K2's Rise in Winter: A Triumph over the Impossible

K2’s Rise in Winter: A Triumph over the Impossible

A Sherpa proverb says a mountain must allow a team of climbers to reach its summit and return safely. This is why every Himalayan expedition holds a puja ceremony: to ask permission from the mountain deities for a safe climb and ascent. But during the first two weeks of 2021, it’s clear that K2 wasn’t ready to welcome humans to its pinnacle. Winds gusting at 160 km/h swept the mountain for days and sent sub-zero temperatures into the base camp, forcing everyone to confine themselves to tents.

When the wind finally died down a bit, Nimes’ team attempted a quick foray into Camp Two to check their gear. “It was a nightmare vision,” Nims wrote on Instagram. All the equipment put there for the climb to the top has flown away – sleeping bags, warm insoles with battery for shoes, gloves and goggles.

However, the weather forecast indicated that the winds will calm down from January 14. Back in base camp, other gear was quickly brought in with the help of another Nepalese, Suna Sherpa, from Seven Summit Treks. Meanwhile, Nims and Mingma G. worked on their plan to reach the top. In the end, instead of spending a very cold night in the fourth camp, the traditional high camp was set up at an altitude of about 7,600 meters, before attempting to climb, they planned to reach the summit in one day from the third camp. If all goes well – huge if! – They can reach the top on January 15th.

Later, some mountaineers from the base camp accused the Nepalese of concealing their intention to take a team of Nepalese to the summit – an accusation that Mingma Ji will not disavow. “In the FIFA World Cup, do you want your country to lose?,” he answered in an interview with ExplorersWeb. Never. The team and coach always keep their secret strategy to achieve their goal. We did the same with K2.”

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On the evening of the 13th, when the Nepalese approached 7000m, the secret was revealed and several squads began to attack the mountain in their wake. The next morning, while these divisions were resting in the second camp, amid strong winds, the Nepalese ascended to the third camp. “The weather played a big role, explains Mingma G. Below the third camp, the wind was very strong; above, there was no wind at all.”

On January 15, Mingma G. and three team members set out to fix the ropes over Camp 3, toward a section called the “Shoulder”. But as they made their way up seemingly endless snowy slopes, a maze of fissures–cracks in the frozen ground deep enough to swallow a man–blocked their way. Before reaching the traditional location of Camp Four, a huge crack forced them to retreat and search for hours for a way around it. It’s the kind of unexpected event that breaks your spirits, severs your legs, and often causes climbers to abandon an expedition – but Mingma G. and the others haven’t. After spotting a stretch of hard ice – a snow bridge – across the fissure field, he and his companions secured ropes to the shoulder.

They gathered with the other team members at Camp III to take a few hours of undisturbed rest. “It was a different kind of cold,” Gilji recalls. It made you thirsty, and what you ate was hard to digest. »

Shortly after midnight on January 16, the team began preparing to leave Camp Three. For the first time on the mountain, all but one of the men wore an oxygen mask to climb to the top. Nimes had decided to respond to his critics by climbing Savage Mountain in the winter, without supplying him with oxygen, as an achievement within a major accomplishment—if successful. “I have not fully adapted. He says: I suffered from frostbite on three fingers. If you do not really know your abilities and capabilities, you can destroy everything for everyone.”

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In small groups, climbers began to follow the path to the ropes that Mingma G. painstakingly attached to the shoulder. But the match was worth it. What took eight hours the night before was only three hours in the dark. Then a violent wind arose.

Mingma G. feels lonely and realizes the symptoms of frostbite, and is now about to give up his quest. When no one answered his radio call, he decided to pull his last card: stomping his feet on the ice to keep them warm. “It is strange that it succeeded,” he was still surprised.

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