Season’s balance in the Karakoram: Nothing groundbreaking

Sunrise at Gondogoro La in Karakoram

The climbing season is over – what remains? This is a question we should perhaps ask ourselves more often when we look at what is happening on the world’s highest mountains. Were there any truly groundbreaking ascents that added new, exciting chapters to the book of alpinism? There were a few such attempts this summer in the Karakoram, but they all failed – either because of the conditions on the mountain, as in the case of Graham Zimmerman and Ian Welstedt’s attempt on the rarely climbed West Ridge of K2, or as in the case of the Czech expedition to the still unclimbed 7,453-meter-high Muchu Chhish in the Batura Massif, where Pavel Korinek and Tomas Petrecek turned back at 6,600 meters in waist-deep snow.

Or they failed because of the weather, as in the case of Nancy Hansen and Ralf Dujmovits on the also still unclimbed 6,810-meter-high Biarchedi I. Or because of an accident, as in the case of the Briton Rick Allen, who was caught in an avalanche and died while attempting to open a new route on K2 in alpine style with the Austrian Stephan Keck and the Spaniard Jordi Tosas. Equally tragic was the fatal fall of Kim Hong-bin on Broad Peak – just hours after the South Korean had become the first disabled climber to complete his collection of the 14 eight-thousanders.

Staged spectacle

So at the end of the eight-thousander season in Pakistan, the summit successes of the predominantly commercial expeditions via the normal routes remained: around 50 on K2, three of them without bottled oxygen, on the route secured with fixed ropes via the Southeast Ridge, – plus around two dozen ascents each on Broad Peak and Gasherbrum II, as well as a handful on Gasherbrum I.

What was sold as spectacular seemed staged. For example, the self-proclaimed French “summit pianist” Philippe Génin gave a mini-concert for himself and the camera at the 8,034-meter-high summit of G II. According to his own words, he had carried the piano up himself and had not used bottled oxygen (which alone would have been worthy of all honor). Next year, the Frenchman wants to climb Mount Everest with his instrument. To be honest, the world probably doesn’t need that any more than it needs the push-ups that Nepalese Sanu Sherpa had himself filmed doing on the summit of K2 this summer.