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Karakorum and Himalayan Success and Failure

As the 2015 climbing season wraps up in the Karakorum and Himalayas, we look back at a season of death, storms and few summits.

It has been a hot summer on peaks above 6,000 metres, which has left many of the trade routes in the greater ranges in dangerous condition. A number of strong teams made valiant efforts to reach the summits of the world’s highest mountains, but were shut down by weather and objective hazards.

In the Karakorum, the most-watched peaks were Broad Peak and K2. On Broad Peak, the season started with the death of Qamber Ali Jangjupa, a high altitude porter who was killed in an avalanche below the first camp. As the weeks went by, a few dozen climbers made it to camp three, but they were all stopped by soft snow with layers of ice that created dangerous avalanche hazards.

Andrzej Bargiel claimed he reached the summit and skied down. If true, then he is the first climber to have skied from the summit solo and the only climber to reach the summit in 2015.

In the Gasherbrums, the same storm systems stopped most climbers before reaching the top. On Gasherbrum I, Nic Rice and his team attempted a new route and nearly reached the summit, but bailed due to snow. Later, a team of four from Catalonia reached the summit. Czech climbers Marek Holecek and Tomas Petrecek have just arrived at basecamp hoping to climb a new rotue up the southwest face, a line that has killed climbers in the past.

On Gasherbrum II, Sophie Lavaud summited without supplemental oxygen. Olek Ostrowski and Peter Snigorski from Poland attempted to become the first Polish skiers to ski from the summit turned back in poor conditions. Ostrowski went missing and is presumed dead.

On K2, three major expedition made attempts on the Cesen Route and Abruzzi Spure. Nepali Sherpas and Pakistani high altitude porters fixed ropes to high on both route. After a strong summit attempt by Mike Horn, the summit was deemed unreachable this year because of dangerous rock fall and avalanches. The well-known climber, Kami Sherpa, was hit by falling rock that broke his arm and hand. He was evacuated by helicopter to Skardu where he had surgery and will make a full recovery.

Since 2009, climbers have reached the summit in two seasons from the Pakistan side (2012 and 2014) and once from the Chinese side (2011).

In the Himalayas, Annapurna, the first of the 8,000-metre peaks climbed but the least summited, received a new route by Mingma Sherpa and team. They topped out in late July and two of their team members died on the descent. For the full story, visit Mingma’s climbing journal here.

Descending from the summit of Annapurna.  Photo Mingma Sherpa
Descending from the summit of Annapurna. Photo Mingma Sherpa

– Sources: Explorers Web, Planet Mountain, Alan Arnette, Madison Mountaineering, Himex