Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Summer 2014 | K2 Summit Statistics and Times Are Changing

A remarkably successful season on K2 ends, with number of summits narrowly missing maximum ascents in one calendar year count. However, July 26th, 2014 is now the most successful day in the history of K2, with at least 32 summits, surpassing the summit-day (July 31st, 2012) of previous successful season.


Summits: The known number of summits is 48 so far; 32 of them reached the top on July 26th.

Support: The Client-HAP/Sherpa ratio is almost 2:1. i.e. For every two climbers (including those Pakistanis, Nepalese who were climbing as ‘clients’), one high-altitude-porter/Sherpa summited.

Oxygen: Almost 40% climbers who reached the summit this season, climbed without supplemental oxygen.

Success Rate: Approximately 80% of K2 climbers reached the summit, this season; a success rate which is unprecedented on this mountain.

Deaths: K2 is dangerous, particularly if a climber reaches the summit. Prior to 2014, the death rate of summiteers was 10% (one death per 10 summits). This year, however, almost all the climbers made it back to BC safely; except Spaniard Miguel Angel Perez who passed away in C4.

1. K2 was 14th eight thousander for Radek Jaros. He is the first Czech climber to complete 14x8000ers (all without supplemental oxygen).

2. Boyan Petrov became the first Bulgarian climber to summit K2. He also joins the league of those few climbers who have climbed K2 and Broad Peak in one season.

3. There were 6 female ascents on K2 this season; raising the gender’s count by 50%. Nepalese trio Dawa Yangzum Sherpa, Pasang Lhamu Sherpa and Maya Sherpa, Chinese Luo Jing and Aussie/Kiwi Chris Jensen Burke are first females from their nations to climb K2.

Times Are Changing

After ‘first-ascent fever’ was over and mountains became more accessible, K2 earned the consideration of being an ultimate 8000er challenge (which it’s still trying to hold). By the end of 1985, there were only ten successful expeditions to the mountain; at a success rate of around 33%. Summit and death count stood at 39 and 12 respectively. However, 1986 was a year of dramatic changes.

Under Seracs from Nepalese Female Team
By eighties, the course of Himalayan mountaineering had significently diverted from traditional siege style climbing. Reinhold Messner had pioneered the alpine-style, Jerzy Kukuczka was dashingly negotiating unclimbed lines, and climbers were willing to go solo, unsupported and without bottled oxygen.

In 1986, an unprecedented number of K2 permits were issued by Government of Pakistan. There were around 150 tents to accommodate the climbers at BC. Tragedy struck as early as June 21st, when US climbers Alan Pennington and John Smolich died in a rock-fall triggered avalanche incident. They belonged to one of the four teams attempting South Pillar - the route known as ‘Magic Line’. Magic Line was completed later that season, by a Czech-Polish expedition.

The stories of tragedy and success continued, as by the end of the season, there were 27 summits and 13 causalities. The summit and death count were up by 70% and 110%, respectively.

Since 1986, there have been multiple years with decent number of summits; 1996, 2000, 2004, 2007 and 2012. However, it’s more important to note the summit-less years count: 11! (id est Since 1986, there are 40% chances that K2 will remain summit less, any year).

In 2004, 50 years after its first ascent, 11 teams were on the mountain to celebrate the Golden Jubilee. Thanks to collaborative efforts of different teams, the ropes were fixed “all the way from BC to summit” and 41 climbers reached the top during 3 day summit window from July 26th to 28th. By the end of the season there were 51 summits on the mountain, the numeral narrowly missed this year.

Interestingly 2004 and 2012 are also the two years with most number of HAP/Sherpa summits. The history of support climbers (HAPs, Sherpa) on K2 dates back to pioneering expeditions. Story of its first ascent is never complete without a mention of Amir Mahdi. First Sherpa summits were recorded in 1997 (although, the high altitude porters from Nepal were registered as ‘climbing members’ of Japanese K2 West face expedition). Nonetheless, recent year statistics show a major change in trends. In 2012, 16 Sherpa reached the top - more than number of client summits. This year, HAP/Sherpa summit count also nears 16.

