Lucky! Damn good luck! This is the impression given by a video posted on social media by Mingma Gyalje Sherpa from 22 July, the record summit day on K2 (see below). On it, a long line of climbers can be seen at the so-called “Bottleneck” – above them huge ice towers that could collapse at any time. On Friday last week, some 120 members of commercial teams had reached (with bottled oxygen, except for a few) the summit of the second-highest mountain on earth – more than ever before in a single day in the history of K2.
“Scariest part on K2”
The Bottleneck, a narrow couloir at about 8,200 meters, is the key point of the normal route because of extreme avalanche danger. Climate change, which has also led to higher temperatures on K2, creates an increased risk of ice and snow masses hanging over the couloir breaking loose – as happened, for example, in summer 2008, when a series of serac collapses and avalanches killed 11 people in the summit zone. “This is the scariest part on K2 and we had to be in a long queue,” Mingma Gyalje comments on his video.
The head of the expedition operator Imagine Nepal was at the helm of a team of eleven Nepalese and one Pakistani who led nine clients to the summit at 8,611 meters. For Mingma, it was his fourth K2 summit success after 2014 (without bottled oxygen), 2017 (with breathing mask) and the first winter ascent of the mountain in 2021 (with bottled oxygen).
His video of the traffic jam at K2 Bottleneck is reminiscent of Nirmal Purja‘s image in spring 2019 of the long queue on the summit ridge of Mount Everest. The second highest mountain on earth is about to become as commercialized as the highest. With the difference that K2 has significantly more objective dangers.
Three more deaths
So far this summer, three climbers have lost their lives on K2. Afghan Ali Akbar Sakhi died – as reported – apparently from high altitude sickness. Canadian Richard Cartier and Australian Matt Eakin fell to their deaths on the descent. They had previously climbed to around 7,600 meters to acclimatize.
The second fatality of the season is reported from neighboring eight-thousander Broad Peak. Scotsman Gordon Henderson has been missing for over a week, and there is virtually no hope of finding him alive. Three weeks ago, Pakistani Sharif Sadpara had fallen to his death from the summit ridge.