On July 28th, at 3.30 PM local time, 52-year-old Vanessa O’Brien made history as she became the first American female to stand on top of the Savage Mountain, “The K2”. Vanessa was accompanied by eleven other mountaineers including Icelander John Snorri Sigurjónsson, Chinese - Zhang Liang and Miss Jing Xue and a sturdy team of eight sherpas led by legendary Mingma Gyalje.
This summit marks the culmination of the three-year deadlock on the second highest and arguably one of the most difficult mountains on earth.
The ever more difficult conditions have thwarted previous attempts in the season, successfully confining the neighboring Polish Ski Team to the Base Camp. The poles have been waiting on their toes for a weather window.
K2 not only stands as the only 8000er in the world which has never been climbed in the winters but climbing it even in summers has become increasingly difficult.
Vanessa, has been attempting to climb K2 for the consecutive three years, moving higher on the high camps with each proceeding attempt.
Talking to reporters at the start of the expedition, Vanessa said: "I am sure that the ending of this adventure will be very fruitful and happy."
Earlier, after her failed attempt in 2016, Vanessa said, "We made it to camp 2 in 2015 and camp 3 in 2016. So I believe that it might be camp 4 and summit in 2017,"
Keeping it simple and to the book, the team chose the Cessen Route for the climb. An early Monsoon in Pakistan and stupendous snow conditions beyond 7000metres has posed a serious challenge for the team of sherpas who are leading this expedition.
Moving from camp-3 to camp-4 on the shoulder alone consumed an exhausting 12 hours. It is still not clear if the team has been using bottled Oxygen, which in all probability they might be.
The team is now heading down from the 8611m Granite rock and as per the record, K2 is known to be the toughest to climb down.
Causalities which occurred in the 100-years long climbing history of the mountain, most of them have happened during descent from the mountain and continues to be so to this date.
Vanessa has been an active social worker and a peace ambassador for Pakistan and has spoken in favor of Pakistan on many fronts.
"Who in this room would have guessed that Pakistan will be Asia's best performing stock market in 2016? It continues to be a country with a low cost of borrowing, stable currency and high growth rates," she said in a presser earlier in the US.
“The flags of the UK, US and Pakistan are all equally important to show friendship, peace and solidarity”.
Meanwhile, the Polish Ski team, comprising of Andrzej Bargiel , Janusz Gołąb and Jakub Poburka have stayed in the Base Camp following unpredictable weather and heavy snow.
The team had earlier chosen the difficult and least attempted Kukuczka-Piotrowski route but have now chosen Cessen (Basque) route for their expedition.
This summit success comes after multiple summits back in 2014 by a Pakistani Expedition and other international climbers. K2 since, had denied access to the top.
Search and Rescue operation had to be suspended as the Pakistan Army Aviation Helicopter could not carry on the search for more than three hours in wake of bad weather. Spaniard Alberto Zerain and Argentinian Mariano Galvan, known to be one of the best High Altitude Alpinists in the world, were attempting Nanga from Half way through the Mazeno Ridge in Alpine Style.
Zerain and Galvan reached the Diamir Base Camp on June 15th and very well acclimatized returning from their bids on Lhotse and Annapurna this season.
The duo was not allowed to camp before the Diamir Base Camp due to security reasons and they had to haul their baggage for 10 hours to the forward Base Camp from where they were to start their climb. Starting off on June 19th, they quickly gained 5600m but were forced to stop due to worsening weather conditions.
On June 17th Galvan wrote on his blog, “Tomorrow we will begin to climb and calculate a week to complete the ridge and two extra days for bad weather and rest. We will be heavily loaded, since we have not made any pre-arrangements.”
From June 19th to their last contact to Base, Galvan and Zerain were forging their way ahead despite bad weather conditions. They launched their summit push on June 19th but were again stalled for another three days. Weather updates predicted good conditions for a summit push but things changed quickly on ground.
Alberto’s last contact to the Base complained of bad weather and wet conditions. “It’s snowing continuously, its snowy snow, because it’s not really cold, so it gets wet. It’s a very uncomfortable wait”.
