Showing posts with label K2. Show all posts
Showing posts with label K2. Show all posts

Video: The 10 Deadliest Mountains in the World

Lets face it, mountaineering comes with some inherent risks, no matter when and where you're climbing. But, thanks to technical difficulties, unpredictable weather, and unique terrain, some mountains are obviously more dangerous than others. In this video we explore the 10 deadliest mountains in the world, giving us a look at some truly scary places, but ones that are also incredibly alluring too. If you've ever wondered which peaks make even the best alpinists in the world take pause, these are the ones. Make sure you know what you're doing before setting out to an expedition to one of these peaks.

Video: K2 By Drone!

There is no question that K2 is amongst the most dangerous and difficult mountains to climb on the entire planet. It also happens to be located in a remote and beautiful place that most of us won't have the opportunity to see for ourselves. But, thanks to this wonderful short film, you can make the journey, and get some stunning images of the landscapes around the mountain too. It was shot by drone pilot and filmmaker Petr Jan Juračka, who traveled to K2 with Czech climber Klára Kolouchová. The results speak for themselves. Check out the clip below to get a look at this incredible place.

No Major Winter Climbing Expeditions This Year?

Now that the fall climbing season in the Himalaya is done, we would typically turn our attention to the winter climbing season that would usually get underway near the end of December. But, it appears that there won't be any major expeditions to the big mountains this year as numerous teams take a break and look forward to next year.

According to a blog post by German adventure sports journalist Stefan Nestler, two of the more prominent names in winter mountaineering are staying home for sure this year. Polish climber Tomek Mackiewicz has been a staple on Nanga Parbat the last six years, but he won't be going this winter. He says that he couldn't raise the funds necessary to launch the expedition, which was probably made all the more difficult considering Italian climber Simone Moro, along with Basque mountaineer Alex Txikon, and the Pakistani Muhammad Ali “Sadpara”, put up the first winter ascent of that mountain last February. They were accompanied on that expedition by Tamara Lunger, who was forced to turn back due to illness. Lunger says she'll pass on a winter ascent this year as well as she focuses on getting her helicopter pilots license instead. Next year, she hope to attempt Everest in winter however.

As of now, there are no expeditions announced for any of the Himalaya or Karakoram peaks. That could obviously change, as a lot of climbers keep their plans close to the vest until they're ready to set out. But now that K2 is the last remaining 8000-meter peak that has not been climbed during the winter months, it seems most have decided to stay home. K2 is treacherous enough under the best of conditions, but is even more deadly in the winter. That said, there are already some teams gearing up for a winter expedition to that peak as well, it is just a matter of when they will go.

Nestler reports that Indian climber Arjun Vajpai has announced that he'll make a winter ascent of a 7000-meter peak in his home country, but he hasn't said which one just yet. The 23-year old mountaineer has already summited five 8000-meter peaks, and appears to have a promising career ahead. How he does on a winter climb should be interesting to follow.

While at the moment it doesn't appear that we'll have any big winter climbs this season, that doesn't mean that there won't be interesting expeditions to keep an eye on. Last year, Moro and Lunger didn't go to Nanga Part until well into January, and we could see something similar this season. Perhaps we'll have a few expeditions pop up on the radar as the winter gets rolling along. But if not, 2017 is already shaping up to be a promising one for winter mountaineering.

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: Body Found on K2, Help Required to Identify

Sad news from K2 where a team of researchers have discovered the remains of a fallen climber, but no one has been able to identify him or her just yet. A request for help has been sent out to the mountaineering community in the hopes of determining just who was found on the mountain.

According to this story at, Michele Cucchi and Paolo Petrignani – working in conjunction with Pakistani guides – were in Base Camp on K2 a couple of weeks back. The team had traveled there to record the current state of the glaciers in that area, and the impact of environmental change on their health. The group climbed up to ABC and could see the damage done by a massive avalanche that hit Camp 3 back in July, sweeping away tents, fixed ropes, and a cache of bottled oxygen. The avalanche effectively brought an end to the K2 climbing season, sending all of the teams there home without a single summit.

Amongst the rubble Cucchi discovered a few oxygen bottles, the remains of several tents, and a human body under a thin layer of ice. The corpse was wearing a Millet boot that was reportedly a size 8 (pictured here). The boot is a recent model, which suggests the accident took place fairly recently as well, but the person who was found remains unidentified at this time. If you can potentially ID this person, you're urged to contact as soon as possible.

As is tradition on K2, the remains of the climber were taken to the Gilkey Memorial where all of the victims of the "Savage Mountain" are laid to rest. This has been the case sine 1953 and it continues to this day.

