Showing posts with label Gasherbrum. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gasherbrum. Show all posts

Himalaya 2017: Everest Summiteer Cory Richards Shares Intimate Challenges of His Life

In the mountaineer world Cory Richards is known as quite a success story. He is an accomplished climber and adventure photographer who has topped out on some of the world's tallest peaks, including Everest. Back in 2011, he was even part of the first team to complete a winter ascent of Gasherbrum II, joining Simone Moro and Denis Urubko on the summit. To all outside appearances, Richards looked like a guy who had the world at his feet, knocking off tall peaks in remote parts of the world and delivering some of the most stunning images of those places. But, as it turns out, he was also battling a lot of demons, which hid just below the surface threatening to bring it all crashing down.

In a new article for National Geographic, Richards opens up about the challenges he has faced in his personal life, revealing that he first ran into trouble as a young teenager who began using drugs and found himself homeless on the street at the age of 13. That would alienate him from his family for a time and send him on a downward spiral that would leave a lasting impression on any young person. But, he would eventually crawl out of that situation and reunite with his family.

Years later, while climbing Gasherbrum II, he would get caught in an avalanche, narrowly avoiding death. Understandably that would lead to Richards developing a case of PTSD that would begin to haunt him on and off the mountain. He started to drink, he battled addiction issues, he got married but struggled to stay faithful. The difficulties continued to mount, even as his career really started to take off. Eventually, it would all come crashing down. He lost his wife, he left the multimedia studio he helped found, he turned away from friends, and it looked like everything would implode.

Then, last year, climber Adrian Ballinger reached out to Richards to see if he would be interested in climbing Everest together. The two men traveled to Nepal and went to work on the highest mountain on the planet, using social media in unique ways to document their climb. On summit day, Ballinger was forced to turn back, but Richards continued upward, reaching the summit alone. It was then that he knew he had to confront the demons that he faced and get his life together.

In the article, Cory shares some very personal stories about his internal battles, how he got to the lowest point in his life, and what it has been like to crawl back out of that spot again. He gives us a stark, honest look at himself with the hopes that his story might help others, even as sharing the truth helps him too. It is an interest read and a cautionary tale for sure.

Check it on in its entirety here.

Video: Meet Denis Urubko – One of the Strongest Mountaineers of All Time

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you've probably seen me mention alpinist Denis Urubko on more than one occasions. That's because I'm often covering is unique – and usually very difficult – expeditions to some of the world's toughest peaks. Denis has climbed all 14 of the 8000-meter mountains, each without supplemental oxygen. He has made winter ascents on Makalu and Gasherbrum II, and has been planning some alternate expeditions on K2 as well. In short, he is one of the top mountaineers of all time, and yet he is also off the radar for many people who follow the high altitude climbing scene.

In the two videos we get to know Denis much better. He shares his own personal story. What it was like for him growing up in Russia, how he got started in climbing, and what drives him to push new boundaries in the mountains. The two clips help us to get to know him better, and learn what spurs him on to continually return to the high places of our planet to try new things. If you are intrigued by the men and women who go on these demanding expeditions, I think you'll find his story a fascinating one.

Tip of the hat to Adventure Journal for sharing these videos. They are excellent.

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. 

Karakoram 2016: Czech Climbers Launch Summit Bid on Gasherbrum I

Earlier in the week we said that the climbing season in the Karakoram was grinding to halt, with most teams now long gone. But, one team remained in the mountain holding out home that they would still get a chance at the summit on Gasherbrum I, and along a new no less.

Czech climbers Marek Holecek and Ondra Mandula are now in the midst of a summit push along a route that Holecek has already attempted on three previous occasions. According to ExWeb, the duo set out from BC on Tuesday with the hopes of being into position to complete their climb today. Poor weather has momentarily stalled their attempt however, although they are hoping for conditions to improve this weekend so they can finish the ascent.

When the duo launched this summit push they climbed up to 6000 meters (19,685 ft) on Tuesday, setting up their first camp after a long day in mixed weather conditions. On Wednesday of this week the weather had improved and they set out to climb higher, but as they went, conditions once again deteriorated. Snow began to fall on the mountain, and several avalanches occurred, cutting off their ability to safely descend. Instead, they went up and found shelter near a serac, pitching their tent at 6800 meters (22,309 ft). That is where they have stayed for the past two days, waiting for things to improve. The plan is to wait out the weather, then move up to 7400 meters (24,278 ft) for one last campsite before moving on to the summit.

The new route is one that Holecek has scouted in the past, going up Gasherbrum I's southwest face. As mentioned, the Czech climber has failed to complete his ascent along this new path on three separate occasions, but he now believes that his persistence will pay off and he and Mandula can top out. At this point that all depends on the weather, and the amount of supplies that they have left. Summiting this late in the season is a bit uncommon in the Karakoram, but not unheard of. They will need some luck to go their way however.

We'll be keeping an eye on their progress throughout the next few days. Hopefully they'll find success along this new route, but if not it will be more important that they ascend safely. I'll keep you posted!

Karakoram 2016: Season Grinds to a Halt, Summit Video From Nanga Parbat

The climbing season in Pakistan is all but over for another year. For the most part, it was a very tough couple of months in the Karakoram and Himalaya as teams struggled with poor weather and challenging conditions. Summits were few and far between, although there were some successful bids here and there.

