Monday, July 30, 2018

Karakoram Summer 2018: Curtain Drops Early on Pakistani Climbing Season

Last week I posted a summary of the Karakoram climbing season, which resulted in a record number of summits on K2, the world's second highest peak. At the time, there were still several teams in Base Camp on the mountain, waiting and hoping for another weather window to open that would allow them to have a crack at the top. But now it appears that the window has definitely closed for another year, sending the remaining squads home at last.

One of the teams that has been in the Karakoram all season long is Furtenbach Adventures. The group started on Broad Peak, which not only served as a good location to acclimatize, but also yielded up its summit, allowing climbers to top out on a second attempt. Following the successful completion of that ascent, the team moved over to K2 however, but found themselves a bit late to take advantage of the one and only summit window.

This past Saturday, the following message was posted to the Furtenbach Facebook page:
"K2 called off for this year😢
It’s raining in basecamp since days and windy up high making the route too dangerous for avalanches.

You have to take decisions. This year the decision to do a second summit push on Broad Peak that was again the first succesful in the season took our chance to catch the summit window on K2. Sometimes decisions are not easy. But at the end all safe down and still a successful expedition with Broad Peak summit! Let’s go for K2 again next year💪💪

Thanks to all members, sherpas, staff and leader @roli_striemitzer to make this expedition safe, a great experience and successful!!"


Meanwhile, Fredrik Sträng, another Broad Peak summiteer who arrived on K2 a bit late has updates his Facebook page with a status report as well. As reported last week, his team reached Camp 3 before turning back as the weather took a turn for the worse. Once they returned to BC they decided it was time to go home as well, only Fredrik had his travel delayed even further thanks to a statin the hospital tin Skardu. It turns out, he picked up a nasty parasite infection along the way and is being treated for it now. He says he's lost 12 kg (26.4 pounds) while on this expedition, which is far more than the usual 3.5 kg (7 pounds) that he normally sheds. He's on the recovery now, but Sträng says it will take him months to get back to his usual physical condition.

The end of the K2 climbing season seems to have come a bit earlier than usual this year. Typically the summits on that mountain tend to take place in the last week of July and the first week of August. But this year, the monsoon arrived early, closing down operations there. So while it was a record breaking year, the weather window was very narrow, with poor conditions bookending a few days of good conditions.

Finally, Stephen Nestler is reporting that Russian climber Alexander Gukov is in trouble on Latok I in Pakistan. He apparently is stranded at 6200 meters (20,341 ft) on the 7145-meter (23,441-ft) mountain without supplies and a limited amount of equipment. His climbing partner –– Sergey Glazunov –– fell to his death while descending, leaving Gukov alone high on the mountain.

Poor weather conditions late last week grounded any attempts to rescue him via helicopter, at least for now. There are some plans in place to try to resupply him or use a long rope to pluck him from the mountain, but those schemes are currently stymied by the conditions. 30 cm (11.8 inches) of fresh snow fell yesterday as well, although things are expected to improve today. If so, a rescue flight may already be searching the mountain and hopefully brining Gukov down.

That's it from the Karakoram. Now we start to look forward to the fall climbing season in the Himalaya.

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