The duo was making gradual progress till 23rd when they crossed 6000m mark. On 24th, the tracker gave a location of 6270m but an hour later it relayed an altitude of 6110m and stopped working presumably on Auto-off mode. It was not turned on after that moment.
Search and Rescue operation was launched traversing the last location marked by the tracker. Romanian climber Alex Gavan who has been working on the Kinshofer Route on Diamir side has volunteered to carry out the rescue mission. Pakistani Himalayas and Karakorum are likely to experience an early Monsoon which in normally starts by the end of July. There are several teams working on K2, G1 and Nanga and their climbing bids will be severely affected by present weather conditions.
American climbers Kyle Dempster and Scott Adamson missing on notorious Ogre- ıı in Northern PakistanRead Now
Monstrous Ogre- ıı also known as Latok-2, famous for being one of the most difficult massifs in the world to climb has yet again swallowed two of the world renowned high altitude alpinists. Utah based Kyle Dempster 33 and Scott Adamson 34 have been reported missing for the last more than one week and Search and Rescue Operations (SAR) in the notoriously difficult realm of Panmah Muztagh- a subrange of Karakorums in northern Pakistan have been delayed due to weather parleys.
The duo missed the peak last year when they suffered a near-death injury, falling from a mind-boggling 400ft while descending due to bad weather. Dempster broke his leg during descend.
This year, the duo returned to attempt the same route North Face for the first ascent of 7108m Latok-ıı aka Ogre- ıı at an otherwise unconventional climbing time of the year. Given his experience of the Baintha Brakk Massif, and having scaled the 7284m Ogre-1 in 2012 South Face adjacent to the Latok massif, Dempster was confident to climb the notorious giant in the wild north of Pakistan.
“Kyle and Scott have not been seen since Monday, August 22”, reported the climbers crew from Base Camp. “No surprise given the complexity and scale of the terrain and the vagaries of the weather. On Sunday, August 28, family and friends initiated a search and rescue effort, assisted by local authorities and another climbing team on the Chaktoi”.
The four peaks of the Latok massif are a cluster of dramatic granite peaks in the Panmah Muztagh range and are known for their notoriety for climbers. Latok massif is pitched between Baitha Brakk Glacier on the south and Choktoi Glacier on the north in the central region of Karakorum mountain range.
Latok- ıı did not see a successful attempt after the first ascent in 1977 when an Italian group led by Arturo Bergameschi reached the top.
Second successful attempt came in the year 1997 when Alexander Huber, Thomas Huber, Toni Gutsch, and Conrad Anker climbed the sheer West Face of the peak.
Kyle and Scott are also the joint winners of Piolets d`Or 2013. Friends and family of both climbers have started fund raising to support the search and rescue operations.
Meanwhile a German Expedition at the Base Camp is also taking part in SARs and Pakistani Military Helicopters have also started scouring the North Face in wake of suitable weather.
Rains and Flash floods: Shangla, Ghizer, Kohistan, Dir among worst affected as death toll rises to 188Read Now
Northern areas, Khyber Paktunkhwah and various other parts of Pakistan have been badly hit by recent rains and flashfloods claiming around 188 lives yet the local administration has failed to declare emergency in the affected areas which would have boosted the relief efforts. Karakorum Highway, the only road link of the country with the northern areas has been severed from no fewer than 19 places stranding hordes of travellers and commuters. The calamity has caused impending shortage of food supplies and medicines in the region.
Severely affected areas include Ghizer district, Chipursan Valley, Kohistan, Dir, Shangla, Berseen and other parts of Gilgit Baltistan and KP. As per the data provided by PDMA the death toll currently stands at 104 in KP, 31 in FATA and 14 in GB. Rescue efforts are underway to save the 25 people who were buried in a landslide in Othar Nala, Kandiyan district Kohistan. Lack of earth moving machinery and paramedics, the death toll is likely to reach with the passage of time.
There have also been reports of lack of food supplies as most of the shops and bazaars have been emptied by mass purchasing by the locals and visitors in the prevalent scenario. Tourists and travelers stranded at various points on KKH also decided to walk their way back, citing an instance where three men managed to reach Besham from Samar Nala in three days.