Hopefully someone in the mountaineering community will see this story and help identify the unknown climber.

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: Climbers in C2 on K2, Sherpa's Record Bid Denied by Pakistani Government

It is early in the summer climbing season in the Karakoram, but already the teams are on the move as they look to take advantage of good weather in the region. While teams are still getting settled elsewhere in Pakistan, on K2 the acclimatization rotations have begun. Climbers have already gone up to Camp 2 on that mountain, even as Sherpa teams work to install ropes to higher altitudes. 

Madison Mountaineering checked in yesterday with the news that their squad has arrived in C1 after a tough climb up 70º slopes. Today, they'll proceed up to C2, where they'll spend a night or two before returning to Base Camp. By all accounts, the entire team is doing well and proceeding according to plan. 

Also still in C2 is the international team that includes Vanessa O'Brien. They reached that point on the mountain yesterday as well, and will remain a couple of nights before descending. This allows their bodies to get use to the thinner oxygen ahead of an eventual summit attempt in about a months time. 

In other news from K2, The Himalayan Times is reporting that a Sherpa's record-setting bid was thwarted by the Pakistani government after he was sent home upon arriving in Islamabad. 25-year old Lakpa Sherpa had hoped to become the youngest person to scale K2 three times, but he was sent back to Kathmandu a day after arriving in Pakistan. 

Lakpa said that he passed through immigration without incident, but a day after his arrival he was contact by a government official and told he had to go home without any further explanation. Despite not being told why he was being shipped back to Nepal, the feeling is that the move was purely a political one. Pakistan has long hoped to generate a mountaineering infrastructure like that found in Nepal to help bolster its economy and employ more local climbers. But as K2 and other mountains continue to become commercialized, guiding companies are increasingly bringing more and more Sherpas into the country to assist and even lead those expeditions. The young climber, who has already summited Everest four times, believes that he won't be allowed back into Pakistan in the future as well, although he isn't sure exactly why.

As The Himalayan Times story points out, Lakpa's story isn't a unique one this summer. Australian climber Chris Jensen Burke had a similar experience when she attempted to enter Pakistan a few weeks back. She was forced to cancel her expedition as well without any clear-cut reason as to why she wouldn't be able to enter the country. It seems others have been sent home too. 

Meanwhile, over on Broad Peak, the Mountain Professionals have checked in and report that they have reached Camp 1 at 5600 meters (18,372 ft) on that mountain. They report snowy routes up steep slopes to reach that point, but everyone was able to climb up without much trouble and spent two nights there to begin their acclimatization process. Now, everyone is back in Base Camp and resting before preparing to head up to C2 in a few days time.

The report also indicates that a second team has now arrived on Broad Peak, but it is a small squad consisting of just four climbers. They won't be particularly helpful in fixing ropes, so it will fall on the Mountain Professionals squad to complete that work. They are currently installing the lines between C1 and C2, with the hope that another commercial team will arrive in the days ahead to help with the work. 

That's it for today. More news from the Karakoram soon. 

Karakoram Summer 2016: The Arduous Task of Climbing K2 Begins

The summer climbing season is Pakistan is now officially underway. Most of the teams have now arrived in their respective Base Camps, with some already starting their first acclimatization rotations. It'll be a good month or more before they even consider taking a crack at the summit, but the foundation for those ascents is now being put into place.

Most of the focus this summer will fall squarely on K2, where commercial operations have ramped up significantly in the past couple of years. More than 100 climbers have registered for permits on the second tallest mountain in the world in 2016, where the weather usually dictates who actually has a chance of topping out. Traditionally speaking, summit bids won't begin until the last week of July or the first week of August, but for now the climbers are taking advantage of good weather and are preparing for the challenging ascent ahead.

The Madison Mountaineering team climbed up to Advanced Base Camp yesterday, and plan to proceed to Camp 1 at 6096 meters (20,000 ft) today. Once there, they'll spend at least one night before dropping back to BC for a rest. This starts the long process of getting their bodies accustomed to the higher altitudes that will eventually culminate with a summit push. That is still a long way off at this point, but this is the first of many steps in the right direction.

Meanwhile, the International team led by Vanessa O'Brien has already moved up to Camp 2, as her squad continues to make solid progress. O'Brien is looking to become the first American woman to summit K2, and so far everything is going according to plan.

ExWeb reports that the Sherpa teams on K2 have begun installing the ropes above C2 as more teams move up the mountain. There is still a long way to go before they get anywhere close to the summit, but it seems that the team fixing the lines is taking advantage of the good weather while they can. The ExWeb article also rightfully points out that there isn't a lot of room on K2 for tents, so it will be interesting to see how the season unfolds as the climbers work through the logistics.

