Monday, August 29, 2016

Karakoram Summer 2016: The Final Summit Score of the Season

When last we checked in with the summer climbing season in the Karakoram there was team still working hard to complete their climb. That team consisted of Czech climbers Marek Holecek and Ondra Mandula, who were hoping to summit Gasherbrum I along a new route. But poor weather conditions stranded the two men high on the mountain, leaving them waiting for days for a chance to either move up or down. Ultimately they would have to abandon their attempt, which they finally did last week, officially bringing the curtain down on the 2016 season. 

Now that everyone has left Pakistan for home, we can step back and take a look at how things actually went this year. As usual in the Karakoram, there were some triumphs and some disappointments, but thankfully there were no tragedies. 

ExWeb has posted a post-mortem for the climbing season that just wrapped up, providing some insights into everything that went down over the past few months. One of the highlights of the summer was the return of climbers to Nanga Parbat after three years of no teams attempting that mountain. Climbers have mostly steered clear of Nanga since the 2013 attack in Base Camp by a group of terrorists that left 10 people dead. But this year they started to return at last, and three people actually managed to summit.

Over on K2 it was another frustrating season, which is typical of the world's second tallest mountain. Weather often dictates when climbers can go up or down on K2, and this year was no different in that regard. But the real difficult came when a major avalanche destroyed Camp 3 on the mountain, wiping away a large cache of oxygen bottles with it. That left most of the teams no choice but to call it a day and head home. So, while 2016 will be remembered as a year that commercial climbing on K2 increased dramatically. In fact, there were more than 100 climbers on the mountain this year. But in the end the results were typical for the "Savage Mountain" – zero summits on what most believe to be the toughest 8000 meter peak to climb. 

In the end, there were only a handful of summits for the entire season. In fact, ExWeb says there were a total of 21. The final tale of the tape indicates that Gasherbrum I and II each had 8 summits, while Nanga Parbat had 3 and Broad Peak had 2. Those numbers are fairly typical for the Karakoram, where the climbing is always difficult, although on occasion we'll have some surprisingly successful years such as 2013 on K2 when more than 40 people reached the top. 

Now, with the Karakoram season all wrapped up, our attention will turn towards the Himalaya where the fall climbing season is now getting underway. There will be a couple of attempts on Everest from the North Side in Tibet, but for the most part it looks like a typical year there as well. Many climbers will be attempting Manaslu in the days ahead, with a few expeditions heading to Lhotse, Dhaulagiri, and a few sub-8000 meter peaks too.

Stay tuned in the days ahead, as we'll be keeping a close eye on those expeditions as they unfold. 

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