History was made on Saturday 16 January when a team of Nepali climbers became the first to mount a successful ascent of K2 (8,611m) in winter.
K2 was previously the only one of the commonly recognised fourteen +8000m mountains not to have been summited during the winter months. Dubbed ‘the Mountain of Mountains’ by legendary mountaineer and UIAA Honorary Member Reinhold Messner, K2 is the second highest in the world and has a ferocious reputation. The first successful ascent of K2 was the 1954 Italian Karakoram expedition (climbers Achille Compagnoni and Lino Lacedelli). Since the first winter attempt in 1987-88, no group had reached higher than 7650 metres. For the past 30 years a number of groups, primarily from Italy, Poland and Russia have attempted such a feat.
“On behalf of the UIAA, its Executive Board, Management Committee and members, I congratulate the Nepali K2 climbing team on its successful ascent of K2 in winter. It is an outstanding achievement, and all mountaineers are very proud of you,” is the tribute paid by UIAA President Peter Muir. The UIAA also shared this sentiment with the Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA).
The successful 2021 expedition was led by Mingma Gyalje Sherpa, a certified IFMGA guide, and Nirmal Purja Pun Magar, who earned international headlines after he climbed the fourteen 8,000m peaks in a little over six months in 2019.
The summiters were:
- Nimsdai Purja
- Mingma David Sherpa (Team Nimsdai)
- Mingma Tenzi Sherpa (Team Nimsdai)
- Geljen Sherpa (Team Nimsdai)
- Pem Chiri Sherpa (Team Nimsdai)
- Dawa Temba Sherpa (Team Nimsdai)
- Mingma Gyalje Sherpa (Team Mingma G)
- Dawa Tenjin Sherpa (Team Mingma G)
- Kilu Pemba Sherpa (Team Mingma G)
- Sona Sherpa (Team Seven Summits Trek)
The achievement was marred by the tragic news of the death of experienced Spanish climber Sergi Mingote who fell when descending from Camp 1 to Base Camp. A veteran of the Himalaya, Mingote, 49, had climbed several +8000m mountains without supplement oxygen, a feat he was attempting on K2. The UIAA sends its condolences to Mingote’s family and friends as well as the Federació d’Entitats Excursionistes de Catalunya (FEEC), for whom Mingote was a close collaborator.
Winter 2021 K2 Update
Most climbers need between four to six days to safely summit and return to Base Camp. Let’s look at a range of schedules. Remember that in general winds need to be under 30mph on the summit night, preferably under 20. They can tolerate a bit higher winds, in the beginning, and end but the summit night has to be suitable or they risk severe frostbite or even being blown off the mountain.
Aggressive – 3 Days: This is almost silly, and only a world-class, speed climber could pull this off assuming they had already acclimatized to 8000-meter which no one K2 has as of today, or use a high flow of supplemental oxygen, maybe as high as 6lpm:
- C3 – Summit
- Summit – BC
Fast – 4 Days: This is still aggressive but can be done by extremely fit and acclimatized climbers:
Normal – 6 Days: This is what most people do in the summer, but given the cold temps in winter, few will take this long. This schedule could be cut to 5 days by going to C2 directly from BC:
Slow – 7 Days: This is the absolutely slowest way to summit K2 and I assume no one will take this schedule this winter:
Source: Alan Arnette