At the moment, there are six teams in K2 Base Camp, with at least one more yet to arrive. That will make for a crowded mountain, but hopefully one that will remain safe. Climbing K2 is much more difficult than Everest, which compounds the challenges dramatically. This is not a place where traffic jams and long waits are advisable, as this is a mountain that is far less forgiving than it's taller counterpart.

We'll be watching the season unfold with interest. The commercialization of K2 is now in full-swing, and this year will show begin to give us an idea of how wise it is to open the peak up to so many climbers. It should be fascinating to see unfold. Lets just hope everyone stays safe.

Karakoram Summer 2016: Teams Arrive in Base Camp, Moving Up Soon

When let we checked in on the teams looking to climb in the high mountains of Pakistan this summer they were mostly still gathering in Islamabad and preparing to fly out to Skardu to begin their journey to the various Base Camps spread out across the region. Now, more than a week later, those teams are now settling into BC and preparing to go higher.

Madison Mountaineering has checked in from K2, where the team has reportedly settled into Base Camp and is now preparing for its first rotation up the mountain. The weather is reportedly very good at the moment, and the Sherpa teams are already busy establishing ABC further up the mountain. The forecast looks good into this week, so it looks like the team will be on the move for a few days to take advantage of the situation. 

Similarly, the international team led by Vanessa O'Brien arrived in BC late last week. They've spent the weekend getting settled on the mountain and will likely be taking advantage of the current weather window to start their acclimatization as well. 

The Kobler & Partner expedition team also arrived in Base Camp last Thursday. That squad, which is made of very experienced 8000-meter climbers – quickly went to work getting settled as well, and are now looking upwards towards ABC and their first rotation up the mountain. 

Over on Broad Peak, the Mountain Professionals team has already finished their work to get settled and have now begun their first acclimation rotations as well. They're headed up to Camp 1 today where they'll spend two nights to allow their bodies to start to get use to the altitude. As of now, they are the only team on the mountain, although they have noted the steady stream of climbers making their way to BC on K2. It is unclear if any other teams will come to Broad Peak, so as a safety precaution the guides have ordered more rope and other climbing gear from Skardu just in case they have to go it alone. 

Finally, on Nanga Parbat the teams have started to gather as well. Spaniards Fernando Fernandez Vivancos and Jose Saldana Rodriguez have been on the mountain for several weeks now, and have had a good start to their acclimatization process. Other groups are still trickling in however, and will officially begin their climbs soon. 

The Karakoram climbing season is now officially underway, and over the next 4-6 weeks we'll be watching events unfold in the mountains of Pakistan. It looks like it will be one of the most interesting seasons in recent memory, with more teams on K2 than ever before. How that impacts the climb remains to be seen, but the notoriously difficult peak won't give up its summit easily. It should be fun to watch how things unfold. 

Karakoram 2016: American Woman Going for Speed Record on K2?

Teams of climbers are now arriving in Islamabad as the climbing season on K2, Broad Peak, Nanga Parbat, and other big mountains in Pakistan get underway. It'll be a couple of weeks before things really ramp up, but we are now starting to get a sense of what to expect in the season ahead, including a potential speed record attempt on K2 itself.

It has now been revealed that British-American climber Vanessa O'Brien is on her way to K2, where she hopes to become the first woman from the U.S. to summit the peak, as well as the fastest ever too. She already holds the speed record for a woman climbing the Seven Summits, having accomplished that feat in 295 days.

O'Brien is an experienced mountaineer, but she has not faced a challenge like K2 before. This will certainly be a test of her skill and determination, although a healthy dose of luck will be involved too. The weather on K2 is very unpredictable, making it hard to predict when a summit push can begin. We're a long way from that point right now however, although she says she hopes to make her summit push in about six weeks time. Late July and early August are the traditional timeframe for reach the top of this very difficult mountain.

(Update: It isn't clear from the article linked above doesn't make it clear what, if any, speed record Vanessa may be going for. It is possible that the headline is misleading and based on her speed record on the Seven Summits.)

Vanessa says she is climbing to raise awareness of the incredibly natural environment that is found Gilgit-Baltistan region, as well as to improve relations between the West and Pakistan. She's also championing the rights of women in that country and across the globe.

Meanwhile, other teams are assembling and preparing to depart for the mountains as well. It typically takes several days to journey from Islamabad to Skardu if they go overland, and more than a week to trek to Base Camp, depending on their ultimate goal. That means we won't see anyone officially starting their climbs until next week, but there should be more interesting stories to tell as the teams press forward. More to come soon.