Ironically, we are in an age where comparing a mountain with the highest mountain on earth is considered a dishonor to the former; reason being the commercialization of Everest since early 1990s. The times are changing on K2 as well. But K2 is different from Everest in every respect; technically, geographically, logistically and meteorologically,. It’s unlikely that 200+ summits per day, 500+ summits per season and any climber reaching the top 21 times, will be a norm on this mountain.

K2 is dangerously unpredictable. More people on the mountain mean greater risk and bigger the scale of catastrophe, as witnessed in 1986 and 2008. Also, there are years when K2 is not climbable like 2013. These factors will be a great hindrance in lurking commercial outfitters. However, K2 summit may become more accessible in coming days.

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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Summer 2014 | Poles Summit K2 on 60th Anniversary - Update # 2

Polish K2 team made it to the summit, on the 60th anniversary of K2’s first ascent. As per message from Pawel Michalski, this noon, Janusz Golab was on top.

"Expedition is successful!!!
Janusz Gołąb on top!
Artur Malek and Pawel Michalski retreated 150m below the Summit (now C4). Kaczkan still trying."

Polish team on K2

The Polish Winter Himalaism Expedition, under the leadership of Marcin Kaczkan completed its acclimatization by reaching C3 on July 24th and opted to return to BC for rest and recovery before summit attempt. This meant that they missed the July 26th-27th summit window. However, the weather on K2 has been exceptionally good this year and Poles also had their brief summit window.

On July 27th, when almost everyone was coming down, Polish team went up. Bulgarian Boyan Petrov, who summited Broad Peak on July 23rd, and Simone La Terra were also part of summit attempt group. On July 28th, they ascended to C1 (except Simone, who reached C2). They all reunited in C3 on 29th and climbed to C4 on 30th.

Summit push started at around 1850 hrs local time yesternight, when Marcin Kaczkan, Pawel Michalski, Artur Malek and Janusz Golab left C4. As of now, we don’t have any confirmed news about Petrov and Simone.

As per last communication from the mountain at around 1740 hrs local time, Janusz Golab had returned to C4 before 1400hrs. They are all waiting for Marcin Kaczkan's arrival.

Update 01 (31-Jul-14 2045hrs PST)

Kaczkan also summited and is back in C4, safely. Tomorrow, they will be descending to BC.

Update 02 (01-Aug-14 2345hrs PST)

Bulgarian Boyan Petrov was the first person to reach the top yesterday, just ahead of Janusz Golab. It's reported that Italian Simone La Terra turned back below Bottleneck due to cold.

Boyan Petrov has now become the first Bulgarian to summit K2 and also joins the club of those few climbers who scaled both Broad Peak and K2 in one season. He climbed Broad Peak on July 23rd, after a couple of unsuccessful solo summit bids.

Meanwhile, all climbers have safely descended to BC, today. It appears that with this, the amazingly successful season on K2 comes to an end.

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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Summer 2014 | Spaniard Miguel Angel Perez Lost on K2

It has been an astoundingly successful year on K2, with almost all the climbers reaching the summit. However, the season isn’t over yet, as few climbers are still on the mountain. In a tragic update from Base Camp, it has been informed that Spanish climber Miguel Ángel Pérez passed away in C4, yesternight.

Commemorative plaque to be placed at Gilkey Memorial; Source

Miguel Ángel Pérez reached C4 with the large group of first summit push climbers. On July 26th, he decided to turn back around 300m short of summit, because of cold. He was climbing without supplemental oxygen.

After returning to C4; eating, drinking and recovering from the fatigue of the day, Miguel decided to make another summit attempt, this time with bottled oxygen. In his second summit push, he made it to the top on July 28th.

Returning from the summit, Miguel was forced to bivouac above bottleneck at around 8300m (probably because of tiredness and exhaustion). In his last satellite communication from the mountain, he was approaching C4 on July 29th morning.

Rescue team getting ready to go up, yesterday; Source

After being unable to connect with him, friends of Miguel in Spain and Ferran Latorre at BC organized a rescue operation, yesterday. Four Pakistani climbers, Ali Durani, Hassan Jan, Ali and Basheer, who had just returned from the summit push, agreed to go up. Having left BC late, they were hoping to reach C2 yesterday and climb to C4, today.

