The K2 winter expedition is in the starting blocks. Expedition leader Mingma Gyalje Sherpa is expected in Islamabad this Wednesday as the last of the seven team members. The Nepalese has scaled 13 of the 14 eight-thousanders, only Shishapangma is still missing in his collection. Before his departure for Pakistan, the 33-year-old Nepalese answered my questions that I had sent him some time ago.
Mingma, you’ve already scaled K2 twice. Why do you want to try it now in winter?
Luckily or unluckily K2 is the only eight-thousander remained to be climbed in winter. And I really wish there are Nepalese climbers in the first winter ascent list. I do feel ashamed to say we have eight out of these 14 peaks in Nepal and no Nepalese on the list of the first winter ascenders.
There have been many attempts to climb K2 in winter, all failed so far. What makes you optimistic that you can make it?
I do believe in myself and I feel K2 waited for me and my team. Also all my K2 team members are very experienced, four of us have already made it to the summit of K2. So I think this is the team which can make winter K2 possible.
You have reported problems financing the expedition. Do you have the money now?
We are now on (the crowdfunding portal) “Gofundme” and we have done much from our side. Since the team is bigger, we need more financial support. But this problem won’t stop our mission.
What is your schedule for the expedition?
My team is already in Pakistan and I will arrive there on 8 January morning.
Will you use bottled oxygen?
I will try without.
The team includes the Icelander John Snorri Sigurjonsson, Slovenian Tomaz Rotar and the Chinese Gao Li. They haven’t appeared as winter specialists yet. Why did you choose them as your team partners?
John and I scaled K2 together in 2017 and he has made it to the summits of the eight-thousanders Lhotse and Manaslu and to Broad Peak Rocky Summit (8028 m, 23 meters lower than the main summit). Tomaz summited K2 in 2018 and also scaled Everest and Kangchenjunga. Gao Li tried K2 in 2019 and climbed up to 7800m, but he reached the summits of Manaslu in 2016, Everest in 2018, Lhotse and Makalu in 2019, so he is experienced enough. All of them are very experienced and strong partners.
Beside this, our other partners Tamting Sherpa, Pasang Namgel Sherpa and Kili Pemba Sherpa together have the experience of climbing eight-thousanders more than 30 times. Our Pakistani partner Sirbaz Khan is one of the strongest climber of his country. All in all we are a perfect team.
Denis Urubko, Don Bowie and Lotta Hintsa have a permit that applies not only to Broad Peak, but also to K2. Can you imagine joining forces with this teams?
I feel Denis, Don and Lotta are more focusing on Broad Peak rather than K2. We are neighbors on mountain, so we will see how it works. I would be happy to have joined forces if they take K2 seriously.