Video: To The Summit of K2

Over the next couple of months we'll be following the proceedings on K2 very closely. Want to know what it looks like when you approach the summit of that mountain? This video will give you an idea. As you'll see, it is very steep and technical, which is why this peak has earned the moniker of "the mountaineer's mountain." Not a place for the inexperienced, this is a far different climb than Everest.

Karakoram 2016: First Casualty of the Season, Unprecedented Numbers on K2

The 2016 climbing season in Pakistan is about to officially get underway, as teams of climbers will soon be arriving on the big peaks located there, including Nanga Parbat, Broad Peak, the Gasherbrums, and of course K2. Most of the climbers will begin to arrive in country this week, where they'll put the finishing touches on their preparation before starting the long journey to Base Camp at long last. It now appears that it will be a very busy season in the region, with plenty of expeditions to follow in the days ahead.

While most of the teams are just now starting to gather, and ramp up their operations, we already have sad news from Pakistan. Over the weekend it was revealed last week it was revealed that Italian ski-mountaineer Leonardo Comelli has fallen to his death on Laila Peak, a 6096 meter (20,000 ft) mountain located in the Hushe Valley region. He was there – along with three friends – to climb the Northwest Face of the mountain, and then attempt a ski descent. He apparently fell 400 meters (1312 feet) after losing his balance.

Even though this accident took place several days ago now, I still wish to express my sorrow and condolences for Leonardo's family. Let's hope this isn't a sign of things to come in the summer climbing season ahead.

In other news, it appears that K2 is will see an unprecedented number of climbers this season. As commercial teams continue to see ways to monetize the mountain, more and more climbers are showing up on its slopes. According to Alan Arnette, more than 112 permits have been issued for the second highest peak in the world this season. That's a dramatic ramp up for a mountain that is many times more difficult than Everest to climb. A mountain that is far more dangerous and deadly as well.

In the same post that reveals the large number of climbers that are headed to the mountain this year, Alan also shares his thoughts on why he believes K2 will never become Everest in terms of large number of mountaineers and hundreds of summits. Because it is such a technical peak, it will remain out of reach for most people. It is simply in a class all its own in terms of difficulty, and the infrastructure and support system in Pakistan is leagues behind that found in Nepal. Alan goes on to say that the weather is worse – and more unpredictable – than Everest, and its remote location makes rescue operations difficult at best.

Could these challenges be overcome in the future? Sure, if there is enough money to be made, infrastructure can be built and rescue operations can be improved. But the mountain will always be incredibly difficult to climb, and there are no truly good ways to overcome that.

As the season progresses, it will be interesting to see what the success rate on K2 will be. In the past, there have been seasons where there have been no summits at all. Sometimes the mountain goes several years without seeing anyone reach the top. Will that change with commercial teams on its slopes? Only time will tell. But it will be fascinating to watch the events unfold, particularly this year when the number of climbers has gone up noticeably.

Stay tuned.

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.

National Geographic Explores the Lure of K2

K2 may not be seeing any climbers this winter, but the world's second tallest mountain is never far from the thoughts of the mountaineering community. Last month, a new book called The Ghosts of K2: The Epic Saga of the First Ascent was released. It is written by a man named Mick Conefrey, who helped make a BBC documentary about the mountain . While making that film, Conefrey was fortunate enough to meet a number of the climbers who have taken on K2 over the years, and from those interviews and interactions, he decided to forge ahead with the book, which not only recounts the tale of Italian climbers Achille Compagnoni and Lindo Lacedelli reaching the summit for the first time, but previous attempts to climb the mountain as well.

Earlier in the week, National Geographic posted an interview with Conefrey about his books, the lure of K2, and why it is held in such high regard amongst the top mountaineers in the world. In that interview, he talks about how the mountain got its name, what makes it such a dangerous place, and the strange first attempt to climb it by oculist Aleister Crowley back in 1902. If you think K2 is tough now, imagine what it must have been like more than a hundred years ago, when the gear used by climbers wasn't anywhere close to what was used to finally summit the mountain in 1954, let alone now.

Conefrey goes on to talk about the legendary American expedition – led by Charlie Houston – in 1953, as well as the ways K2 tests climbers, both physically and mentally. He also touches on the "curse" of K2 for women climbers, and what the author learned about the mountain by talking to survivors of numerous K2 expeditions.

All in all, an interesting read about a mountain that casts a very large literal and figurative shadow over the mountaineering world. And if you'd like to learn more about it, the BBC documentary that Conefrey made can be watched in its entirety below. It is an eye-opening film, even for those of us who know a few things about K2.

