Monday, June 30, 2014

Pakistan 2014: Climbing Begins on K2

Following a slow start to the summer climbing season in Pakistan, things are starting to pick-up at last. As reported last week, teams are finally arriving in their various Base Camps, including several expeditions that have already gone to work on K2, the crown jewel of the climbing scene in the Karakoram. But that won't be the only mountain to see action in the coming weeks, and there is plenty of activity to come across the Karakoram and Himalaya.

Part of the reason for the slow start this year is due to bad weather preventing flights out of Islamabad to Skardu. Most of the climbers begin their journey by first making their way to Pakistan's capital, and then either taking a short flight, or a very long 27-hour bus ride, to Skardu. Once there, they will drive for several more hours to reach the village of Askole, where the trek to BC begins. But, there have been a lot of flights scrubbed due to the inclement weather over the past few weeks, and it has put some of the climbers behind schedule.

The other reason things have been slow to develop is the new rule that says that all members of a team on the same climbing permit must travel together to BC. Some climbers like to arrive early, and begin their acclimatization process ahead of the rest of their group, but this year they have been unable to do that due to this newly instituted regulation. This has left some people stranded in Skardu while they wait for the rest of their team to catch up. It has also left some people very frustrated as well.

Amongst the arrivals into Pakistan this weekend were Alan Arnette, who found his first attempt to reach Skardu thwarted on Sunday, but he was able to safely make it there today. He'll now proceed to Askole tomorrow, and likely start his trek to Base Camp on K2 on Tuesday of this week. Watch for regular updates and good insights into climbing the world's toughest mountain in the days ahead.

After a few delays of their own, Al Hancock and Adrian Hayes are on their way to K2 BC at last as well, and should be reaching that milestone by tomorrow. They were one of the teams that got delayed due to the change in rules, but have been making good progress towards Base Camp since last week. As you can imagine, both men are eager to get started with their climb as well.

As for the teams that are already on K2, ExWeb reports that they have already been busy. Several of the squads have now established Camp 1 on the mountain, and in some cases have even gone higher. The Polish team, which is practicing for an upcoming winter attempt on the mountain, has gone as high as 6400 meters (20,997 ft), but have now retreated back to BC to rest. Reports indicate that there is a lot of fresh snow above that height, which will make things more challenging until it settles. K2 is well known for being prone to avalanches, and there is no need to press their luck in these early stages of the climb. Other teams on K2 at the moment include a Pakistani national team, and a pair of Greek climbers as well.

Elsewhere, things are starting to get interesting too. Over on Masherbrum I, Austrian climbers David Lama, Peter Ortner, and Hansjörg Auer, The trio have established BC on the mountain, and have been doing their preliminary scouting up to Camp 1. They are facing a massive challenge on a huge wall, that will push their skills to the limit. The North East Face of Masherbrum is a herculean task to say the least, and it will be interesting to see how well they do in the days ahead.

On Broad Peak, teams are starting to get settled as well. Australian climber Chris Jensen Burke has not checked in yet, but she'll be warming up on BP before heading over to K2. Meanwhile, Polish and Pakistani teams already on the mountain have reportedly gone as high as 6000 meters (19,685 ft) as they acclimatize for the work ahead.

Finally, Turkish climber Tunç Findik is still playing the waiting game in Skardu. He hopes to bag both Gasherbrum I and II this year, but for now he must wait for two Chinese climbers, with whom he shares a permit, before he can proceed. Those climbers will not be attempting GI or GII, but because they are on the same team, they all must travel together. Frustrating to say the least, as the talented Findik is ready to get his expedition started.

More updates to come as teams arrive in BC, get settled, and begin their climbs as last.

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