Our friend Alan Arnette has put together a wrap-up of the season on his blog with stats and updated summit numbers, the most glaring of which are from K2. As Alan points out there were a record number of permits issued for K2 this season – 112 in total – with a total of zero successful ascents. That gives you an idea of just how tough that climb is, and also how commercial squads are starting to take over the climbing scene there. But unlike Everest, K2 won't surrender its summit easily, and it will be a long time before the conditions are even remotely the same on those two peaks.

Elsewhere, Alan reports that one squad still remains in the region hoping to claim a late summit. A Czech team is still on Gasherbrum I where they are waiting out the weather. It remains to be seen if they'll get another crack at the summit, but the Gasherbrums have seen the most success this summer, so there is a chance we'll see a few more climbers reach the top before we're done.

Finally, we have this video that was shot on Nanga Parbat, where  Spaniard Ferran Latorre, Frenchman Hélias Millerioux and Bulgarian Bojan Petrov summited via the Kinshofer route on the Diamir Face. For Ferran it was his 14th 8000 meter peak, and a significant accomplishment. The video shows their final steps onto the summit.

CAT14x8000 Nanga Parbat 2016: Cim, Cumbre, Summit! from cat14*8000 on Vimeo.

Karakoram 2016: Summits on Nanga Parbat, It's Over on K2

More news from Pakistan today, where we learn that teams are continuing to make summit pushes on several mountains, while operations have indeed come to an end on K2 following the massive avalanche that hit that mountain over the weekend. As usual, the summer climbing season in the Karakoram remains as topsy-turvy and unpredictable as always.

We'll start with an update from Nanga Parbat, where ExWeb is reporting that Ferran Latorre, Helias Millerioux, and Boyan Petrov set off on a summit push yesterday, successfully topping out at 3:30 PM local time. The entire team returned to Camp 4 later that evening, and are now making their way back down the mountain today. For Latorre, this is his 13th 8000-meter peak, all of which have been summited without the use of supplemental oxygen.

It now appears that this may be the only successful climb on Nanga this year however, as most of the other teams are now preparing to head home. ExWeb says that the route just below the Kinshofer Wall is especially unsafe, discouraging any other climbers from proceeding upwards. It looks like Base Camp will be all but abandoned by this coming weekend.


Yesterday we reported that all commercial teams were also departing from K2 after a large avalanche wiped out Camp 3 over the weekend, destroying all of the tents erected there, while also sweeping away the fixed ropes and a cache of oxygen bottles. At the time, there were some independent climbers who were hoping to regroup and make another attempt on the summit sometime next week. Apparently, those climbers have now changed their mind, and will also be leaving BC over the next few days, making it now two years in a row without a single summit on K2.

Over on Broad Peak, poor weather has turned back the latest summit attempt by Spaniard Oscar Cadiach, but his work on the mountain is far from over. After descending yesterday to escape the conditions, Cadiach has now headed back up the mountain and is reportedly in Camp 3 and waiting for a chance to go higher. If he successfully climbs BP, this will be his 14th and final 8000-meter peak, all climbed without supplemental O's.

Finally, on both Gasherbrum I and II, current summit bids have been turned back due to poor weather. Teams are starting to leave those two mountains as well, although ExWeb says there are other climbers who are in Base Camp and waiting for their attempts on the mountain. While summit bids are certainly not imminent, there will be more attempts coming in the days ahead.

That's it for now. More to come soon.

Karakoram 2016: Avalanche Ends Season on K2, Summit Pushes Begin Elsewhere

I'm back from the wilds of Mongolia and am catching up on all the news from the world of outdoor adventure that took place while I was away. One of the big stories we had been following before my departure was the unfolding of the climbing season in the Karakoram and Western Himalaya. When I left, the teams were still getting settled into Base Camp, and were beginning their first acclimatization rotations. Now, a few weeks later, the situation is very different, with climbing operations coming to an end on one mountain, while the final summit pushes are underway on others.

The big news from this past weekend is that a massive avalanche on K2 has brought an end to the season on the world's second tallest mountain. The avalanche hit Camp 3 on Saturday morning, destroying the tents that were built there, while also washing away the fixed ropes and cache of bottled oxygen that was put in place for upcoming summit bids. Fortunately, no one was in C3 at the time, although there were several teams in Camp 2 and other points on the mountain. All have retreated back to BC due to bad weather conditions.

Now, it seems the teams have decided that the mountain is too unsafe to climb this year, and it appears that most are packing their bags to go home. The avalanche wiped out a lot of hard work to fix ropes and establish C3. With time starting to run short, poor weather a common occurrence, and a lack of bottled oxygen, it now seems like the season is over, at least for the major commercial teams. There are a few independent climbers who are hoping to rally the troops and have another go at the mountain however. They are currently eyeing an early-August attempt, weather permitting.


Meanwhile, ExWeb is reporting that the final summit pushes are now underway on Nanga Parbat and Broad Peak. Fern Latorre, Helias Millerioux, Boyan Petrov are all pushing to the top of NP today, while Spaniard Oscar Cadiach and his team are hoping to top out on BP. ExWeb says that if Cadiach is successful, this will be his 14th and final 8000 meter peak for his resume, all of which have been climbed without the use of bottled oxygen.

Finally, over on Gatherbrum II, a Polish team has been struggling with poor weather all season. They had hoped to reach the top early this week, but deteriorating conditions on that mountain were enough to keep them confined to their tents over the weekend. There are no updates on their progress at this time, but hopefully we'll know more soon.

That's it from Pakistan for today. I'll continue to keep an eye on the mountains for further updates. The season is rapidly coming to close once again, but there are still a few stories to come I'm sure.

