Now is the K2 Winter of Our Discontent

Reality starts to seep in as climbers venture out on K2 this winter.

With forecasts for summit windchill of minus 108 f. (minus 78 c.), even in the lower camps short videos posted like this one from Camp 1 by Tamara Lunger show a rather cold world where the request for a ‘heater’ shines through. Probably not a lot of those on the mountain. Her sense of humour may be what really gets her through this.

No matter what the comforts of Base Camp hold, in winter even the plastic chairs will be cracking up. Donkey headed down from Base Camp on a warm summer day.

With many climbers now back in K2 Base Camp, a marginally livable temperature of zero f. (-18 c.) pervades, though with incessant wind it will always be at least 10 degrees colder – not to mention noisy.

Nimsdai reports it ‘is not very pleasant’, which coming from him means the more human amongst us would probably not be venturing far out of our sleeping bags.

We are at basecamp of K2 at 5200 metres in elevation . The conditions right now is not very pleasant and it’s expected to get even worse for next few days with the temperatures upto minus -50 degrees Celsius. Nimsdai on instagram.

K2 Winter Base Camp Puja. De Rigueur dress a down suit, double boots and the warmest hat you can find. In summer season a t-shirt would be more common. Nimsdai Instagram

Approaching Base Camp on K2 in the summer season, slightly more temperate with Garrett Madison (right) opting for Lawrence of Arabia styling. Photo: Victor Saunders

While the climbing may be hard, the only thing worse for many climbers is sitting around in Base Camp.

It won’t just be the weather, some of the most basic things, like the length of the days, vary significantly from the summer season. Right now, K2 will be getting around 10 hours of daylight per day. In summer climbers have closer to 14.

The sun of course is much lower in the sky, so all those other peaks around are shading Base Camp for much longer. Waking up in the morning and praying for the sun will be going on for a very long time.

K2 at 5:53, January 5, 2021. Not a lot of light in the day to move between camps. Photo: Seven Summit Treks

After that first foray on the mountain, the more experienced will be settling in, adjusting, and acclimitizing. Another added challenge in winter is the need to acclimatise, in conditions that are simply wearing you down with every day spent in the heights.

There will be a point where acclimatisation is finally as good as it gets, but will it take longer than climbers can endure the conditions?

For those remembering their English Literature lessons, the quote of course continues:

Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;

Summer undoubtably a long way off, but perhaps a fading of wind, a lengthening of day and the heights may yet again beckon.