K2: Zimmerman and Welsted give up on the West Ridge, further summit successes

On K2 West Ridge
On K2 West Ridge

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.”

K2 West Ridge - With socks in the sun
With socks in the sun

At the last bivouac at 6,900 meters, the thermometer showed a temperature of plus 10 degrees Celsius – “far too hot for climbing a route like the West Ridge,” Graham said. “I knew that the climate crisis was affecting these mountains but I can’t say that I anticipated getting scorched off the second highest peak in the planet.”

Zimmerman and Welsted’s attempt was considered the most exciting project of this year’s summer season on K2. The two top climbers – both of whom have already been honored with the Piolet d’Or, the “Oscar for climbers” – wanted to reach the highest point at 8,611 meters via a variation of the West Ridge route, first climbed in 1981 by Japan’s Eiho Chtani and Pakistan’s Nazir Sabir.

Sajid Ali Sadpara on the summit for the second time

More than 20 climbers, mainly from commercial teams, reached the summit today on the normal route via the Southeast Ridge, wearing breathing masks. Belgian Niels Jasper and Bolivian Hugo Ayaviri reportedly were climbing without bottled oxygen, as they had done earlier in their summit success on neighboring Broad Peak.

The Pakistani Sajid Ali Sadpara also stood on the summit, for the second time after 2019. On Monday, the bodies of his father Muhammad Ali Sadpara, the Icelander John Snorri Sigurjonsson and the Chilean Juan Pablo Mohr had been discovered at the so-called “Bottleneck”, the key point of the route at around 8,200 meters. The trio had not returned from a winter summit attempt in early February.

Sajid said he had taken the bodies to “a safe place”. He now wants to consult with the families of the deceased as well as experts on whether it is possible to get the bodies off the mountain without putting anyone in danger.