Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Summer Climbing: K2, Broad Peak, and Beyond

After the spring climbing season in the Himalaya was cut short due to the earthquake in Nepal, the mountaineering scene has been unusually quiet for the past few months. But now that summer is nearly upon us that is about to change, as climbing teams start to get back to business and turn their attention to other big peaks outside of Nepal and Tibet.

With the arrival of June, the seasonal monsoons are once again hitting central Asia, making it unsafe to climb in the Himalaya proper. That means that all the expeditions to Everest, Lhotse, Annapurna, and the like would have gone home by now regardless of the earthquake. There is generally a short lull between the end of the spring climbing season in Nepal, and the start of operations elsewhere. That lull won't last for long however, and even now expeditions are gearing up for the challenges ahead.

In preparation for the start of the summer climbing season, Alan Arnette has taken a comprehensive look at some of the teams that we'll be hearing a lot about in the coming weeks. Those climbers have set their eyes on some big 8000 meter peaks in Pakistan, and in the days ahead I'll be watching their progress closely.

On K2, the commercial teams have moved onto the mountain in recent years, and this year there will be two squads led by Madison Mountaineering and Himalayan Experience. Both of those outfitters have a great deal of experience on major peaks, and they hope to continue the momentum that was started last year when an unprecedented 40 climbers found success on the world's toughest mountain. But K2 is fickle, and the weather there is incredibly unpredictable, so I wouldn't count on a repeat of 2014, which was a banner one indeed.


Amongst the climbers attempting K2 this season are David Tait, a man who has summited Everest on five separate occasions. If you've followed David's expeditions over the years, you've probably heard him talk about retiring from the big mountains on more than one occasion, yet he continues to find reasons to come back. K2 will be a different kind of challenge for him however, and it will be interesting to read his thoughts on the mountain.

Alan also points out that there will be teams led by Nazir Expeditions, Adventure Tours Pakistan, and Seven Summits Treks, which operates out of Nepal. These outfitters provide less support for the climbers on the mountain, and are more like a loosely affiliated group that are sharing a climbing permit.

Elsewhere, there will be several teams on Broad Peak, which is sometimes used as an acclimatization climb ahead of K2. Last year, Chris Burke was able to summit the "Savage Mountain" but her efforts to bag both K2 and Broad Peak were thwarted. She'll return this summer to try to nab BP and claim her ninth 8000-meter mountain.

The Gasherbrums (I and II) will play host to a team of international climbers who will be working together to bag both summits. The two mountains pose a formidable challenge for any mountaineer, but are also excellent peaks to gain experience on before proceeding on to the other eight-thousanders. These mountains are rarely very busy, but it is always interesting to follow progress on them none the less.

Finally, Alan is reporting that Nanga Parbat will remain empty once again this summer. After the terrorist attack on that mountain back in 2013 – which left 11 dead – few teams have wanted to venture to Nanga during the summer season. It has been the target of numerous winter expeditions in recent years, but it seems that teams will shy away again due to security concerns.

It should also be noted that the climbing season on Denali is in full swing as well, with numerous teams already on the mountain. While not as tall as these massive 8000-meter peaks, the Alaskan mountain is as challenging as the come. We'll be keeping an eye on proceedings there as well, with updates as they are warranted.

That's the round-up of the summer climbing season ahead. Stay tuned for regular updates.

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