K2 summit push: It’s on!

So finally the summit pushs for K2 2019 will start or have started!

Max, Nima Dorje Sherpa and I will start our summit push tomorrow Sunday, 14 July 2019, via the Cesen route, with a planned summit on Wednesday, 17 July 2019.

But let me give you a more detailed overview of what’s now planned on the mountain. I waited a bit with giving you the next information because there is often a lot of delay, misinformation, rumors etc. running around, so I prefer to wait until the smoke has pretty much cleared ;). Still, at an 8000m peak there is no guarantee for the plans to follow through to the letter, one avalanche which wipes away the fixed ropes on the route can change the whole situation.

The overall situation regarding rope fixing, camps, weather etc. seems to be as follows:

  • On the Cesen route, the Sherpa team from Madison Mountaineering reached Camp 4 on the shoulder yesterday Friday, 12 July 2019. Ropes are fixed up to Camp 4. The trailing from Camp 3 to Camp 4 was quite hard, but now there seems to be a good trail. Big thanks to Gareth Madison, Ang Furba Sherpa and the Sherpa team for the hard work and excellent progress! Madison and Furtenbach are cooperating this year, so also thanks for the excellent cooperation so far. With the binoculars I could see that Camp 2 looks decent, well protected and offers good tent space. Camp 3 though is rather small, somewhat exposed and cannot take many people.
  • On the Abruzzi route, the ropes had been fixed up to Camp 4 already some days ago by the Sherpa team from Seven Summits Trek. Big thanks to Dawa Sherpa and his Sherpa team as well for the hard work and excellent progress!
  • Camp 4 on the Cesen route and Camp 4 on the Abruzzi route are not the same: While Camp 4 on the Cesen route is located directly on the shoulder, Camp 4 of the Abruzzi route is located about one hour walk below. Reason for this seems to be the existence of some seracs below the shoulder on the Abruzzi route, so the Camp was moved from its original location and now involves a somewhat meandering route. This also means a little bit longer summit night for the people on Abruzzi route. Abruzzi and Cesen route meet a little bit above Camp 4 on the Cesen route
  • The rope fixing from Camp 4 / shoulder via the bottleneck to the summit will probably be done on Tuesday, 16 July 2019, by the Sherpa team from Seven Summits Trek
  • Weather forecast looks good and stable until at least 18 July 2019. Winds are supposed to be low, coming from a Western direction, temperatures are looking acceptable as well though not as warm as in the past days. But Pakistan weather is notoriously difficult to forecast precisely, so some variation might occur…

Regarding the summit strategies of the teams, I can give the following rough information:

  • Our team / Furtenbach: Two sub-teams: As mentioned, Max, Nima Dorje Sherpa and I will start our summit push on Sunday, 14 July 2019 via the Cesen route. I am quite happy about that as the Cesen route is steeper and more sustained, which in turn means a more direct and hopefully quicker ascent – which I prefer :). Our planned schedule looks as follows:
    • Sunday 14 July 2019: We intend to go directly from Basecamp (5000m) to Camp 2 (around 6400m) and sleep there
    • Monday 15 July 2019: Go from Camp 2 (6400m) to Camp 3 (around 7200m), sleep there
    • Tuesday 16 July 2019: Take one tent from Camp 3, go from Camp 3 (7200m) to Camp 4 (around 8000m), rest for the afternoon, start the summit push in the night around 22:00. Align with other teams as necessary to avoid jams in the bottleneck
    • Wednesday 17 July 2019: Navigate the bottleneck in the night, reach the summit snow fields at first morning light and hopefully reach the summit in the morning!
    • Thursday 18 July 2019: Hopefully latest day to be back at Basecamp
K2 Cesen route: Approximate route description and location of high camps
  • From Furtenbach team, sub-team David and Anja have started their summit push together with Mingma Sherpa and Ang Kaji Sherpa already today Saturday 13 July 2019 via the Abruzzi route. They will take one more day as they will also sleep at Camp 1 (whereas we three want to go directly from Basecamp to Camp 2). We will then meet at the shoulder at 8000m for the summit night!
  • Madison Mountaineering team: To my knowledge, they will start their summit push via the Cesen route one day after us, that is, Monday 15 July 2019. They also intend to go directly from Basecamp to Camp 2. So their planned summit day is one day after us on Thursday, 18 July 2019
  • Seven Summits Treks: They also have two sub-teams like us, but all will go via the Abruzzi route. One sub-team started already today, Saturday 13 July 2019, they will sleep in each camp. The other sub-team will start tomorrow Sunday 14 July and go directly to Camp 2 to then continue together with the first sub-team. Their planned summit day is then Wednesday 17 July 2019, like us

I have no knowledge about the summit approaches of the other teams.

Overall, this looks like a nice staggered approach to avoid jams. With Madison Mountaineering there should be no overlap at all as they start one day after us, so this is ideal. With Seven Summits Treks, there will be no overlap until the shoulder at least for Max, Nima Dorje and me as we are climbing Cesen route and they are climbing Abruzzi route. So this is also good. At the shoulder, we will then have to coordinate who approaches bottleneck at what time in order to avoid jams. The bottleneck is the only narrow passage where passing other people is difficult or impossible. On the approach to bottleneck and after the bottleneck passing is normally no problem as there is a lot of space. But until now the cooperation between the three teams from Madison, Seven Summits Trek and Furtenbach Adventures has been excellent so I am very positive we will all get along just nicely also for the bottleneck. It could for example mean that we as a small team start one hour before the bigger team so then there is no overlap. We will see.

Overall conditions seem to be good and the Sherpas are quite optimist which is reassuring. The trail seems to be good on both routes, Abruzzi and Cesen. The seracs at bottleneck also seem to be a little bit smaller than in the years before and the passage through the bottleneck will hopefully be a little bit faster than usual as ice seems to have melted away. I am glad to hear that as the seracs at the bottleneck are still super-menacing and dangerous, back home in the alps one would never accept such a dangerous path under seracs, being exposed for several hours – but alas, here we do not have much choice…(I hear that one team wants to explore a little detour around the bottleneck (potential „Wiessner“ variant), but I do not want to say more, we will see if there is a chance to do this variant – good luck!)

Excitement is rising on my side :). I am feeling very good, conditions look good, so the chances are not that bad. But reaching the summit of K2 still requires a lot of luck! There are so many success factors outside of our control, you cannot „plan“ this summit. Also, I will see up there how I feel and how well my acclimatization feels.

Wish me luck :).

And about my additional plan (as well as for Max) of taking the fast descent from K2 ;): We have to see on summit day where the winds are coming from. Too much wind from the back and we cannot take off. Having the right conditions for takeoff after indeed reaching the summit would be double jackpot, so I am not thinking too much about this now.

I will hopefully add some pictures from K2 Basecamp life later to this blog post if the internet connection permits.

Until then, have a great weekend back home and all over the world!

Final confirmation: Summit push starts on Sunday, 14 July 2019

The dates have been confirmed, we will go up tomorrow Sunday 14 July via the Cesen route. Some snow is expected for Monday, 15 July, but only about 10cm, so negligible. Tuesday looks like good weather, and our planned summit day Wednesday 17 July 2019 should hopefully have the best weather, that is, no precipitation, no clouds, low winds.

K2 Basecamp Life

Before I go up K2 tomorrow, some more pictures and hopefully videos for you to give you an impression of the K2 Basecamp. The general daily routine is similar to Broad Peak Basecamp life ;).

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