Winter expeditions: Camp 3 reached on K2

View on K2 from base camp (in 2004)

“(The) Sherpas finally fixed Camp III this afternoon on K2, along with Nims’ (Nirmal Purja‘s) team,” Chhang Dawa Sherpa, expedition leader of Nepali operator Seven Summit Treks, let us know on Instagram today. Camp 3 on the route via the Southeast Ridge is located at about 7,200 meters.

The Sherpa trio around Mingma Gyalje Sherpa also arrived there afterwards. So the Nepalese continue to make common cause on K2. “We will make the nation proud,” promised Mingma on Facebook. The 34-year-old announced a day of rest for the “ten Nepalese brothers” at Camp 3 because of the expected high winds. Dawa Sherpa had previously held out the prospect of a further ascent to Camp 4 at 7,600 meters on Friday.

Hardly any wind on Saturday

For Saturday, the meteorologists predict an almost ideal day for climbing on the second highest mountain on earth: sun and very little wind. From Sunday on, the wind is supposed to freshen up again significantly.

Other climbers โ€“ including the Chilean Juan Pablo Mohr, the Italian Tamara Lunger and the Romanian Alex Gavan, who want to scale K2 without bottled oxygen โ€“ are taking advantage of the current relatively calm winter weather after a few stormy days to acclimatize further with ascents to the high camps.

After the Polish Waldemar Kowalewski, another climber, the Spaniard Carlos Garranzo, had to be flown out yesterday by helicopter due to health problems.

Urubko: “Bottled oxygen is doping”.

Denis Urubko

Meanwhile, Denis Urubko has fueled the ongoing debate over whether or not bottled oxygen is legitimate for a possible first winter ascent of K2. “(Bottled) Oxygen is a powerful doping,” the 47-year-old Russian wrote on Instagram. In other sports, dopers would be disdained and punished, “but in alpinism people who use doping are begoming heroe.” He said he could not respect climbers who sold ascents with bottled oxygen as sporting achievements.

In the days of “epical first explorations” of the world’s highest mountains 100 years ago until 40 years ago, supplemental oxygen was an important option, Denis said: “But time changes, we have more experience in trainings, psychical preparation, (weather) forecast.” With that in mind, he said, it’s important to support those athletes who are climbing at high altitude without bottled oxygen.

Urubko himself has scaled all 14 eight-thousanders without breathing mask.  He also did without bottled oxygen during his own two winter attempts on K2 โ€“ in 2003 he reached an altitude of 7,650 meters on the Chinese north side of the mountain, and in 2018 he climbed to 7,400 meters on the Pakistani south side. 

Winter “experiment” on Broad Peak

Meanwhile, not far from K2, at the 6,209-meter-high Pastore Peak, Hungarian Zoltan Szlanko and Alex Goldfarb, a U.S. citizen with Russian roots, are acclimatizing for a winter attempt on the 8,051-meter-high Broad Peak. They want to climb without bottled oxygen and high altitude porters.

Alex Goldfarb and Zoltan Szlanko
Alex Goldfarb and Zoltan Szlanko

Both are already past 50. Their experience at high altitude is manageable. Zoltan reached 7,100 meters on the eight-thousander Cho Oyu in fall 2010. In winter 2019/2020, both climbed the 6,814-meter-high Ama Dablam together: Alex reached the summit, Zoltan Camp 3 at around 6,300 meters.

Actually, Szlanko and Goldfarb had planned a three- or four-person team for Broad Peak, but no suitable companions could be found. Zoltan then also dropped his plan to ski down Broad Peak. The two climbers dampened expectations that were too high. In their own words, they see their expedition more as an “experiment for the coming winters.”

Txikon, Moro and Co. at Manaslu Base Camp

At the 8,163-meter-high Manaslu in Nepal, the Italian Simone Moro and the two Spaniards Alex Txikon and Inaki Alvarez have meanwhile also moved into the base camp at around 4,800 meters.

Supported by the Nepalese Chhepal Sherpa and Kalden Phurba Sherpa, they have not only set their sights on a winter ascent of the eighth-highest mountain on earth, but also want to scale the nearby 7,992-meter Pinnacle East. The two Nepalese Tenji Sherpa and Vinayak Jay Malla, who want to climb Manaslu in alpine style, had already reached the base camp earlier.

Update 4.20 p.m.: Nirmal Purja announces on Instagram they fixed the route up to 7,600 meters.

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