Karakoram 2016: K2 Ramps Up, Nanga Parbat Reopens

The spring Himalayan climbing season is over, and the teams of climbers that made it one of the most successful in recent memory have departed Nepal for home. Now, the mountaineering world turns its attention to the Karakoram, as climbers descend on Pakistan to attempt K2, Nanga Parbat, and other major mountains in the region. That summer season is now starting to ramp up, with a significant amount of attention now focused squarely on the second tallest mountain in the world.

According to ExWeb, there will be 33 teams of various sizes operating in Pakistan this summer. They'll be focused not just on K2, but also the Gasherbrums, Broad Peak, Nanga Parbat, and a host of other mountains that are not a part of the 8000-meter club. That will make this one of the busiest seasons in the Karakoram and western Himalaya as well, with some significant expeditions planned.

But it is the continued commercialization of K2 that is receiving a good deal of attention. ExWeb estimates that more than 100 climbers will attempt the "mountaineer's mountain" this summer, which is a larger number than has been seen in the past. Most are a part of a commercial team with Madison Mountaineering, Kobler & Partner, and Seven Summits Treks leading the way.


100 climbers on K2 is a significant number to say the least. While that isn't anywhere close to the number of alpinists on Everest (550+ are said to have summited this year alone), it is a lot of people on a mountain that is widely considered to be the hardest and most dangerous climb on Earth. It is most definitely not a mountain that you want to be caught in a traffic jam on, but that could be a real possibility with this many people making the attempt. Hopefully everyone will stay safe throughout the season.

Meanwhile, over on Nanga Parbat the mountain is opening up again after seeing no summits since 2013. That's when a group of armed gunmen attacked the camp, killing 11 people. Since then, no summer permits have been issued for the mountain, but that will change this year. A couple of small teams are headed to NP with the hope of demonstrating that it is safe to climb, and ready to begin welcoming mountaineers back to its challenging face.

At the moment, these teams are mostly still en route to their various Base Camps or still planning to set out for Pakistan. But things will start to pick up soon. It should be a very interesting season to watch unfold, with K2 remaining the crown jewel. Expect numerous updates on the progress of teams in the weeks ahead.


Summer Climbs 2015: An Update From Gasherbrum I

The Czech team climbing Gasherbrum I in Pakistan still hasn't wrapped up its expedition, but they aren't ready to quite give up yet either. The two climbers –  Marek Holecek and Tomas Petrecek – continue to wait patiently for a chance to summit, as the weather has prevented them from making much progress over the past few days. But there is a potential window in sight, and the duo are prepared to take advantage of it if they can.

ExWeb has posted an update on Marek and Tomas' efforts. According to their most recent dispatches, the two climbers have moved up above 7300 meters (23,950 ft), but have been unable to make any further progress over the past few days. GI's summit sits at 8080 meters (26,510 ft), so the team still has a considerable distance to go, but given a good weather window they could potentially finish the ascent and begin heading back down within a couple of days.

They just might get that weather window starting tomorrow. Forecasts indicate that conditions should start to improve over the next few days, potentially allowing them to launch their summit bid. If the weather doesn't get better however, the duo will most likely be forced to retreat. When they set out from Base Camp on August 7 they had planned for a seven day climb. Now, ten days later, they're likely starting to run low on food and supplies.

It has been a very long, and difficult, season in Pakistan this summer. While several teams have found success on Gasherbrum I and II, Broad Peak saw just two summits, and K2 turned away all challengers. Now, everyone except the Czech team has gone home. Marek and Thomas are hoping to wrap up the season in a successful fashion, but the weather must cooperate first.

Either way, we should have news about the ultimate outcome of the expedition in the next few days.

Summer Climbs 2015: Summit Bid on Gasherbrum I Underway


The summer climbing season in the Karakoram isn't over just yet, although just about everyone has gone home at this point. But two Czech climbers remain in the mountains, and have now launched a summit bid on Gasherbrum I along a new route on the Southwest Face. 

ExWeb indicates that climbers Marek Holecek and Tomas Petrecek set out from Base Camp last Friday amidst good weather. They had hoped to climb has high as 5600 meters (18,737 ft) that day, before transitioning over to the start of their new route. They are traveling with a cameraman to help document the expedition, and they are now expected to be out of communications while they make an alpine style ascent of the mountain. 

The team first arrived in BC on the Gasherbrum Massif back in late July, and spent the first couple of weeks acclimatizing on GII, going as high as 7000 meters (22,965 ft) on that mountain. After that, they returned to Base Camp and waited for a proper weather window to emerge, even as the other climbing teams in Pakistan this summer departed for home. Now, their patience has paid off, and they are finally able to launch their summit bid. We'll just have to wait to see if they are successful.

It has been a long and challenging season in the Karakoram. There have been very few summits to be had, as the weather has made climbing difficult and dangerous. Frequent avalanches on Broad Peak and K2 limited access to the summit, and as a result there has been only one successful ascent of either of those mountains this year. The Gasherbrum peaks have seen a bit more action, with several teams topping out on both GI and GII this season, although even those numbers were not large. 

Marek and Tomas' expedition could be the crowning achievement of the season if they are able to complete it successfully. A new route on an 8000-meter peak doesn't happen all that often, and considering the success rate in Pakistan this summer, if they are able to top out it will be an impressive accomplishment. Stay tuned for more updates as they emerge, and keep your fingers crossed that they are able to get up and down safely. 

