Little by little the expedition teams arrive in the north of Pakistan in order to tackle the country’s mountain giants this summer. According to US mountain blogger Alan Arnette, the government in Islamabad has issued almost 400 permits so far, including 164 for the Pakistani south side of K2, the second highest mountain in the world. For comparison: the Chinese authorities granted 142 permits for the northern side of Mount Everest in the past spring season.
A K2 permit for a five-member expedition team costs 12,000 dollars, i.e. 2,400 dollars per person. For every additional climber 3,000 dollars become due. Compared to Everest, this is almost a bargain: both on the Nepalese south side and on the Tibetan north side you pay 11,000 dollars per head, in Tibet it includes a garbage collection fee of 1,500 dollars.
In summer 2018, 62 climbers had reached the summit of K2, more than ever before in a year. Due to the high number of permits, especially the normal route via the Southeast Ridge – the route the Italian climbers Lino Lacedelli and Achille Compagnoni had taken on their first ascent in July 1954 – could get crowded this season.
“Because of the barely available good campsites in Camp 1, 2 and 3, the K2 normal route via the Abruzzi Spur can only tolerate a limited number of teams,” the Austrian expedition leader Lukas Furtenbach recently told me. “I think we’ll see some problems here soon.” After all, K2 was and is a dangerous mountain. There have been 379 summit successes so far, but also 85 deaths.
About a dozen teams
Furtenbach Adventures is one of about a dozen expedition operators that will be on the spot. The Nepalese operator Seven Summit Treks will also be there. With 14 climbers and 17 Sherpas, Seven Summit Treks has one of the largest teams. Among the members is the German climber Herbert Hellmuth, who is tackling K2 for the third time after 2015 and 2016. Both times he had to turn back at above 7,000 meters. The 50-year-old from Bamberg has scaled three eight-thousanders so far: Manaslu (in 2011), Mount Everest (in 2013) and Kangchenjunga (in 2018). Austrian Hans Wenzl is also a member of the Seven Summits team. The 48-year-old has already scaled eight eight-thousanders without bottled oxygen, most recently Mount Everest in 2017.
Rousseau and Allen
Some climbers who are more known in the scene can also be found on the list of this summer’s K2 summit candidates. For example, the Canadian Louis Rousseau, who opened a new route on Nanga Parbat in 2009 and afterwards reached an altitude of 8,320 meters on K2. The 42-year-old is on the road with his friend Rick Allen, the 65-year-old routinier from Scotland. Last year, after a solo summit attempt on the neighboring Broad Peak, Rick had got into trouble above 7,000 meters. He was rescued after he had been sighted with a drone and his exact position had been determined.
In 2012, Allen and his British compatriot Sandy Allan had caused a sensation. At that time, the two had managed to reach the summit of Nanga Parbat for the first time via the approximately ten-kilometer-long Mazeno Ridge. Allan and Allen had spent 18 days at very high altitude. For their coup they had been awarded the Piolet d’Or, the “Oscar of the climbers”, in 2013.
Mike Horn’s third attempt
The South African adventurer Mike Horn will tackle K2 for the third time. On his last attempt in 2015, he turned around at about 7,300 meters. Mike, who has been living in Switzerland for a long time, is en route with the Swiss Fred Roux. Horn has scaled four eight-thousanders so far: Gasherbrum I and II (in 2007), Broad Peak (in 2010) and Makalu (in 2014). In summer 2018, he failed on Nanga Parbat due to bad weather.
The 52-year-old is an all-around adventurer. So he trekked and swam solo from the source to the mouth of the mighty Amazon river in 1997, about 7,000 kilometers in 171 days. In 2006, Horn reached with the Norwegian Børge Ousland the North Pole with skis and sledge –in the polar night.