Time for Pakistan: Local Guides to Lead K2 Teams for the First Time

Some weeks ago, Mingma Gyalge Sherpa of Imagine Nepal cancelled his company’s expedition to K2. Pakistan has not allowed Nepalis into the country recently because of COVID. “This is also a good opportunity for our Pakistani climber brothers to show what they can do [in the] mountains,” Mingma G said.

Mirza Ali.


Mirza Ali of Karakorum Expeditions has accepted the challenge. Yesterday, he announced that he will lead a commercial expedition with 11 clients and 22 local high-altitude porters (HAPs) to Broad Peak and K2.

Role reversal

In an interesting role reversal, two highly experienced European climbing guides will lead the rope-fixing team: Jordi Tosas from Spain and Stephan Keck from Austria.

“Most [of the 11 clients] are very strong and with a large climbing resumé,” Mirza Ali told ExplorersWeb. “But to ensure safety, we plan a 1:1 ratio, so that everyone has a HAP/guide to assist them.”

Ali confirmed that most of them will climb with oxygen, except Rick Allen of Scotland. “Rick will climb without O2 or HAP support, although he will use the Base Camp and the ropes,” said Ali. “In the end, we will all climb together as a team.”

Rick Allen returns to the Karakorum for a no-O2 attempt on K2.


Allen completed an epic climb to Nanga Parbat’s Mazeno Ridge with Sandy Allan in 2013 that won the pair a Piolet d’Or. In 2019, Allen made headlines when he got lost on Broad Peak and was located thanks to Bartek Bargiel’s drones. Bartek’s brother, Andrzej, was on his K2 ski expedition at the time. Several climbers later helped Allen down.

Samina Baig adds K2 to her resumé

According to Mirza Ali, more independent climbers may join in the future. He will also outfit a second, smaller team that includes his sister, Samina Baig, the first Pakistani woman to summit Everest and complete the Seven Summits.

Samina Baig aims for K2 this summer.


To avoid the COVID outbreaks that so affected Nepal’s base camps, Ali’s staff have all had their vaccines. Foreign clients and guides must prove that they too have received both vaccine doses in order to enter Pakistan.

“Most of our team will attempt Broad Peak, then K2,” Mirza Ali says. “This expedition is essential for the local HAPS and guides to increase their confidence and also to earn some revenue in these difficult times.”

The two European guides will help increase the local crew’s experience. Stephan Keck has previously guided on Everest for Russell Brice’s HIMEX. Jordi Tosas is better known for solo climbs and alpine-style ascents but he also heads a mountaineering school and guides around the world. In 2017, he helped train Kilian Jornet when the skier and ultra-runner first went to Everest.

Jordi Tosas.


Tosas hopes that this long-planned trip to K2 will help local workers improve their skills at altitude and develop professionally. “My role (and Stephan’s) will be to lead, overview, and teach,” said Tosas. “The [local Pakistanis]  are strong and experienced as HAPs, but they have had a secondary role compared to Western and Nepali climbers. They need to reinforce their skills,” and acquire more experience at high altitude, Tosas told ExplorersWeb.

While Tosas and Keck will head the rope-fixing team, they won’t guide the foreign clients. That will be the job of the Pakistanis. “Of course, in case of any trouble, we’ll be there to help,” said Tosas.

Mirza Ali, the first Pakistani to complete the Seven Summits and a veteran of all Pakistan’s 8,000’ers, will also teach this new generation.

The moment may have come for a real breakthrough for Pakistani climbers. The first group leaves Skardu on June 15, and a second will follow five days later.