Summer Climbs 2015: ExWeb Posts Summit Round-Up From Pakistan

The summer climbing season is all but over in Pakistan, with just one team remaining to attempt a late summit bid. Most of the squads have already departed their respective Base Camps for home, with only a minimum amount of success this year. In fact, it was one of the more difficult climbing seasons in the Karakoram that we've seen in recent years, with most of the climbers not even getting a sniff of the summit. Poor weather and dangerous conditions made it difficult for anyone to get very high on Broad Peak and K2 in particular, although there was some success on the Gasherbrums. 

As the season winds down, ExWeb has posted a complete round-up of the summits from the past few weeks, and as expected there aren't very many of them. Just one on Broad Peak, three on Gasherbrum I, and 13 on GII. Here's the full list according to ExWeb's sources.

Broad Peak
1. Andrzej Bargiel (Poland) : July 25th, 2015 
Gasherbrum I
1. Ferran Latorre (Spain) : July 24th, 2015
2. Yannick Graziani (France) : July 24th, 2015
3. Tom Seidensticker (Germany) : July 24th, 2015 
Gasherbrum II
1. Laura González del Castillo (Mexico) : July 16th, 2015
2. Yuri Contreras Cedi (Mexico) : July 16th, 2015
3. Ernst Felix : July 16th, 2015
4. Christof Bartmann : July 16th, 2015
5. Sophie Lavaud (France/Switzerland) : July 16th, 2015
6. Ngima Chhiring Lama (Nepal) : July 16th, 2015
7. Muhammad (Pakistan) : July 16th, 2015
8. Kinga Baranowska (Poland) : July 17th, 2015
9. Kinga’s HAP (Pakistan) : July 17th, 2015
10. Richard Hidalgo (Peru) : July 24th, 2015
11. Martin Gildemeister (Chile) : July 24th, 2015
12. Czech Climber 1 : July 24th, 2015
13. Czech Climber 2 : July 24th, 2015
As you can see, two Czech climbers on GII remain unidentified, although they did manage to top out on July 24. The Explorers Web staff promises to update their list once those individuals are identified.


The most impressive climb of the season definitely goes to Polish mountaineer Andrezej Bargiel, who was able to complete a solo summit of BP, and make a ski descent, in under 8 hours. I've seen his summit listed elsewhere as "unofficial," but unless he can't produce summit photos – which sometimes happens on solo climbs – his expedition will go down as one of the most daring in recent years, especially considering the conditions from this season and lack of summits over all.

ExWeb also indicates that there are two Czech climbers who remain in Base Camp on the Gasherbrum Massif. They are reportedly acclimatized and ready to go, but are waiting for good weather before beginning their summit push. According to the report, they have completed acclimatization efforts on GII, and will now attempt to go up the Southwest Face in Alpine Style.

Hopefully they'll have more luck than most of the other squads this season. I'll report more on their efforts as the news breaks.

Summer Climbs 2015: Controversy Brewing in the Mountains

There isn't much new to report in terms of the movements of the teams in Pakistan. Most have either left Base Camp for the return home, or are preparing to do so in the next few days. A few remain behind, holding out hope that they'l still get a crack at the summit on Broad Peak or possibly even K2, although the chances of either happening seem remote. But even as the summer season winds down, there is now controversy brewing in the mountains with the ethics of some climbers being called into question.

ExWeb has posted a disturbing article today that I'm sure will leave some members of the mountaineering community very disappointed. Apparently, in a video posted to Mike Horn's Facebook page the body of a fallen climber can be seen, which goes against the code of conduct that most climbers will abide by while documenting their expeditions.

According to the ExWeb story, the warm weather on K2 this year has melted a lot of the snow and ice there, possibly revealing the body in question. The fact that it appears in one of Horn's video has upset some other mountaineers, including Louis Rousseau, who wrote the Swiss climber an impassioned letter about the inclusion of the dead body in a video promoting his K2 climb. ExWeb has a copy of that letter, and has posted it in the article that I linked to above.

I have to say that while I haven't seen the video that Rousseau is referring to, so I don't know what context the body was shown. It could have been an inadvertent shot, or it could have been done on purpose. Either way, Rousseau is right that it is disrespectful to the climber, and his friends and family, to show images of the body, and I'm sure that the Swiss climbers would agree with that sentiment. I have no doubt that Horn will take the video down when given the opportunity. I don't know him at all, but he doesn't strike me as the kind of person who would try to capitalize on the misfortune of others.


Unfortunately, this isn't the only story that is brewing up controversy in the mountains of Pakistan at the moment. In the same article, ExWeb says that there are accusations coming from climber Andrzej Bargiel of climbers failing to assist in the search for Olek Ostrowski, who went missing on GII last weekend after attempting a summit bid and ski descent. Apparently just there high altitude porters went up to look for the missing man, with none of the other teams in BC offering to lend a hand.

Bargiel says that he had just descended from Broad Peak when he heard that Ostrowski had gone missing, and immediately left for the Gasherbrum Massif. In an interview with a Polish climbing magazine, Andrezej says the he feels ashamed for those who did not lend a hand, adding that they felt a summit bid was more important than trying to locate a missing compatriot. Worse yet, he says that there were climbers not just in BC, but in Camps 1 and 2 as well. None came to their aid.

Both of these stories are hard to read, and generally not indicative of the mountaineering community as a whole. Still, the latter story does give an indication of the attitude that climbers had on the Gasherbrums this year, and it is very sad that they wouldn't help search for Olek.

