Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Summer Climbs 2017: Updates from K2

It is starting to look like it is now or never on K2, where most of the teams have launched their summit bids with the hope that good weather will arrive in time to give them a chance at reaching the top. The forecast looks promising, but things can change fast in the Karakoram and nothing is ever assured. Currently, high winds are making it extremely difficult for anyone to move above C2, but despite those challenges the climbers still hold out hope for a window to open near the end of the week.

Yesterday I posted an update on the current status of most of the teams on the mountain, and little has changed since then. Most of the climbers are now in a holding pattern in Camp 2 and waiting to see how the conditions shape up today and tomorrow. The current plan for most of them is to push up to C3, rest there briefly, and possibly move on to Camp 4. If they reach that point, they'll then rest further, and depart during the night for the summit on either Thursday or Friday depending on the timing and weather.

We do have a few updates from some of the teams we didn't mention in yesterday's post. For instance, Vanessa O'Brien shared the news that she was on her way to C2 yesterday with plans to push on to C3 today. There have been no further updates since then, so it is unclear whether or not she actually made it higher on the mountain today. Also, the Himex team, climbing along the ńĆesen Route, is on the move too. They have climbed up to C2 and are preparing to go higher when the weather permits as well.

While the climbers are indeed on the move, it should be pointed out that there is a lot of work to be done before anyone can reach the summit. No one has been above Camp 3 on any of the routes so far this year, which means ropes need to be fixed and Camp 4 has to be established. Beyond that however, it is unclear what the conditions will be like higher on the mountain, meaning teams will need to break trail through potentially deep snow and there are continued risks of avalanches high on the slopes as well. In other words, as usual on K2, summits are far from a certainty and it is going to take a tremendous effort for anyone to reach the top again this year.

Of course, this being K2, this is all expected. This mountain never gives up its summit easily, and it doesn't look like it will this year either. The forecast actually says that the weather should improve in the next few days, but even that is far from a safe bet. Things can change rapidly, and for now all that the climbers can do is wait. Hopefully their patience and persistence will pay off, but at the moment it looks like a long shot.

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