However, yesterday evening a Sherpa from American climber Cleo Weidlich informed that Miguel was in C4 with Cleo and one other Sherpa. He was doing well. Nonetheless, the rescue party continued the ascent and was expecting to reach Miguel on descent, today.

This morning, however, came the news that Miguel Ángel Pérez passed away in C4, last night. It’s reported that he came back to C4 at around 12 yesterday and ate/drank with Cleo and Sherpa, before moving on to his tent. He seemed okay, but unfortunately was found dead, this morning.

Miguel Angel Perez climbing House Chimney; Photo: Ferran Latorre; Source 

Cleo Weidlich and Sherpa are descending and are expected to reach BC, today. Meanwhile, other climbers on mountain include a Polish team and Bulgarian Boyan Petrov, who reached C3 yesterday. They are expected to launch the summit bid, tonight.

K2 was Miguel Ángel Pérez’s ninth eight-thousander after Gasherbrum II (2004), Nanga Parbat (2005), Everest (2006), Cho Oyu (2007), Broad Peak (2008), Manaslu (2010), Lhotse (2011) and Dhaulagiri (2012 ).

"Not just a good climber has disappeared, but above all a special person. A loyal, honest, hardworking man who took time ... where he had almost no time to devote to his passion: mountaineering and especially the Himalayas." remarked Dario Rodríguez of Desnivel, a friend of Miguel.

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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Summer 2014 | Day 2 of K2 Summit Pushes - Update # 3

There were many summits on K2 yesterday; probably more than previous most summits on a single day. However, the story doesn't end here, as another summit bid is currently underway. This post will be updated with events of July 27th; second summit push and descent of group A.

Update 01 (27-July-14 04:30 hrs Pakistan Time)

The climbers going for summit today include American team (Garrett Madison, Alan Arnette, Matthew Dupuy and apparently three Sherpa), Finnish Samuli Mansikka and possibly an international team (Zdravko Dejanovic, Mingma Gyalje Sherpa, Reza Shahlai), if they didn't go for summit yesterday.

It's reported that American team left C4 at 22:40 hrs on July 26th. In a dispatch before leaving for summit push, Garrett Madison said, "Today is Saturday, July 26th at 6:00pm and we are up at High Camp with Alan and Matt. Our plan is to leave in about four hours for our summit push. A few climbers made the summit today and are on their way back now and we are very happy for them. It is snowing a little bit but when we get up tonight we will have clear skies while we are climbing up and early tomorrow morning"

From satellite position sent by the US climbers, it appears that they are currently negotiating the final sections of Traverse.

Update 02 (27-July-14 10:20 hrs Pakistan Time)

SUMMITs! The successful stories from the top of K2 continue as almost all remaining climbers made it to the summit, today.

1. Samuli Mansikka tweeted, "I AM ON SUMMIT OF K2!! The very highest point 8611m! Beautiful day although maybe the hardest I've done! No bottled oxygen, no support!"

2. Next the success of American team was announced at around 08:00 hrs. Following members of team reached the top.
Alan Arnette – USA
Matthew Dupuy – USA
Garrett Madison – USA
Kami Rita Sherpa – Thame Solu Khumbu, Nepal
Fur Kancha Sherpa – Thame Solu Khumbu, Nepal
Kami Tshering Sherpa – Pangbotse, Nepal

As of now, we can't confirm whether there were any other summit attempts, today.

Update 03 (28-July-14 04:20 hrs Pakistan Time)

The above mentioned International expedition was indeed part of summit push yesterday, and was successful in reaching the top. "Today(27th) All team member summit K2" was the message from the team.

Confirmed summiteers are Iranian Reza Shahlaee, Macedonian Zdravko Dejanovic and Mingma Gyalje Sherpa. Full list of climbers reaching the summit is awaited, yet.

On a side note, a third summit push is underway on K2, as Polish team and Bulgarian climber Boyan Petrov, who summited Broad Peak few days ago, leave the Base Camp tonight. They're targeting August 1st as summit day.

Update 04 (28-July-14 15:00 hrs Pakistan Time)

More from K2; Spaniard Miguel Angel Perez has reached the summit of K2 at around 1300hrs, today (July 28th). On 26th he had to turned back 300m below summit, due to cold. After resting and recovering, he went for the summit, today.

The summit of K2 at sunrise; Source

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