K2: Missing winter climbers found, first summit successes

The 8,611-meter-high K2, the second highest mountain on earth – on the left the West Ridge

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.

All those who reached the summit of K2 today had also passed the bodies of Muhammad Ali Sadpara, John Snorri Sigurjonsson and Juan Pablo Mohr. The Sherpas of a commercial team that fixed the ropes had discovered yesterday the bodies of the three climbers who had been missing since their winter summit attempt in early February and were later declared dead.

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Mourning for Rick Allen after avalanche on K2

Rick Allen died on K2 – this picture was taken by Canadian Louis Rousseau in summer 2018.

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.

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K2 and Broad Peak: Difficult search for missing climbers

The eight-thousander Broad Peak in Pakistan (in 2004)

The South Korean climber Kim Hong-bin is almost certainly dead since last Monday, but signals from his satellite phone could still be located later – at 7,000 meters on the hard-to-access Chinese east side of the eight-thousander Broad Peak. Whether Kim’s body lies there or only his satellite phone is still open. The South Korean news agency Yonhap reported on Friday that the Chinese authorities had allowed Pakistani rescue helicopters to search for Kim on Chinese territory. The Chinese had set up an operations center near the site of the accident to assist in the search effort, it said.

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Tragedy involving Kim Hong-bin on Broad Peak

Kim Hong-bin on Broad Peak (end of June)

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.

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On the trail of the missing from K2

John Snorri Sigurjonsson, Juan Pablo Mohr and Muhammad Ali Sadpara (from left)

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.

Two weeks ago, Sigurjonsson’s family and friends said goodbye to John Snorri with a church service in Iceland.

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Pakistani father wants to climb the 8000er Broad Peak with twelve-year-old daughter

Selena Khawaja
Selena Khawaja

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.

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Hansen and Dujmovits: Summit attempt on Biarchedi I failed

Ralf Dujmovits

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.”

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Samina Baig: Climbing K2 for the women

Samina Baig (r.) at K2 Base Camp.

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.”

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Hansen and Dujmovits: Summit attempt on Biarchedi I

Planned route on Biarchedi I

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.

Ralf and me in front of the new school in Thulosirubari (in 2019)

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.

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David Göttler: “Everest is a mirror of our society”

David Göttler points to Everest
David Göttler points to the summit of Mount Everest

“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.”

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Karakoram summer climbing under the sign of the pandemic

Biarchedi I (in the center of the picture, on the right Biarchedi II)

“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.

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Mourning for Everest climber Lhakpa Nuru Sherpa

Lakpa Nuru Sherpa
Lhakpa Nuru Sherpa (1978 – 2021)

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.

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Felix Berg: “Very special season” on Mount Everest

Felix Berg (r.) and Renji Sherpa (l.) on the summit of Mount Everest
Felix Berg (r.) and Renji Sherpa (l.) on the summit of Mount Everest

“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.”

The German expedition leader from the operator Summit Climb came to Mount Everest only when this spring season, which was under the shadow of a corona outbreak, was actually already as good as over.

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Göttler and Jornet abandon Everest attempt

David Göttler below Everest South Col (wearing a mask for moister breath).
David Göttler below Everest South Col (wearing a mask for moister breath).

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.”

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Further summit successes on Mount Everest – Anja Blacha on top

Nepalese south side of Mount Everest

Shortly before the end of the spring season, some teams reached the summit of Mount Everest today. “Mission accomplished,” let Nirmal “Nims” Purja know, head of the operator Elite Expeditions. Apart from the 37-year-old himself, six of his clients and nine Sherpas reached the highest point at 8,849 meters, he wrote: “After having to wait for a weather window good enough to summit, their patience was rewarded.” All returned safely to the South Col at nearly 8,000 meters. Nine team members, including Nims, still want to climb the neighboring 8516-meter Lhotse on Tuesday – incidentally, as on Everest, with bottled oxygen.

Actually, the “Icefall Doctors” on Mount Everest wanted to start already today to remove the ladders and ropes from the dangerous Khumbu icefall, the first stage on the route to the summit. But because of bad weather last week, there was, with permission from the Nepalese government, an extra three days for this spring season.

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