Superlatives Abound as First Day of Winter Arrives for K2 Climbers

As we roll into the true start of winter, K2 climbers are rapidly feeling the effects of the high mountains in the coldest season.

Temperatures are just one indication, add in the need to acclimatize, the incessantly flapping tents and the occasional snow storm sweeping in, creating an even more hostile environment.

K2. On a warm summer day. It won’t look or feel quite the same right now. Photo: Robert Anderson

Over the next week, the projected windchill at the summit touches an almost unbelievable minus 70 c. (minus 94 f.). There just isn’t a down suit, double boot or balaclava that quite makes the grade in those conditions. Perhaps a space suit would be best?

If the reality is tough, the superlatives to describe the climbers and what they face are also reaching new highs.

With the cast of characters, extending from Colin O’Brady, just leaving from Jackson Hole, WY to John Snorri, and his team already at K2 Base Camp, there will be no shortage of strong personalities on the mountain.

Colin is following on from his controversial “Impossible First” book about his crossing of Antarctica, and the critical review panning everything from the journey itself to the title in an extensive National Geographic article.

K2 now becomes the “Impossible Summit.” Perhaps a good headline, but as K2 has already had over 300 ascents, all-be-it none in winter, sneaking through the winter conditions to the top will be as much luck with the weather as anything else. And no-one would logically say it is impossible. Difficult, hard, cold and challenging, of course. Impossible, not so much and Colin seems to be setting himself up for even more potential criticism.

Colin O’Brady (left) and Lou Rudd at Union Glacier, after completing their respective solo crossings of the Antarctic continent.
Photo: Robert Anderson

Perhaps it is expected that the lure of a first winter ascent of K2 would attract a host of well known personalities – with a range of experience that may or may not actually be well suited to the adventure.

On a lighter note, the latest post from Icelander John Snorri has them back in Base Camp and prepping for the holidays:

The christmas lights are ready🎄Today it is sunny, -11 Celsius and it feels like heat wave, really nice. But the weather is still harsh in the mountain, so we are waiting. Weather update. 200 km per hour on the top of K2 next days and a great day to summit the 28th, but we are not ready then.

All you ever need to climb K2 in Winter. Magdalena, spells it out and artfully adds a few sponsors into the mix.

On Facebook, Nims lets us know he is less than happy with some of the coverage coming out around his climb:

For the live updates and progress on my #k2winter , stay up to date on ( links on bio ) or on my all verified social channels .There has been some shitty articles from uncredited sources written about my #k2winter exped. Few people and so called ‘media’ seem to act as if they know what they are talking about putting incorrect information from the comfort of their warm couch at home. You don’t know anything about my plans and you will never know unless I want you to 😉 !Take a chill pill and don’t pretend you know what’s happening here. 🙌🏽🙏🏽 On a positive note, my team, comprised of professional Nepalese mountaineers, are making the move towards #k2 base camp . Keep following us from my verified accounts… Stand by ! Stand by !

Nims Purja has announced he won’t be left behind in claiming big moments, though lets’ hope it is not really “the last great mountaineering challenge” as billed on his website.

Nirmal Purja and team, Project Possible, on their ascent of the 14 – 8,000 meter peaks in under 7 months.

Last but certainly not least, the well equipped and rather large group heading in under the Seven Summits Trek banner, has a host of both climbers and Sherpas, from the highly experienced, to the less so. With this many people on the mountain, the notoriously small camps, steep route and potential for rock and ice fall, the challenges will only be compounded. And human nature seems to think if others are climbing and going higher, perhaps I should too?

Everest, Hillary Step
The line over the Hillary step. Big numbers of people, big teams and little coordination in years past have created massive traffic jams on Everest. Is K2 soon to follow? Photo by David Hamilton from our climb together in 2003.