Purja Confirms: No Oxygen on K2

The pictures that Nirmal Purja shared earlier today showed him with no mask and with frost from breath all over the front of his down suit. That was enough to increase expectations, and now he has confirmed it: “Job done! K2 winter with no supplementary oxygen!”

In a short post on his website, Purja explains the difficult decision he had to make. He was not acclimatized enough after only one night in Camp 2 (6,600m) on the previous rotation. Also, as the leader of his team, his priority had to be their safety.

In the end, it was his “self-confidence, knowing my body’s strength, capability and my experience from climbing the 14×8,000’ers enabled me to keep up with the rest of the team members and yet lead,” he said.

The meaning of those last words is unclear, but if he actually was first in line, that would satisfy even the purest standards of no-O2 climbs. It would mean that above Camp 4, he broke trail and fixed ropes for the rest. In any case, it’s a remarkable feat that enhances the Nepali team’s achievement and assuages those voices longing for a first winter summit in style. It is not yet known whether any others among the 10 Nepali summiters chose, like Purja, to go without supplemental oxygen.

Purja alludes to the current style debate, pointing out that bottled oxygen is just one factor among many that make a climb easier. “There are many cases where climbers have claimed no-O2 summits but followed our trail that we blazed and used the ropes and lines that we had fixed,” Purja said. “Some of which are widely known within the inner climbing community. What is classified as fair means?”

Purja added that while he mostly used oxygen on his remarkable chain-climb of all 14 of the Himalayan and Karakorum giants in 2019, he went without it until 8,000m and was pleased with his performance.