Thursday, August 28, 2014

Autumn 2014 | Lhotse South Face, Makalu SE Ridge, Shishapangma Attempts and the Busy Mountains

It’s time for a Korean attempt on mystifying South Face of Lhotse, a British Military tri-services team on Makalu’s challenging SE Ridge, and several expeditions to favorite post-Monsoon mountains - Manaslu and Cho Oyu. Carlos Soria will make another attempt to complete the ascent of Shishapangma. The autumn climbing season kicks off as climbers start their march towards BCs.

Lhotse South Face

Korean team hoped to climb the challenging south wall of Lhotse, last autumn; however, excessive snow restricted them to BC. This year, the team led by Sung Taek Hong left for Nepal on August 22nd. They flew to Lukla on 27th and were expecting to start the trek to BC, today.

The team intends to climb a route, which follows Yugoslavian 1981 route at bottom, then goes right to join French 1990 line in middle section and eventually, following Jerzy Kukuczka’s path to the summit.

Korean planned route estimated in black.


Eight men from British Military and 6 Sherpa will be heading to Makalu with the aim, “to place at least two members of the expedition on the summit of Makalu via the South East Ridge (Ed: first climbed by Y. Ozaki and A. Tanaka in 1970) and for them to return safely to Base Camp.”

Led by Colin Scott, the team will be leaving for Nepal in early September.


Spaniard Carlos Soria will be leaving for Shishapangma, next week. If successful, it will be his 12th eight-thousander. Previously, he reached Shishapangam Central Summit in 2005, and was forced to abandon his climb near C3 due to bad conditions, last year. Soria is oldest person to climb K2 (at the age of 65), Broad Peak (68 years), Makalu (69 years), Gasherbrum I (70 years), Manaslu (71 years) and Kangchenjunga (75 years).

Andrea Zambaldi, Benedikt Böhm and Sebastian Haag have dodged the rains and landslides of Nepalese monsoon, and are done with bureaucratic complications related to entry in Tibet. In Nylam, they were able to acclimatize a bit, by hiking up a 4400m hill. The Italians can now concentrate on their mission to “speed climb Shishapangma and Cho Oyu, and complete the distance between the both basecamps on the bike and in running shoes – within 7 days.”

Danish mountaineer Bo Belvedere Christensen will also be attempting Cho Oyu and Shishapangma, this season. On Shishapangma, he will be on South face.

Carlos Soria on Shishapangma in Autumn 2013.

Cho Oyu

On Cho Oyu, there will be multiple climbers and commercial expeditions. Italian mountain guide Luca Montanari will be leading the team of Luciano Dal Toè, Samuele Santagiuliana and Bogdan Velev. They will be flying to Nepal in a couple of days.

Polish mountain runner Andrzej Bargiel will be going for speed ascent on Cho Oyu and Manaslu, with fellow climbers Grzegorz Bargiel, Darek Załuski and Marcin Kin.

Another Polish climber Olek Ostrowski is currently on his way to Kathmandu for ‘Cho Oyu Ski Expedition’.

Finally commercial teams including Summit Climb, IMG and Adventure Consultants Expeditions will also be on the mountain.
Route up Cho Oyu; source: Satori Expeditions


Arnold Coster is leading an international expedition to Manaslu this season, with members from the Netherlands, UK, Canada, Australia, USA, Poland, Korea, China and Nepal. The team is expected to start BC trek on September 2nd.

Altitude Junkies team also consists of climbers from all parts of the world. “Several of our Sherpas are already at Manaslu base camp establishing our campsite for the team members arrival in early September” Phil Crampton, the expedition leader, wrote a week ago.

Finally, Markus Brand will be leading Amical Alpin Manaslu expedition starting tomorrow.

List of autumn expeditions will be published, soon.
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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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