Hopefully this is just an anomaly and not a trend in attitudes.

Summer Climbs 2015: More Teams Depart K2, Summit Push on Broad Peak Thwarted, Tragedy on Gasherbrum II

The summer climbing season in Pakistan is quickly coming to an end as numerous teams prepare to depart their Base Camps for the long trek home. It has been a frustrating year in the Karakoram, where deep snow and generally poor weather have prevented most climbers from achieving their goals. But it isn't over just yet, and there are still a few teams in holding patterns, although their chances of success don't look great at this point. 

We'll start today back on K2, where more teams have called it quits. Yesterday I noted that some of the big commercial squads had elected to pull the plug on their expeditions due to safety concerns high on the mountain, and today we learn that others have decided it is time to go home as well. They include the Swiss team of Mike Horn, Fred Roux, and Köbi Reichen, who were the first squad to arrive in BC this year. They made two attempts at the summit, and were turned back by heavy snow both times. They now feel that their best opportunity is behind them, and have begun preparing to start the trek back to Askoli. 

The Swiss team isn't the only ones who are leaving. The Seven Summits Treks commercial team is also preparing to depart as well, as is Philippe Gatta who announced on his Facebook page that he'll hit the trail starting tomorrow. Essentially, just about everyone is now abandoning K2 Base Camp, which means there will likely be no summits on the mountain at all this year. That stands in stark contrast to the amazing summer of 2014 when more than 40 climbers stood on top of the "Savage Mountain." 

Over on Broad Peak, one day after abandoning their attempt to climb K2, the Himex team launched a summit bid early today, setting out for Camp 3 in light snowfall. Later that would turn into a full-blown storm, with heavy snow falling on the upper slopes of the mountain. The climbers attempted to wait out the storm, but as they pressed forward they found deep, unstable snow that convinced them it was time to turn back. Everyone is back in BC now, and the Himex expedition is over on Broad Peak too. The entire team is now preparing to leave.

There are still a few teams in Base Camp on BP that are waiting to see if they'll get a chance to summit. The weather forecast into next week is not promising, but there is a chance that things will improve after that. The remaining squads are just holding on for a glimmer of hope, but at the moment it appears that there just might be only one summit on Broad Peak for the entire season. 

Finally, ExWeb is reporting that efforts to locate a missing climber on Gasherbrum II has been called off. Polish mountaineer/skier Olek Ostrowski went missing this past weekend when he was descending from Camp 2 to Camp 1. He had been attempting to summit the mountain, and then make a ski descent, but bad weather forced him to turn back. It is believed that he fell into a crevasse on the descent, but all attempts to find him came up empty. Continued bad weather and deteriorating conditions have hampered any further efforts to find Olek, who is now believed to have lost his life on the mountain. My condolences to his friends and family. 

That's all for today. It is now safe to say that there won't be many more updates from Pakistan this summer. The season is almost at an end, and it has been a difficult one to say the least. I'll continue to monitor the situation on the ground there, but for the most part there will be few teams left to report on as of tomorrow. 

Summer Climbs 2015: Summits on Gasherbrum II, More to Come

The first summits of the summer season have occurred on the Gasherbrum Massif in Pakistan, with potentially more to come today. According to a report from Explorers Web, members of the Kobler & Partner squad managed to top out on Gasherbrum II yesterday despite very challenging conditions. Meanwhile, a second wave of summiteers is ready to follow, as other climbers move up on GI as well.

ExWeb says that the summit team included the following mountaineers: Laura González del Castillo, Yuri Contreras Cedi, Ernst Felix, Christof Bartmann, Sophie Lavaud, Ngima Chhiring Lama, Nga Dorchi Sherpa. Of those, Sophie Lavaud has managed to complete the climb without the use of supplemental oxygen.

Reportedly the group spent 16 hours on their summit push, battling heavy snow all the way to the top.  Team leaders Peter Schatzl, Sherpa Ngima and Dorchi and high-altitude porter Muhammad did most of the route fixing, leading the way from BC to the summit according to ExWeb's sources.

The success on GII from yesterday is likely to be duplicated today. A second wave of climbers was already in Camp 3 and preparing to make a move up to the summit today. That group reportedly has a good weather window, and with the trail already broken, they should have a better time moving up and down the mountain than the previous summiteers.


Nearby, summit bids are already underway on Gasherbrum I as well. A team of four climbers had moved up to 7100 meters (23,293 ft) yesterday, and should be making their push today too. Apparently, they are also facing heavy snows near the top, and are having to break trail on their way to the summit. If all goes according to plan, they should complete the ascent today, and return to C3 before descending to Base Camp tomorrow.

Meanwhile, over on K2 the acclimatization efforts from teams like Himex and Madison Mountaineering continues as usual. Those teams are making slow, but steady progress towards preparing their bodies for an eventual summit push of their own. That is probably still a couple of weeks off, depending on the weather. But so far, things are progressing as you would expect.

The Swiss trio of Mike Horn, Fred Roux, and Köbi Reichen had climbed up to C3 on K2 a few days back, and were hoping to make a summit bid this weekend. There has been no word from the team since they set off from Base Camp, but according to Horn's GPS tracking, it appears that they have abandoned their summit push and have returned to BC as well. We'll have to wait for the team's next dispatch to know exactly what is happening, but it seems for now they are not ready to proceed up above 7500 meters (24,606 ft).

