They have thrown in the towel. American Graham Zimmerman and Canadian Ian Welsted abandoned their attempt on the rarely climbed, challenging K2 West Ridge and returned to base camp. The two were climbing in alpine style, meaning no bottled oxygen, no fixed high camps and no high altitude porters.
“In the end we were stopped in our tracks by some of the warmest temperatures either of have experienced in the big mountains,” Zimmerman wrote on Instagram. “At 7,000m we were unable to go any further due to near constant avalanches and rock fall down the route.”
The first summit successes of the summer season are reported from K2. Among those who reached today – with bottled oxygen – the highest point at 8,611 meters was also the only 19 years old Pakistani climber Shehroze Kashif. Last May, Kashif had also scaled Mount Everest, and in 2017 he summited Broad Peak – since then he has been called “Broad Boy” in his homeland.
One of the great British climbers is no longer with us. The 68-year-old Scotsman Rick Allen died yesterday in an avalanche on K2. Rick was reportedly planning to open a new route up the world’s second highest mountain with Austrian Stephan Keck and Spaniard Jordi Tosas – in alpine style, i.e. without bottled oxygen, high altitude porters and prepared high camps.
Where exactly the route was to go up is unclear; some reports say on the southeast side of K2, while others speak of the avalanche-prone East Face, which has never been climbed. Keck and Tosas escaped the avalanche. The Spaniard remained at K2 Base Camp, the Austrian was flown out to the town of Skardu. According to reports from Pakistan, Allen’s body was found near the Advanced Base Camp.
The ridge between triumph and tragedy can be very narrow on eight-thousanders. First, the headline went around the world that the South Korean Kim Hong-bin had summited the 8,051-meter-high Broad Peak in the Karakorum and had thus become the first disabled climber in the world to stand on all 14 eight-thousanders – with bottled oxygen. Even South Korean President Moon Jae-in congratulated Kim via Twitter for completing the collection of the eight-thousanders: “You gave more pride and hope to the people who are tired of the corona virus.”
A few hours later, news broke that the 56-year-old was missing. Russian climbers who were also on the mountain eventually reported that Kim had fallen into a 15-meter-deep crevasse far up the mountain while descending and had died. Other reports on social media had previously said Hong-bin had fallen to his death towards the Chinese side of Broad Peak.
Missing, but unforgotten. Five months ago, Pakistani Muhammad Ali Sadpara, Icelander John Snorri Sigurjonsson and Chilean Juan Pablo Mohr had not return from their winter summit attempt on K2. After several unsuccessful aerial searches, the three climbers had been declared dead, 13 days after setting out.
At the risk of repeating myself, children do not belong on eight-thousanders. And I mean that without any ifs or buts. I have raised five children – and not in the style of a cosseting father who always wraps his kids in cotton wool. But I ask myself: How can parents deliberately expose their children to the danger of death on an eight-thousander? I have no understanding for that. And so I shake my head again now.
Twelve-year-old Pakistani Selena Khawaja and her father are on their way to Broad Peak. This summer, they want to scale the 8,051-meter-high mountain in the Karakoram. Should Selena reach the highest point, she would be the youngest person ever to stand on an eight-thousander.
The good weather window did not open wide enough. “We needed six days of good weather in order to get safely up and down the remote, unclimbed Biarchedi I (6,810 m) in Pakistan’s Karakoram mountains”, Ralf Dujmovits writes on Instagram after the abandoned summit attempt. “With a forecast of 4.5 days of good weather, we headed up, but the snow started again after only one day and our good weather window was shortened to 2.5 days – not nearly what we needed.”
Samina Baig lives her dreams. Pakistan’s best-known female climber wants to fulfill another one on K2: She wants to be the first woman in her home country to stand on the 8,611-meter-high summit this summer. With her Pakistani team, the 30-year-old arrived last Thursday at the base camp at the foot of the second highest mountain on earth. Once again, Samina wants to take up the cudgels for her countrywomen. ” Being a woman, my message to people is to encourage and support their daughters and let them choose their own profession,” the climber said before setting off for the Karakoram. “Let them make their own mark.”
I admit that I am a bit biased. Perhaps I’m keeping my fingers crossed for Nancy Hansen and Ralf Dujmovits in their summit attempt on the 6,810-meter-high, still unclimbed Biarchedi I in the Karakoram a bit tighter than I do for other climbers. I have known Ralf, the only German mountaineer so far to have scaled all 14 eight-thousanders (except for Mount Everest, all without bottled oxygen), for over 20 years now.
