Thursday, July 05, 2018

Karakoram Summer 2018: Weather Improves Allowing Teams to Climb at Last

It has been a challenging couple of weeks on the big peaks in the Pakistan. The weather has been less than cooperative due to heavy snowfall on K2, Broad Peak, Nagna Parbat, and the Gasherbrums, leaving most of the teams stranded in Base Camp while they wait for better conditions. But over the past day or two, things have improved slightly, allowing some progress to be made. And while more snow is in the forecast, the climbers are taking advantage of this weather window while they can.

On Broad Peak, Furtenbach Adventures reports that they've seen two days of relatively good weather, allowing them to start moving up the mountain again. They waited for things to settle a bit before proceeding upwards, but it now looks like the team is heading up to Camp 1 and most likely proceeding on to C2 shortly there after.

Fredrik Sträng is also on Broad Peak as a warm-up climb for K2. He came within 17 meters (55 feet) of the summit last year and would like to knock this mountain off before he moves on to his main objective. He and his team went up to Camp 1 yesterday amidst mostly good weather, but conditions deteriorated later in the day and another 8 inches (20 cm) of snow was deposited on the mountain. The initial plan was to reach Camp 3, but they are back in BC now.
Madison Mountaineering is reporting a similar experience on K2, where things have also improved immensely. The team is preparing to launch its first acclimatization rotation tomorrow, but the Sherpas are heading up to C2 today and will begin fixing ropes to Camp 3 tomorrow. Typically, the squad should have already done its first rotation, and possibly even its second by now. But even though they are behind schedule, there is still time to get ready for late-July/early-August summit bids.

The Seven Summits Treks team is on a similar schedule. They sent Sherpas to Camp 2 yesterday while the climbers made some acclimatization hikes in preparation of going higher today. The plan is to go up to C2 tomorrow and spend the night their, before returning back to Base Camp on Saturday. It will be the squad's first real acclimatization rotation as well.

The Japanese team led by Akira Oyabe have set up Camps 1 and 2 on K2 and shuttled gear and supplies to those  point, but they too are back in BC after more snow has started to fall. How long this pattern of unsettled weather will last remains to be seen, but the worst part is the instability and increased avalanche danger it creates later in the season when the teams move upwards. For now, the Japanese squad is taking what the mountain gives them, just like everyone else.

Meanwhile, over on Nanga Parbat it looks like another team is calling it quits. After Mike Horn left the mountain due to dangerous conditions, that left just Alex Gavan and Tunc Findik still on the mountain. They now indicate that they are leaving as well, citing unstable conditions and a forecast that calls for more snow in the days ahead. The duo cite the increased risk factor for bringing a halt to the expedition.

As you can see, things are starting to slowly move in the Karakoram, but we're still a long way away from a "normal" season so far. It is still early July however and there is no need to panic just yet. Conditions can – and most likely will – improve in time for the traditional summit windows later in the month or early August. Stay tuned for more updates.

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