That's all for now. We'll continue to keep an eye on the teams climbing in Pakistan and bring updates as warranted.

Summer Climbs 2015: Summit Bids Begin in Pakistan

It has been a busy week in the Himalaya and Karakoram of Pakistan, where a number of teams are now wrapping up their acclimatization rotations on Broad Peak, which will allow them to launch summit bids in the very near future. But while those climbers wait for a proper weather window to open, other are already starting for their own summits on K2 and the Gasherbrums. 

The Swiss team of Mike Horn, Fred Roux, and Köbi Reichen have been on K2 longer than anyone else, and they wrapped up their final acclimatization round last week. After returning to Base Camp, the trio had to wait for poor weather to pass before launching their summit bid, which began two days ago. The plan is to reach 7500 meters (24,606 ft) today with the hopes of pressing on to the top in another day or two, provided the weather remains good.

Meanwhile, ExWeb is reporting that summit bids are also underway on Gasherbrum I and II, where a weather window opened yesterday and teams have begun moving up to take advantage of it. On GI, independent climbing teams have joined forces to work together on their push to the top, while the commercial squad of Kobler & Partner is organizing the summit push on GII. Ropes have been fixed on both peaks to Camp 3, which is where the climbers are headed today. Once there, they'll evaluate the situation, check the weather forecasts, and decide whether or not they should proceed up to the summit. 

The Madison Mountaineering team climbed up to Camp 2 on K2 today as they continued to acclimatize on that mountain. The squad's latest dispatch indicates that everyone is doing well and progressing according to plan. 

Australian climber Chris Jensen Burke is back on Broad Peak this year, where she missed out on the summit last summer but still managed to nab K2. She indicates that her team has completed its first acclimatization rotation, spending the night in Camp 1. Chris is back in BC now however, but will soon go back up once again, this time touching C2 as she prepares for an eventual summit bid. She reports very good weather on the mountain at the moment, which bodes well for the climbers. 

Also on BP is Billi Bierling, who will be going for the double header of Broad Peak and K2 this year. She's back in K2 Base Camp at the moment, where she is resting up before heading up the slopes to Camp 3. She says that things are also going well, and that she hopes to top out sometime near the end of the month. 

That's it for today. I'll be keeping an eye on the current summit bids to see how everyone fares. If the weather holds, than we could see the first summits of the season in the next few days. 

Summer Climbs 2015: Expeditions Unfolding on K2, Broad Peak, and Gasherbrums

It has been a busy couple of weeks in Pakistan, where the climbing teams on K2, Broad Peak, and the Gasherbrums are now getting ready to get down to business. When I left for Alaska, the climbers were still en route to their various base camps in the Himalaya and Karakoram, but now most have settled in and started their acclimatization process. They'll begin begin working the mountain, with most eyeing summit bids by the end of July.

British climber David Tait has his eyes on K2 this year after summiting Everest on five separate occasions. He's currently acclimatizing on Broad Peak at the moment, where he hope to prepare his body for the challenges ahead. He reports that conditions on BP are very cold at the moment, but that the expedition is proceeding according to plan. Yesterday, he and his team climbed up to Camp 2 as part of their acclimatization process, where he spent a very chilly night after forgetting his sleeping pad back in BC, a lesson he says he'll only need to be taught once.

Chris Jensen Burke is headed back to Broad Peak this summer as well. She made an attempt on the mountain last year but was turned back due to bad weather. She did go on to successfully summit K2 however, but the Aussie woman still has unfinished business with BP. At the moment she is still trekking towards Base Camp, which she should reach in the next few days. Her expedition was delayed for four straight days due to flights to Skardu being cancelled. Now, she's ready to get down to work and add yet another 8000-meter peak to her resume.


The Madison Mountaineering team, which includes American climber Vanessa O'Brien, is also attempting the Broad Peak-K2 double header this summer. The squad is currently trekking towards Base Camp as well, and should arrive there today. They'll take a day or two to get their legs – and lungs – in order before they start moving up the slope.

Over in K2 Base Camp, the Himex team is finding the weather to be both pleasant and warm. Temperatures in BC are said to be in the 25-30ºC /77-86ºF, which is actually quite comfortable in the mountains. K2 is well known for its poor weather, but currently it is pleasant there, although that can change very quickly. While the weather may be good however, the conditions on the mountain remain difficult. There were no less than five avalanches throughout the day yesterday, and possibly three more over night. Those avalanches are covering BC in a fine dust of snow, but there is no danger to the climbers encamped there. As they move up to C1 and C2 however, they'll need to take great caution.

Climber/journalist Billi Bierling is in Base Camp on K2, where she reports that the setting is simply stunning. She arrived there on the first of July, and is now on her first acclamation rotation. The team had its Puja ceremony on July 3 ahead of the start of their climbing activities, and now things are starting to heat up. She'll probably go up to C2 on this first round, before descending back to BC for a rest.

The team of Mike Horn, Fred Roux, and Köbi Reichen was the first to arrive in K2 Base Camp, and as such they are at the front of the climbing schedule. The team has now gone as high as Camp 3 where they are currently stashing gear and plan to spend the night to night. From there, they'll descend back to BC where they'll begin waiting and watching the weather. When conditions are good, the trio of Swiss climbers intend to set off on the first summit bid of the season.

ExWeb has an update on the unfolding climbing season on Gasherbrum I and II, where teams are still getting settled. The squads on that mountain have started their first rotation as well, although they report poor weather conditions including high winds, heavy snow, and low visibility. Teams headed up to Camp 1 and 2 a few days back, and are taking advantage of whatever weather windows they are given to make progress.