Winter 2016 Climbs: Nanga Parbat Will Be Busy, K2 Will Be Empty

Last week I shared the news that Spanish climber Alex Txikon would lead an expedition to Nanga Parbat this winter in an effort to complete the first ascent of that mountain during the coldest, most difficult season of all. Turns out that group won't be alone, as ExWeb now reports that as many as five teams could be on the mountain, all trying to achieve the same objective.

In addition to Txikon's mix of climbers form all over the world, there will be a Polish-Pakistani team attempting the Rupal Face all on the Schell Route. That squad is already in Pakistan and according to ExWeb is preparing to acclimatize now ahead of the actual official start of winter on December 21.

Meanwhile, the team of Elisabeth Revol and Tomek Mackiewicz will be back on the mountain this year, along with Arslan Ahmed. They will be attempting an alpine style ascent along the Diamir side of the mountain. Reveal and Mackiewicz spent considerable amount of time scouting the route last year, and are hoping to return to complete unfinished business.

ExWeb doesn't have many details yet, but they are also reporting that Simone Moro and Tamara Lunger will be on Nanga Parbat this winter as well. Their route, schedule, and plans have yet to be revealed however. Hopefully we'll get more word on their intentions soon.

And finally, Adam Bielecki and Jacek Czech will acclimatize on Ojos before heading over to Nanga for the season. They'll be the fifth confirmed squad on the hill this winter, although ExWeb doesn't have any information on their intended route yet either.

At 8126 meters (26,660 ft) in height, Nanga Parbat is just one of two 8000-meter peaks that have yet to be climbed in winter. And while there will be quite a few teams attempting to put up the first winter ascent of that mountain, at this time it appears that there are no plans for anyone to attempt the other unclimbed eight-thousander this winter. That peak is K2 of course, which is perhaps the most dangerous and deadly of all of the big mountains. It's summit remains elusive in the best of weather conditions, and in the winter it is nearly unclimbable. I'm sure some day someone will reach the top, but it doesn't look like the winter of 2016 will be that time.

Of course, we'll be following these expeditions closely as the winter season approaches. This just might be the year that someone finally summits Nanga in winter.

2015 Has Been A Difficult Year for Mountaineering

If you follow this blog with any regularity, you probably already know that 2015 has been a tough year for mountaineering expeditions. Climbers have found little success on the big 8000 meter peaks in particular, as poor weather has been a common problem all year long. Additionally, the Nepali earthquake this past spring shutdown climbing operations across the Himalaya, forcing most teams to go home long before they were even ready to climb. In a recent blog post, Alan Arnette breaks down the numbers, showing us exactly where climbers had success, and where they were turned back.

Everest is obviously the mountain with the highest profile, and thanks to the earthquake, there were no summits from either the Nepali or Tibetan side of the mountain this year. The last time that happened was 41 years ago, back in 1974.

But, Everest wasn't the only 8000 meter peak to shutout climbers this year. K2 also saw no summits, although that isn't necessarily uncommon on the second tallest mountain in the world. K2 is far more difficult to climb than Everest, and as a result it can be years between successful summits on that mountain.

But the list doesn't end there. Kangchenjunga, Lhotse, Makalu, Cho Oyu, Dhaulagiri, Nanga Parbat, and Shishapangma all went unclimbed thus far in 2015. None of those mountains currently has an expedition on them, with the exception of Lhotse. A South Korean team is currently on the slopes of that peak, but as Alan points out it would be an impressive display of climbing if they were to be successful this fall.

Manaslu was the mountain were most climbers found success this year. Alan says about 80 people topped out on that peak. Annapurna saw 13 summits, while Gasherbrum I had 3 and Broad Peak had 2. Gasherbrum II rounds out the list with 12 summits as well.

Of course, there were some other circumstances that came into play this year. For instance, the Chinese were not issuing any permits this fall, which is a popular time to climb Cho Oyu and Shishapangma in particular. This prevented anyone from even getting a chance to climb those mountains this fall.

As I reported on climbs throughout the year, bad weather became the common theme. As Alan says in his blog post, warmer temperatures across the Himalaya actually made conditions worse. There was plenty of snow falling, but since it has been warm in the mountains, that snow was actually very soft and prone to avalanches. This raised the danger to unacceptable levels at times, forcing many climbing teams to abandon their attempts altogether. Considering the fact that 2015 is the warmest year on record, we could be seeing the impact of climate change on the Himalaya.

While it is true that the season isn't over just yet, and climbing expeditions are just getting underway on smaller mountains in Nepal, the big peaks are all but shut down, which means we'll have to wait until 2016 for more attempts. Hopefully it will be a more successful and safe year to climb.

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.