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Winter K2 Update: Threading the Needle – report by Alan Arnette

K2 Sherpas and climbers have left for their summit bid.

There is a window emerging centered on February 4 and 5 ending late Saturday.

I’m anticipating [Alan Arnette] 20 to 30 people on this push (members and Sherpas/Pakistanis) with a 40% summit rate if the weather holds.

Big Picture

Here’s the K2 summit schedule for the SST team: (all dates and times K2 time)

  • Tuesday, 2 Feb: BC – C1 (winds over 20 mph)
  • Wednesday, 3 Feb: C1 C3 (winds drop under 20 mph late afternoon)
  • Thursday, 4 Feb: C3 – Begin Summit Push before midnight (winds under 20 mph)
  • Friday, 5 Feb: Summit – C2 (winds under 20 mph)
  • Saturday, 6 Feb: C2 – BC (wind increase over 20 mph late afternoon)

Snorri [and the two Sadpara] may be a bit faster as they plan to take 2 days from BC to C3, then the summit and back to C2. So three days up and one back. Again, incredibly aggressive. They may summit on Thursday where everyone else on Friday

This is the 10-day wind forecast from windy.com (red is bad, green is good):

There are two risks for these climbers on this summit push:

1) the winds return early, which doesn’t seem too likely, and

2) the lack of acclimatization prevents their bodies from performing at such extreme altitudes, especially in such cold, harsh conditions.

A slightly less but still very real risk is with this many people climbing at the same time, the opportunity for rockfall dramatically increases. This has been a relatively low snow season so the rocks are just sitting there and an accidental kick by a climber could mean serious consequences for those below.

They have been at K2 Base Camp for a month or more. Just living at 16,500-feet punishes the body. Small cuts don’t heal, constant GI issues like diarrhea are amplified and sap precious energy – even at Base Camp, much less 10,000 feet higher.

But the biggest issue is that many of those on this push never got higher than C1, at Camp 1: 19,965’/6050m.

That would be equivalent to C1 on Everest Southeast Ridge or Advanced Base Camp on the Northeast Ridge.

I [Alan Arnette] don’t know many climbers who would go for the summit with these camps being their high on Everest. Even the most ambitious Everest climbers try to sleep at 21,000 or 23,000 minimum.

Snorri & Team – On the Move

John Snorri Sigurjonsson with Muhammad Ali Sadpara and Muhammad’s 20-year-old son Sajid Ali will leave soon aiming for this window of February 4 and 5.

John told me [Alan Arnette], “I believe we can use 3 days to summit and 1 day to go back to bc. All I know is there are line missing on the way. Nims used my 700m lines to fix Bottleneck and the traverse.”

Seven Summits Treks – On the Move

Seven Summits Trek’s has sent eight Sherpas up to fix the route, and stock the camps for their members.

The SST Sherpas will go ahead of members to make sure the route is fixed, the camps are stocked with oxygen bottles, fuel and that the tents are still there after all the high winds.

This is the basic formula for a commercial expedition on most 8000-meter mountains and will give the members the best chance to summit.

Usually the members will trail the Sherpas giving them room to operate.

Sherpas [will] lead the entire route fixing it, in some case taking hours to get the ropes in.

It’s unclear if the January 16th summit team left any fixed ropes on the mountain.

In one interview, Nims said they didn’t leave anything on the mountain, not even a string. Remember however that Snorri’s group fixed to C1, and Mingma G fixed to traditional C4, so Nims might have been referring to their summit bid.

In any event the SST Sherpas have a lot of experience fixing this route.

The only concern may be the crevasse above C3 that created some problems for the previous summit team.

Note, apparently there are no tents at traditional C4, not a huge issue given the climbers intend to launch their bids from C3, but that makes for a very long summit day, especially for those wanting to return to C2.

Overall this is extremely ambitious, and dangerous should there be a significant shift in the weather for the worse.

Seven Summits Treks – On the Move – Full report

There are 17 members (perhaps fewer) and about 20 Sherpas still left.

Chhang Dawa Sherpa, leader of the SST team gave this update:

“After a long wait, finally we see a weather Window in the forecast. Today a the team of 8 Sherpas went up from basecamp, the team will recheck all the equipment left in higher camps, repair the fixed rope and deposit oxygen bottles as well. Many parts of route might have been damaged due to the harsh weather since 2weeks. There seems to be fair wind and weather from 1st to 5th Feb, this might be the last fair weather window until the February snowfall will start.”

“2 Feb (light Snow fall, light winds in C2)
Climbers along with Sherpas will climb up to Camp 1 from BC.
The Team of 8 Sherpas are planning to climb ahead to Camp 2.”

“3 Feb (light Snow fall, mild winds in C3)
Sherpa Team will set up Camp 3, deposit oxygen bottles, recheck the ropes and return back to the Camp 2.”

All remaining climbers (Some from C 1 and Some directly from basecamp) have plan to climb Camp 2.”

“4 Feb
Entire team will approach to Camp 3, take a rest for several hours at Camp 3 (7300m), and start their final push to the summit in evening or night (depending on wind conditions).”

“5 Feb (temp: -55 Celsius minimum)
The plan is to summit on 5th Feb, directly from C3, the only possible date. On 6th winds increase to 60 Km/h in afternoon; above 7500m, along with 100Km/h+ wind gusts.”

“Our plan is based on weather reports, expert’s advice and the team’s willingness. However, it’s a K2 winter expedition, anything at any moment could change this plan massively. To get down safety is the main concern.”

Header: K2 Base Camp

Source: Alan Arnette

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