That's all for today. I'll post more updates in the days ahead as things begin to unfold. Right now, it is all about acclimatization and preparing for summit bids, which for most are still a few weeks off. Stay tuned.

Summer Climbing 2015: ExWeb Updates All Team Positions

The summer climbing season is nearly set to begin in Pakistan, and the teams there are now starting to move into position. We're still a few days away from the first squad reaching Base Camp, but it won't be long now until we'll start to see a steady stream of updates from the mountains. In preparation for the season officially getting under way, ExWeb has posted a comprehensive round-up of where each of the teams is currently located, and what their objectives are for the weeks ahead. As is usual for this time of the year, the focus will be squarely on Gasherburm I and II, Broad Peak, and of course K2.

It looks like the Swiss team of Mike Horn, Fred Roux and Köbi Reichen will be the first into BC on K2. The team has been in country for a couple of weeks now, and were delayed by bureaucratic issues, but finally started the trek earlier in the week. They are now three days away from reaching the mountain, which should put them in on Monday of next week. The team reports that conditions are very warm there at the moment.

The Himex team headed to both K2 and Broad Peak this summer is about to start their trek. They were scheduled to travel to Askole by jeep today, which is where the trail actually begins. It typically takes about 7-8 days to reach BC, so don't expect them to get settled on the mountain until next weekend. Five-time Everest summiteer David Tait, who is climbing with the squad, has been posting regular dispatches about his experience in Pakistan so far. He has done a good job of keeping readers up to date on their progress.

The other major commercial team on K2 and Broad Peak this summer will be led by Madison Mountaineering. ExWeb indicates that the team is still gathering in Islamabad, and has yet set out for Skardu, the regional town that serves as the launching point to those mountains.


Vanessa O'Brien is in Pakistan and preparing to launch her efforts on K2. She's schedule to begin the trek to Base Camp next week as she goes in search of her 5th 8000-meter peak. If she reaches the top of K2, she'll become the first American woman to do so.

Some other climbers of note include Al Hancock, who ExWeb says is still in Nepal but is planning to head to Pakistan on June 25. He's climbing Broad Peak this summer. Also headed to BP is Oscar Cadiach, who will lead a team of Spanish climbers up that mountain. A second Spanish squad is heading for K2, and will be led by Carlos Suárez. French climber Phillippe Gatta is waiting on his permit for K2, but will be setting out for Pakistan shortly.

These expeditions are just the tip of the iceberg for what will be happening in the Karakoram and Himalaya this summer. ExWeb has a far more comprehensive list of what will be happening there, including reports of a Polish team that plans to ski the Gasherbrums, attempts by Ecuadorian and Peruvian climbers on K2 and GI respectively, and much more. To see the entire list, click here.

It feels like it is taking a long time for the 2015 summer season to crank up, but that is no doubt in part because of the shut down in the Himalaya of Nepal and Tibet this past spring. Everything is going according to plan however, and we should start to see news begin to filter out from the mountains as early as next week. The teams will spend the first few weeks acclimatizing of course, with the first possible summit bids coming in late July and early August depending on schedules, weather, and conditions on the mountain. Stay tuned for regular updates on the progress of these climbers, as it should be an exciting time in the days ahead.

Summer Climbs 2015: 6 Summit Challenge Continues in Pakistan

Earlier this year I told you about Nick Cienski and his 6 Summits Challenge. At the time, Nick was just about to embark on a massive undertaking that would see him attempt to climb six different 8000-meter peaks in a single year. He had hoped to knock off Everest, Lhotse, and Makalu this spring, but unfortunately the Nepal earthquake put an end to those ambitions. Now, Nick has shifted gears some, and identified three other mountains that he will attempt instead. With that goal in mind, he is now ramping up for an ambitious summer in Pakistan.

Following the April 25 earthquake that devastated Nepal, Nick and his team went to work lending support and aid to the country. As with many other climbers, their efforts have helped to rebuild the country that still has a very long road to navigate before any sense of normalcy returns.

In July, Nick will travel to Pakistan to relaunch the 6 Summits Challenge. He will now focus on climbing Broad Peak (8051 meters/26,414 ft), and both Gasherbrum I (8080 meters/26,444 ft) and II (8035 meters/26,362 ft). Together, these three mountains are the 11th, 12th, and 13th highest mountains in the world, and will make for a significant undertaking in the weeks ahead.

This isn't Nick's first time climbing in the region. In fact, he has climbed on Broad Peak twice in the past, reaching the summit back in 1990. He is likely to find that things are a bit different on the mountain now, with more teams visiting on an annual basis. The two Gasherbrum peaks will be a new challenge for Cienski, although after acclimatizing on BP, he'll probably go for a traverse that links the two summits in one long climb.

Following his Pakistani climbs, Nick will travel to Tibet in the fall, where he'll than attempt to summit Shishapangma (8027 meters/26,335 ft) and Cho Oyu (8201 meters/26,906 ft). After that, the plan is to travel back to Nepal to complete the challenge by summiting Manaslu (8163 meters/26,781 ft). Those expeditions are expected to take place immediately after he wraps up the summer triple-header, beginning sometime in late-August.

One thing that hasn't changed with the 6 Summit Challenge is that Nick is using it to raise funds for his Mission 14 organization. This nonprofit is dedicated to stamping out human trafficking, which continues to be a major issue in just about every corner of the globe.