In 2005 we were (together with Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner and Hirotaka Takeuchi) on the north side of Mount Everest. In 2007, I accompanied a commercial expedition led by him to the eight-thousander Manaslu. After the devastating earthquake in Nepal in 2015, the two of us, together with Gerlinde and Nepalhilfe Beilngries, ensured that a school destroyed by the quake was rebuilt for several hundred children and young people in the mountain village of Thulosirubari. All this bonded us and made us friends – and perhaps explains to you why I am particularly excited about the adventure of Ralf and his wife Nancy.
“Turning around is not the difficult part,” David Göttler tells me. “What’s difficult is afterwards, when you’re struggling with fate. But I don’t think Mount Everest will be my mountain of fate.” For the second time after 2019, the German top mountaineer has returned without a summit success from the highest mountain on earth, which he only wants to climb without bottled oxygen. Two years ago he turned back at 8,650 meters, about 200 meters below the summit. This time, the end of the line was at the South Col at just below 8,000 meters.
“Things weren’t going well for either of us,” says the 42-year-old, describing what prompted him and 33-year-old Spaniard Kilian Jornet to descend again. “We kept nodding off, it didn’t feel right.” Goettler had climbed through the night from Camp 2 at 6,400 meters to the South Col, Jornet from base camp. “It was relatively clear up there that we were going to have to turn around – due to the style we are climbing.” David suspects that they had “caught a little sunstroke” on one of the hot previous days: “At some point our bodies would have shown us the red card.”
“The mountain is still unclimbed for a reason,” Ralf Dujmovits told me before setting off for Pakistan with his wife Nancy Hansen. “Even the approach to the base of Biarchedi I is difficult.” The German-Canadian mountaineering couple is attempting the still unclimbed 6,810-meter-high mountain in the Karakoram this summer.
In 2016, Ralf had caught sight of the Biarchedi group during Nancy’s and his failed attempt on the also still unclimbed 7,134-meter-high Praqpa Ri and learned afterwards that the highest mountain of the massif had not yet been climbed – unlike the 6781-meter Biarchedi II, which the legendary Polish climber Jercy Kukuczka (1948-1989) had first climbed solo in 1984. In the meantime, the two have moved into their base camp at 4,500 meters. During the first eight days in Pakistan “everything has gone incredibly smoothly and we have been warmly welcomed by everyone we met,” Ralf writes on Instagram.
Lhakpa Nuru Sherpa is the fifth casualty of the spring season on Mount Everest, which concluded last week. On 3 June, Lhakpa Nuru died at Khangri International Hospital in Kathmandu. He would have turned 43 this month. The Sherpa died of cardiopulmonary arrest as a result of a severe High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE), according to the hospital’s death certificate.
Chhang Dawa Sherpa, board director of Seven Summit Treks, Nepal’s largest expedition operator, confirmed the death to me. Lhakpa Nuru, he wrote, had been rescued from Everest Base Camp on 29 May and admitted directly to the hospital, where he was treated for HAPE – in the end to no avail. The 42-year-old is survived by his wife and their son.
“It felt a bit like an apocalypse movie,” says Felix Berg, describing the moment when he and his client Robert Westreicher landed by helicopter at Everest Base Camp on 29 May. “The whole time, at least three helicopters were permanently landing and then taking off again. It was quite special: there were two of us going in, while what felt like hundreds of people were setting off, not to say fleeing.”
For weeks, the scene was puzzled about it: What exactly are David Göttler and Kilian Jornet up to on Mount Everest? It was clear that they wanted to climb the highest mountain on earth without bottled oxygen. But on which route? Possibly as a traverse, and Lhotse for good measure?
The most common speculation was that the German and the Spaniard would try to ascend to the summit via the West Ridge. In any case, this did not happen. David and Kilian abandoned their attempt without breathing mask at the South Col, i.e. on the normal route. The 42-year-old Göttler had climbed there from Camp 2, the 33-year-old Jornet directly from Everest Base Camp.
Not one hundred percent
“We both climbed through the night and met at South Col and we both experienced the same sensation of not feeling well or strong,” David described on Instagram the decision to turn back at nearly 8,000 meters. ” It would have been foolish to continue to climb higher in that state. You can’t climb Everest in our style if you don’t feel 100%, and luckily both of us know very well how we should feel at those altitudes.”