Avalanche Shuts Down Summit Attempt on K2 – The catastrophe destroyed climbers’ the expectations of reaching the exceed for the second consecutive year. Mountaineer Garrett Madison reflects on this descending season and looks forward to the next one.
Climbing K2, the world’s second highest mountain, can seem like a game of Russian roulette. That resemblance was never more true than it was on July 23, 2016, when a big deluge tore through Camp 3 and wiped out climbers’ gear, lassoes, and oxygen cylinders at the lower cliques. The cataclysm destroyed their meridian assaults but spared their lives.
Now, after five weeks of occupation acclimatizing and establishing their street, all climbers are now carrying up and preparing for the jaunt dwelling, disappointed but safe.
The event followed two ravaging avalanches during descending seasons on Mount Everest in 2014 and 2015, which made a total of 35 fatalities and shut down descending on the peak both times, an anomaly on a mountain that had learnt climbers reach its peak each year for the previous four decades.
Despite the forecast and technical rigor of descending on K2, the pinnacle heard more climbers this year than ever before as the commercialized climbing industry germinates in the Karakoram. But due to poverty stricken weather conditions , no climbers on K2 reached the summit for the second year in a row.
National Geographic Adventure spoken with Garrett Madison, chairperson and founder of Madison Mountaineering in Seattle, as his squad packed up at Base Camp amid gray skies and soggy snow.
Madison preceded the first successful commercial-grade jaunt on K2 in 2014 and, along with other climbers on the mountain last year, missed out on a 2015 meridian due to bad weather.
How does it feel to be walking away from K2 ?
We were honesty really lucky that nobody was up there in Camp 3 or Camp 4 when the avalanche came down. If we had been simply a date ahead on our planned, there could have been 50, 60 climbers up there, maybe more, and we all would have been killed.
In 2013, there was a father and son squad [New Zealand mountaineers Marty and Denali Schmidt] up at Camp 3 “whos” the only ones up there and the same event happened to them. Their camp was swept apart during the course of its nighttime and they were never seen or learn from again.
What occurrences led up to the deluge ?
The expedition travelled really well, in terms of our logistics and progress. Our squad did a lot of work early on, fixing lassoes to Camps 2 and 3. On our original meridian aim in mid July, we got up to Camp 3 and the forecast gyrated bad, so our Sherpas descended all our descending equipment, lassoes, meat, and oxygen at Camp 4 and we all came back down, optimistic there would be another good window ahead. But I think what happened is that there was a fair fleck of precipitate in the form of snowfall between our mid and late July summit assaults, along with a lot of jazz. So there were probably got a couple of meters of snow accumulation around Camps 3 and 4.
Camp 3 doesn’t feel like a hazardous descent when you’re on it, but it’s deceive. I mull when the forecast cleared up, the first pleasant morning, the daylight touched that descent and made frost from a cornice above was coming and initiation this big treetop that gained so much force that it washed over the part descent, pushed everything over an frost cliff and then a thousand feet down the mountain, all the way now to Advanced Base Camp. It’s the kind of situation where you think you’re in a safe zone but there are threats far above that have such marvelous make.
The next day we came down and our Sherpas went through some of the debris, but it was a half mile long orbit of debris and we only learnt a few fragments of gear out of al the tents that were up there, hundreds of oxygen cylinder, and all the other gear.
How does this kind of contest compare with the Everest avalanches over the past few years ?
Most of the teams on K2 are on a same planned because the forecast windows are so narrow the forecast is a lot worse than “its on” Everest so everyone often moves at the same go. The cliques are so small that we’re all right there together at Camps 1, 2, 3, and 4. So the risk is different, but current realities is, these two mountains are very big and particularly steep, so there’s always the potential for avalanches on both. Clearly, they’re different types of avalanches the 2014 Everest avalanche was triggered by a clump of frost coming down, whereas this was largely a snow deluge on K2. But it’s just part of the game when descending these mountains.
How was the forecast in all areas of the jaunt ?
It hasn’t been great. Preconditions were something much in 2014, and it was even better last year in 2015. We’ve just had more cloudy epoches, snowfall, and wind up high pitched, so it’s been requesting as there haven’t been a lot of opportunities to move up the mountain.
How is everyone feeling at Base Camp as you prepare to return home ?
People are saddened, specially people who were here last year and didn’t meridian then either. But they understand that what happened was a big contest and we were lucky no one was up there. It realy could have been awful. So we feel fortunate, despite all our hard work, time invested, and equipment lost. But that’s climbing and this is K2 it’ s a lot tougher than Everest, a great deal more difficult to advance. We’re lucky to be walking next to the mountain and going home without any fatalities.
Following up on our last place discourse as you two are initiating the jaunt in June, were your concerns regarding the number of climbers on the mountain this year realized ?
Yes and no. The season was comparatively smooth, but in the end there were only three teams that contributed to putting in the established ropes and establishing the street, while the other teams took advantage of that without lending workforce or equipment assets. So that’s a shame, but that’s just the way things are on these mountains, and in the end no one got caught out in a bad situation, so that was really fortuitous.
So K2 next year ?
We’ll see! I’m looking forward to a summertime in the northwest of the U.S., especially after a [long and requiring] Everest season. It can be hindering for customers who gave go and training in for two years leading with no meridian. So we all necessary some time away from the mountain to decompress before we decide whether we’re coming back. But right now, I’m not going to dwel on the past, and instead I’m going to look forward to the future. I’m really excited to be getting out of here tomorrow.