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K2 2014 Dispatches

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Transcript:
Today is Saturday, July 26th at 6:00pm and we are up at High Camp with Alan and Matt. Our plan is to leave in about four hours for our summit push. A few climbers made the summit today and are on their way back now and we are very happy for them. It is snowing a little bit but when we get up tonight we will have clear skies while we are climbing up and early tomorrow morning.

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Just pulled into Camp 4 on K2 with the team, we plan to leave for the summit push in about 12 hours. Looks like nice weather and a good route!

– Garrett

Elevation = 24,310.11 ft.   Location = (35.87828, 76.524947)

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Transcript:
Hey, this is Garrett Madison from Madison Mountaineering calling in from Camp 3 on K2. Today is July 25th. It’s 6:00pm and myself, Alan Arnette, and Matt Du Puy along with our sherpa team are all up at Camp 3 right now. Today we climbed from Camp 2 up and over The Black Pyramid on K2 to get to Camp 3. And we are happy to be here. Good weather, cloudy right now but we had clear skies climbing up to Camp 3. And boy, just great conditions and tomorrow our plan is to move up to high camp.

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The Madison Mountaineering American Team (Garrett, Alan, & Matt) have arrived in camp 3. A tough climb up through the black pyramid!

– Garrett

Elevation = 24,310.11 ft.   Location = (35.875156, 76.531130)

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Failed sat phone connection attempts did not allow expedition leader, Garrett Madison, to provide an audio update of the K2 summit push progress today. However, the RainOn tracking map shows they arrived at Camp 2 (6700m/21,980ft) just before noon local time. Team member Alan Arnette was able to provide a great audio update on his blog, reporting the team made good time up to Camp 2 and everyone enjoyed the climbing. Alan also reports that there is a lot of climbers above them on the mountain positioning for a summit attempt in the couple of days preceding our team’s target summit day of July 27th. The great weather continues with just a little bit of wind. The team is feeling strong and healthy and enjoying the amazing views provided by the clear skies!

Tomorrow the team will get an early start in their move to Camp 3 which includes climbing K2’s Black Pyramid feature. The Black Pyramid is considered the most technical section of the route and involves approximately 400m of vertical and near-vertical mixed rock and ice climbing. Camp 3 (7250m/23,800ft) is located at the top of the Black Pyramid.

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Expedition leader, Garrett Madison, reported in from K2 Camp 1 (6065m/19,900ft). The team had a great day climbing up from advanced base camp in clear, calm and warm weather. Climbing conditions are very good and they are looking forward to moving up to Camp 2 tomorrow. The team spent the afternoon at Camp 1 resting and hydrating. There are about 30 other climbers on the route, currently spread out over a couple of Camps. Most teams are targeting July 26-27 as possible summit days.

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The K2 summit push is on! Today Garrett reports a “perfect day on K2” for the climbing team’s first segment of their summit push: base camp to advanced base camp (17,280ft). Headed to bed now, they plan to be climbing tomorrow by 06:00am to reach Camp 1 (19,900ft) around noon. Stay tuned for our daily dispatches!

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K2 Camp 2 through telescope

Camp 2 viewed by telescope from base camp


On Tuesday, July 22nd, we plan to begin our summit push by first moving up from our base camp to our advanced base camp. From there we plan to move up one camp per day, putting us in Camp 4, our high camp, on the afternoon of July 26th. With weather and route conditions allowing, we will leave that night for the summit of K2 and hope to reach the top on the morning of July 27th. If successful, we plan to descend that afternoon to one of our lower camps such as Camp 3 or Camp 2. Then we will descend all the way to base camp the following day. If we need to spend an extra night or two up high on the mountain, we have ample reserves in place to extend our stay without having to be concerned.

There are at least 50 other climbers in camp planning to make a summit attempt this week with the good weather, some may go for the summit as early as July 24th. Currently the route is fixed to Camp 3, so we still have some work to do fixing the lines up to Camp 4, and then beyond Camp 4 through the “bottleneck” and the traverse above the bottleneck. There likely will be substantial work in breaking trail through the deep snow above Camp 3 and Camp 4. Hopefully with the sunny weather forecasted the next few days with temperatures warming during the day and cooling at night, there will be some consolidation in the snow-pack, making for easier trail breaking up high.

The weather forecast is very promising this week, with little to no precipitation and light to moderate winds up high. We will post our progress regularly to this Madison Mountaineering K2 dispatch page.

K2 Camp 4 to summit

K2 Camp 4 to summit viewed from base camp

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This morning Pakistani time (Monday, June 21, 2014) Garrett called in on Skype and provided an update on the K2 expedition and the plans for the summit bid that starts tomorrow! It was great to talk with him. The team sounds strong and the weather looks fantastic and getting better. We are all excited to follow the teams progress this week.

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K2 Base Camp
Over the last five years many climbers have attempted to climb K2 every season, however there has been only one short window (July 2012) where climbers made the K2 summit from the south side. (In 2011 a small team of elite climbers with Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner reached the summit via the North Ridge on the Chinese side of the mountain). The notorious 2008 season on K2, where less than 30 climbers reached the summit but many had a tragic ending on the descent, has been well chronicled in recent years by the written works “One Mountain Thousand Summits” and “Buried in the Sky” as well as in films “The Summit” and “K2: Siren of the Himalaya.” These works illustrate multiple factors of why K2, the “Savage Mountain” is a much more daunting and formidable challenge than Everest:

  • The unforgiving steep slopes of rock, snow, and ice that require a technical and precise mixed climbing ability, where one mistake can easily result in a fatal fall.
  • The weather being much more difficult, high winds and frequent snowstorms making climbing difficult, and making the route at times unsafe with avalanche conditions.
  • The objective hazards such as rock fall, ice fall, and snow avalanches. It is believed that a snow avalanche wiped out climbers Marty Schmidt and son in 2013 at Camp 3.
  • The lack of support on the mountain. On Everest (south side) there are approximately 30 teams each season, and many of these teams work together and share the task of establishing the climbing route. On K2 there are 4 teams in base camp, and we are currently working with only one other team to establish the route.

The statistics on K2 are grim, approximately 1 out of every 4 climbers who make the summit do not return. Of the climbers who have successfully reached the summit of K2, there are only 4 who have reached the top twice (www.8000ers.com), and none have reached the top 3 times. For all of the climbers who have reached K2’s summit since the first ascent in 1954, over 20 times as many have reached the summit of Everest.

The first Americans reached the summit of K2 in 1978, a total of only 10 American climbers have reached the top and returned safely since then (www.8000ers.com):

1978: (First American Ascent) Louis F. Reichardt, James Wickwire, Richard Ridgeway, John Roskelley
1990: Steve Swenson
1992: Scott Fisher, Charlie Mace, Ed Viesturs
1993: Philip Powers, Dan Mazur
1995: Rob Slater (died on descent)
1996: Carlos P. Buhler
2000: Christopher Shaw, William Pierson
2007: Christopher Warner

As climbers evaluating the challenge of K2, safety is our number one priority. If we are blessed with a good weather window and good route conditions, we will make a summit attempt. We feel lucky to be the only Americans in this corner of the Karakorum, experiencing an awe inspiring mountain range, in the northern region of Pakistan.