I said it before, and I'll say it again. Summiting six 8000-meter peaks in a single year is going to be tough. Now however, it'll be even more challenging as Nick needs to complete the climbs in a smaller window of opportunity. We'll soon see if he is up to the task. You can follow his progress on Facebook and Twitter as he pushes forward in the weeks ahead.

Summer Climbs 2015: Climbers Arriving in Pakistan

The summer climbing season is ready to begin in ernest, as teams of climber have begun to arrive in Pakistan. It will take them some time to reach their respective Base Camps in the Himalaya and Karakoram, but we will soon see some action in the big mountains once again.

One of the first arrivals in Islamabad is David Tait, who flew in over the weekend. Tait, who is a 5-time Everest summiteer – is in Pakistan to climb K2 as part of the Himex squad and should be heading out shortly. He'll be filming a POV documentary for Discovery while he is there, capturing his expedition from a first person perspective.

Also climbing with Himex is Bili Bierling, who often writes dispatches for the expedition company while on various climbs. She left her home in Nepal last week and should be in Pakistan already, but there have been no updates in recent days. She'll be attempting Broad Peak this summer. In her pre-climb dispatch Bili indicated that the team would fly to Skardu tomorrow, than take a jeep caravan to Askole where they would begin the 8-day trek to BC. That would put them on the mountain next Tuesday if all things go as planned.

This being Pakistan, things rarely go as planned however. The trio of Mike Horn, Fred Roux and Köbi Reichen discovered this after arriving in the country back in early June. The climbers have been stuck in Askole themselves while they wait for their security clearance to be processed. Presumably they would be able to head out tomorrow as well if they don't proceed sooner. This summer they'll be focused on K2.


American climber Venessa O'Brien will be attempting K2 as part of the Madison Mountaineering team. Neither she, nor the company, have posted any updates so far, so it is unclear where she is at exactly. Presumably her team is now in country and making their way to the mountain, but we'll have to wait for an update to know for certain.

Al Hancock wil be attempting Broad Peak this summer as part of his bid to become the first Canadian to climb all 14 8000-meter peaks. He nabbed K2 last year when a historical number of people summited that mountain, and this year he'll return to finish BP too. There is no word on when his expedition will begin, as Al has not posted any updates yet, but presumably he is en route to Pakistan or already there as well.

Similarly, Chris Jensen Burke has rumored to be returning to Broad Peak as well, although we have yet to hear about her plans either. She did post an interesting story to her blog that rebutted a recent article that called mountaineering the "height of empty egoism" however which is well worth reading.

There are other climbers and teams heading to both K2, Broad Peak, and the Gasherbrums. I expect we'll start to see some dispatches from them all very soon. The pre-climb trek will take a few more days, but after that we should see a steady stream of updates keeping us posted on the progress of the teams. Until that happens, we'll need to remain a bit patient. The summer climbing season is just about to truly get underway, and than things should get very interesting indeed.

Summer Climbs 2015: Calm Before The Storm

The summer climbing season on the big mountains in the Himalaya, Karakoram, and elsewhere are just starting to ramp up. We know that the team of Mike Horn, Fred Roux and Köbi Reichen are already in Pakistan and preparing to start their trek to K2 Base Camp. They'll soon be joined by a number of other climbers who are eyeing peaks in the region, including Broad Peak and Gasherbrum I and II. But at the moment it is the calm before the storm, as the teams anxiously prepare for their departures and the start of some big expeditions ahead.

Five-time Everest summiteer David Tait is headed for K2 as well. His website says that he'll depart for Pakistan on Saturday of this week after overcoming a slew of logistical nightmares that includes extracting his climbing gear from Nepal while that country is still reeling from the earthquake that hit back on April 25. Tait, who is climbing with Himex, reports that their Sherpa and support team is already en route to BC, and will begin setting up camp within a few days. That means that everything will be ready for the squad once they arrive.

Also headed to K2 this summer is Vanessa O'Brien, who holds the female record for the fastest time completing the Seven Summits and the Adventure Grand Slam (Seven Summits plus North and South Pole). She'll be climbing with Madison Mountaineering, but there is no indication of when that team will start to arrive in in country. Their schedule has to be similar to that of the other teams however, so look for dispatches to start sometime within the next week.

Chris Jensen Burke is headed back to Pakistan as well. She has unfinished business on Broad Peak after failing to reach the summit last year due to poor weather. She has spent much of the time since the Nepal earthquake working in that country to help raise funds and rebuild the shattered infrastructure there, but soon she will depart for BP as well.


Canadian climber Al Hancock was on Annapurna this spring when the earthquake hit, bringing an abrupt end to his expedition there. He's also headed towards Broad Peak this summer, and will be climbing on the same permit as Jensen Burke. He is working on summiting all 14 of the 8000 meter peaks, and already has Everest (x2), Makalu, and K2 on his resume. If successful, he'll be the first Canadian to accomplish that feat.

Meanwhile, ExWeb is reporting that a Czech team has set their sights on Gasherbrum I this summer with the hopes of opening a new route along the Southwest face. Marek Holecek and Tomas Petrecek will be making a third attempt on this challenging route, which Holecek attempt back in 2009 and 2013. There is no word on when the expedition will begin, but it is likely to get underway in the next week or so as well.

That's all for now. The summer climbing season is just now starting to ramp up, so expect more updates soon. It should be another interesting one, with plenty to report from some of the most challenging mountains on the planet.