The Everest season is already behind us as hundreds of climbers make their way to summits in Karakorum, including the Gasherbrums, K2 and Broad Peak. There was a lot of snow at the start of the season a few weeks ago with difficult conditions at base camps.

The weather has improved and climbers have reached the tops of Nanga Parbat, Broad Peak, Hidden Peak and Gasherbrum II. Much like on Everest, there’s been a record number of permits this year. If the weather continues as it has been, there might be summits of K2 later this week or by July 15. In 2014, the first summits were on July 26 and in 2017 they were on July 28. Last year, climbers reached the top on July 21.

While there are a number of large commercial expeditions, there are also some smaller teams like Canadian Don Bowie and Romanian Alex Gaven, who are currently working towards the summit of Gasherbrum II. Bowie, originally from Newmarket (north of Toronto), has already climbed Annapurna via a rare repeat of the monster Dutch Rib this spring.

Bowie began his career as a climber after moving to California to join a tech start-up. With a busy schedule, he made the most of his weekends with trips to the Sierras for weekend missions.

In 2003, he moved to Bishop to climb full time, but soon set his sights on bigger objectives. Since then, he’s racked up an impressive list of achievements with over 20 expeditions to the Himalayas and the Karakorum.

In 2005, he soloed the west ridge of Broad Peak, in 2006 he climbed Cho Oyu and in 2007 he became one of only a few Canadians to have climbed K2. In 2011, he went back up Cho Oyu with the late Ueli Steck. In 2012, he began road biking, adding a long distance ultra-endurance approach to his mountain objectives. Don calls the 24-hour bike/run/climb sufferfests “UltraHurt.”

Bowie is in the Karakorum climbing some of the world’s highest peaks without using supplemental oxygen. “You may have heard that there is ‘less oxygen’ at high altitude,” he recently said, “but in reality it’s not the reduced ‘amount’ of oxygen that is the problem, per se, but rather a decrease in atmospheric pressure.”

Bowie was explaining what it’s like to climb at such a high elevation. “As altitude increases, atmospheric pressure decreases- and at higher elevations rather significantly so. Lower atmospheric pressure results in decreased inspred (lung) partial pressure- meaning every time you inhale, your lungs take in fewer oxygen molecules. This decrease in oxygen supply results in a physiological state called hypoxia – essentially, inadequate oxygen for your body to function properly.

“Pursing the lips while exhaling creates a back-pressure in the lung, thereby increasing lung partial pressure. Research has shown PLB to have significant physiological impacts, including higher SpO2 (the amount of oxygen in the blood), lowered pulse rate, and lowered blood pressure – all of which better oxygenate the body, and can delay the onset of acute mountain sickness and HAPE/HACE.”

Bowie is one of the most accomplished Canadian Himalayan/Karakorum climbers, be sure to follow him on Instagram below as he nears the top of Gasherbrum II. Stay tuned as a record number of climbers are making their way up K2 and other 8,000-metre mountains.

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