“We are fully prepared to reach out to people of the affected area – two helicopters are stationed in Abbottabad to fly to Kohistan but inclement weather is the main obstacle,” Hazara Division Commissioner Akbar Khan told press reporters on Tuesday
Pakistan Meteorological Department has predicted a new system likely to bring in heavier rains from Friday, April 8th. This new system of rains will severely affect the relief efforts which are still to be executed under the auspices of PDMA and NDMA.
Meanwhile ISPR also issued a handout regarding the relief efforts underway by the Army and FWO in order to reconnect the damaged sections of KKH and clearing off communication lines.
This year’s spring has brought along a breath of fresh air for the people of Gilgit Baltistan as Pakistan International Airlines, on the directives of Supreme Appellate Court of GB, dispatched its first flight from Gilgit to Skardu. Chief Minister of GB Hafeez ur Rehman along with other dignitaries saw off the Air Bus take off for its maiden flight to Skardu amid cheers and uproar of the local crowd. The SAC took Suo Moto notice of Shaheen International Airlines apparent refusal to the previous orders of the court to conduct flights from Gilgit to Skardu to facilitate the commuters within the administrative boundaries of GB.
This comes as the fulfillment of an age-old demand of the people of GB who have continuously suffered the hazardous and unpredictable conditions of the treacherous patch of Karakorum Highway leading to Skardu. The 300km KKH portion that leads to Skardu from the administrative and political capital of GB, is constantly challenged by nature involving severe landslides and road blockades.
This new communication route will not only facilitate the tourism which is the major source of income for the region but will also help the government machinery to function smoothly through the two major cities. Chief Minister Hafeez ur Rehman also announced that PIA will soon be conducting four international flights in a week direct from Skardu to further the tourist activities in the area.
“Flights will be started to Iran, Saudi Arabia, China, Nepal and Sri Lanka,” CM Rehman said.
Gilgit being the hub of political and social activities in the region is also home to the “Mother of Mist” Rakaposhi, the 17th highest mountain on earth and the picturesque Hunza often coined as the living Shangrila. Meanwhile Skardu is the gateway to Baltoro and Biafo Glaciers, some of the longest glaciers on earth and home to the mighty peaks of Karakorum of the likes of K2 and Gasherbrum massif. This air journey, if promoted intelligently, can also become one of the most sought-after air safaris with jaw-dropping views of the giants like Nanga Parbat, K2 and other 8000m peaks in the region.
Chief Minister also thanked Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for his keen interest in the initiative and hoped that this will invigorate a new era of tourism in the region.
As per the reports coming from the Base Camp, the Killer Giant has been taken down by three of the resilient mountaineers, all of whom have at least tried twice in the past to conquer the mighty 8,126m peak in the rugged Western Himalayas of Pakistan. The news arrived in the evening of February 26, that the three of the four mountaineers Ali Sadpara (Pakistan), Simone Moro and Tamara Lunger (Italy) and Alex Txikon (Spain) have successfully reached the summit of the Killer Mountain thoroughly supported by ideal weather conditions during the ascent.
This also concludes the three decade long struggle of numerous mountaineers who tried to scale Nanga for the first winter ascent.
Kicked off by ambitious Polish climbers led by the legendary Andre Zawada, it also marks the sad reality that this ascent did not have any Polish climber in it. There has been at least one Polish climber in most of the 8000ers scaled in winters.
No fewer than four international teams launched their bid from the Diamir side simultaneously to scale the peak which has never been climbed in winters. Leading Polish climber Adam Bielecki met an accident while fixing ropes and had to disengage. Tomek and Elizabeth followed later after waiting in Camp 3 for three days hoping to barge into a weather window which would allow them to launch a summit push. They called it a night after bracing high winds and extreme low temperatures. Italian Daniele Nardi-part of Alex Txikon team, also gave in after disagreements with team mates.
Simone and Tamara with relatively strong financial backings stayed back waiting to launch their summit bid at their own convenience. The base camp received heavy snowfall and blizzards at the start of February, forcing the only two teams to join hands, giving rise to one of the most experienced and resilient climbing teams for the summit bid.
