter Aftertaste on K2

This year’s K2 season is unfolding with lots of uncertainty and a bitter aftertaste.

More climbers summited yesterday. According to those in Base Camp, the weather held in the morning, then deteriorated in the afternoon. Meanwhile, the exhausted summiters from July 27 returned to Base Camp and provided some details about the climb and the death of Muhammad Hassan, the Pakistani porter who was assisting one of the rope-fixing teams.

However, the information remains sketchy and each testimony leaves more unanswered questions.

Avalanches and traffic jams

Austrian climber Wilhelm Steindl was a member of the Furtenbach Adventures team that turned around near the Bottleneck yesterday.

“We arrived in Camp 3 on Wednesday afternoon,” Steindl told ExplorersWeb. “There, we met a guide who was working with the rope-fixing team but had abandoned them because of poor safety conditions. He told us that the conditions are really tough and he quit because he was afraid of avalanches, but he also told us that the sherpas would continue to fix the rope till the summit.”

The climber looks up while standing in a steep slope, the glacier at his feet.

Photo: Wilhelm Steindl


Like many others, Steindl and Gelu Sherpa (supporting him) decided to give the mountain a try but avoided joining the frontline climbers. “Most people started around 7 pm but we waited until 11 pm to set off,” Steindl said.

Here is Steindl’s account of events:

At two in the morning, we passed the location of Camp 4 [which was not set up this year] and walked on until the beginning of the Bottleneck. We stopped to wait for the rest of the team. While we waited, I saw one of the two avalanches that took place that night. It nearly hit all the people in the Bottleneck but luckily missed them by some meters.

We decided to wait and look at what the people in the Bottleneck would do. Some turned around and went back, but most stayed in line and waited. There was a traffic jam at the traverse below the serac. They didn‘t walk a meter for at least two hours. In front of them, the rope-fixing team was struggling and didn‘t move forward. We didn‘t want to stay in line in the Bottleneck for hours so we decided to turn back.

After, we were told that an avalanche killed a Pakistani porter in the traverse, so I guess this must have been the reason for the traffic jam. For me, it is unbelievable that people just step over a dead guy hanging there.

Climbers at dawn below the Bottleneck.

Climbers at dawn below the Bottleneck. Photo: Wilhelm Steindl

Different points of view

Mingma G, leader of Imagine Nepal, confirmed today’s summits to ExplorersWeb and the sad loss of Muhammad Hassan.

“The weather was actually better than on July 27, at least until noon, then it worsened quickly,”  Mingma G said. “There were summits among the Russian team members, together with six or seven sherpas, around 10 people from the Elite Exped team, and one member plus two sherpas from my team.”

Despite bad weather, all the climbers are back in Camp 2. The Elite Exped team was led by Mingma David Sherpa, who stood on the summit of K2 for the sixth time.

Mingma G also mentioned that according to climbers who returned to Base Camp yesterday, Muhammad Hassan of Pakistan didn’t die in an avalanche as previously thought, but from a fall. Hassan fell and hit a rock, some witnesses said.

“When the incident happened, there was a very long queue in the traverse and below,” Mingma G said.

Some local media reports mention that people tried to help Hassan but there was nothing they could do. However, the reports give no concrete details. As far as we know, there were no further rescue attempts or efforts to retrieve the body.

Pakistani climber Mohammad Hassan

Mohammad Hassan. Photo: Adventure Alpine Guides


Mingma G also shared his thoughts about the reports of avalanches on the route. “There were no avalanches,” Mingma G insisted. “What the climbers saw and thought were avalanches was actually fresh snow drifting down small couloirs carried by the wind and falling like water. If there had been avalanches, the sherpas wouldn’t have continued.”

Lakpa Sherpa of 8K Expeditions, also coordinating his team’s summit push from Base Camp, contradicted this. Lakpa Sherpa spoke of avalanches, apparently reported by the rope-fixing team.

Summits and defeats

The Russian team outfitted by 7 Summit Club confirmed the summits and the return of yesterday’s summiters to Camp 2. They are expected back in Base Camp today.

For veteran Sergey Bogomolov, the ascent ended at Camp 3. He didn’t like the conditions and turned around, knowing that he might not get another chance to face the mountain he has attempted so many times during his career.
“K2 wins 5-0,” he said before turning around and heading back to camp.

More casualties?

Jon Lawrie on the summit of K2.

Jon Lawrie on the summit of K2. Photo: Jon Lawrie


Jon Lawrie of Australia reported on Instagram that he summited K2 without oxygen. “It was a hell of a night/morning with multiple avalanches and sad ends to some people’s lives,” he said, perhaps suggesting there were more casualties.

Lawrie returned with a serious cough and 25% of his sight lost in his left eye (temporarily, he hopes). “However, I believe I had the day of my life, which was what was needed to pull off a no-O2 ascent of this beast.”

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides graduated university in journalism and specializes in high-altitude mountaineering 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.