Simone and Tamara after long discussions gave up the Messner-2000 route and decided to join Alex on the much explored Kinshofer route taking up the now outdated Classic style of climbing. The only hiccup that will have researchers thoroughly examine the credibility of the summit claim is the fact that Alex’s GPS tracker that was reportedly held by Ali Sadpara stopped giving real time location just a few meters short of the main summit.
As per the tracker, the climbers returned to Camp 4 from a point which is almost 100 m on the south east of the summit. The photographs and other evidences will eventually prove the authenticity of the summit claim although both teams have officially declared the bid to be a success.
Stage is set for the biggest showdown of the mountaineering history of contemporary times as four of the resilient climbers are now in Camp 4 at 7200m on Nanga Parbat Diamir Face with excellent weather window for the coming two days. Spaniard Alex Txikon, Italian Simone Moro and Tamara Lunger and Pakistani Ali Sadpara reached Camp 4 today and are now resting and hydrating themselves for the summit Push.
Alex teamed up with Simone just a few weeks ago after the departure of Tomek and Elizabeth and Adam Bielecki and the more disheartened Daniele Nardi. So far the results have been astonishing as both teams braced extreme snow fall and heavy blizzards both at the Base Camp and up on the mountain demonstrating their commitment to the first winter ascent of the mighty Nanga. They are now poised to achieve the impossible with historical span of no fewer than 30 years of failed expeditions.
“Alex Txikon, Ali Sadpara, Simone Moro and Tamara Lunger are already resting and hydrating inside their sleeping bags in C4 (7.200m)”. Alex updated his status on the Facebook at 2000 Hours PST on 25th Feb. “Excellent job! Avoiding exposure to extremely low temperatures will set out for the summit at 5:30–6:00am (in Pakistan). Optimum wind conditions are expected for 26th night and will remain throughout 27th, but waiting until then would supposed to spend one 'extra' night in above 7.000m, and have discarded this idea”.
Simone and Alex teamed up only after the departure of Daniele Nardi from the Alex’s camp and reportedly it has been one precondition put forward by Simone for the merger of two teams. Daniele experienced a 50m fall along the Kinshofer and has been dejected and demoralized stating that none of the team members including Alex and Ali came to help him out. Reportedly he also sent SOS signal at the time of his fall and it was observed at the Base Camp.
This is the first time in several years that such optimum weather conditions are prevalent for the summit push while the climbers have also successfully reached camp 4 setting up a strong chance of summit. Crossing the Bazhin Basin along the Kinshofer Route,the team will have to cover a long distance for the summit.
Alex, Daniele and Ali were the only ones who attempted a summit push on March 13th last year and lost their way traversing over the point from where they had to attack the summit. They abandoned the expedition after the realization and returned to Base Camp. This year, the team is less likely to repeat the same blunder and summit Nanga for the first winter ascent.
Climber’s fate hangs in limbo as the security agencies delay clearance of climbing permits for Nanga ParbatRead Now
No fewer than three expeditions have already reached Islamabad in a bid to climb the Killer Mountain Nanga Parbat for the first winter ascent while another two expeditions are scheduled to arrive in the mid of December. These renowned mountaineers, some of them attempting Nanga Parbat in winters for the sixth time are main stream mountaineers and arguably some of the best in the business. Having tight sponsorships and limited resources, the teams are now waiting in Islamabad for clearance from the security agencies of Pakistan and are unsure whether their ambitious plans will ever see the light of the day.
Italian ace Simone Moro along with his climbing partner Tamara Lunger arrived in Islamabad on December 9th and is currently weighing his options to climb the 7027 meter Spantik for acclimatization before they begin their incredible ascent of the 8,125m Nanga Parbat which has never been climbed in winters.
Winter Alpinism is currently the most exciting form of mountaineering around the world and out of the 14 eight thousand meters peaks in the world, Pakistan offers the two remaining peaks which have never been climbed in winters. K2 and Nanga Parbat have until now stood their ground despite several consecutive attempts in the past decades.
Polish climber Tomek Mackiewicz also arrived on December 9th and has already made it to Chilas waiting on his partner French climber Elisabeth Revol who landed in Islamabad on 11th. The respective tour operators filed for the permits almost three months ago although the GB Council requires a tour operator to file for the permit about four to six weeks prior to the arrival of the expedition.
Pakistan has already been facing dearth of international tourists who are reluctant to step into Pakistan in wake of the prevalent security conditions. Mountaineering expeditions comprise mostly of orthodox climbers and mountaineers who are otherwise ready to risk it all for their intended goals. Delaying permits and making things financially difficult for such expeditions portrays a sorry story of the bureaucratic parleys which can only bring bad name to the country and further down slide our status as a tourist friendly country.
As the scientists from all over the world gather to analyze the impact of the 7.9 magnitude earthquake which struck Nepal on 25th April, many are intrigued to calculate the latest height of the highest mountain on earth. Mount Everest base camp was smothered badly from the gushing ice and rock filled avalanches right after the shocks, instantly leveling the makeshift camps and killing no fewer than 18 climbers and trekkers.
The latest satellite pictures were gathered from the Europe’s Sentinel-1A radar satellite which circled on top of Mount Everest in its orbit sending over latest images of the disaster. The preliminary data can not only help in the relief efforts but is providing valuable data to the geologists to analyze the overall change in the tectonics of the region.
Stephen Hicks, one of the leading Seismologists from the University of Liverpool United Kingdom said, "I think this will give us our clearest insight into the workings of the faults along the Himalayan front,"
From the earlier reports, a huge chunk of land measuring 75 miles (120 kilometers) in length and 30 miles (50 km) in width has risen to almost three feet rendering severe damage to the capital Kathmandu. There is also strong evidence that Mount Everest standing at 8,850 meters above sea level has been reduced by a few meters although the Himalayas are still believed to be rising every year by four centimeters.
Similar is the case with K-2, the second highest and only 239 meters short in height to Everest. Standing at 8611 meters above sea level, K-2 is contending close to Everest in its bid to be the highest mountain on earth.
The radar images testify that Everest has undergone a reduction in its height. The nonprofit Geoscience consortium UNAVCO believes that more and severe aftershocks are yet to come as the breakage in the tectonic plates has not yet reached the earth crust.
The total causalities have risen to 4000 as the relief and rehabilitation work is in progress. K-2, although shorter in height, is considered as one of the most difficult and dangerous mountains to climb. Everest, however, is relatively easier and less hazardous for climbing expeditions.
Nanga winter climb abandoned: K-2 and Nanga in the rugged North of Pakistan survive yet another winterRead Now
As the news pours in from the top of the ninth highest mountain in the world, the ambitious team has now abandoned its plan of conquering the Savage Mountain in wake of the deteriorating conditions and is now retreating to the Base Camp set up at Kinshofer Route on the Diamir Side.
The decision came in after the final summit push in the wee hours of Friday went berserk and Alex, Daniele and Ali missed the planned route of ascent and traversed over. Upon realization, it was decided best to halt any more attempts as the team members were exhausted beyond limits.
Alex tweeted, “At night, in the dark, we passed away the corridor that should had climbed. We made a too long traverse and from the point we reached it was not possible to go up".
It is now more than obvious from the last pictures received that the team missed the point where they had to make the final climb by a mere few feet arguably due to fatigue and exhaustion.
The team hadn’t had more than four hours of sleep in two days following gruesome climbing of more than ten hours a day to make it to Camp 4. The rightful decision of giving up came when the radio contact wore out and Muhammad Khan in the BC started to get impatient with no news of the team from 7950 meters.
“After spending the afternoon discussing, they've finally agreed that the most responsible decision is TO GIVE UP and come down to BC tomorrow”. Alex further added, “Communication by radio was very difficult, tomorrow we'll know more about the reasons.”
The team is gradually descending to the Base Camp from where they will pack their gear and bid adieu to the mighty giant which stays unbeaten for over 27 times and decades of attempts.
Nanga Parbat has once again defied the charms of modern technology, truck loads of human perseverance and mammoth determination.
K-2 and Nanga in the rugged North of Pakistan have survived yet another winter.