Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In



K2 Season Begins

Veteran Himalayan and Karakoram climber-chronicler Alan Arnette gives us an early update on the goings-on of the 2018 climbing season on Pakistan's 8,000-meter peaks.

Lock Icon

Unlock this article and more benefits with 50% off.

Already have an Outside Account? Sign in

Outside+ Logo

40% Off Outside+.
$4.99/month $2.99/month*

Get the one subscription to fuel all your adventures.

  • Map your next adventure with our premium GPS apps: Gaia GPS Premium and Trailforks Pro.
  • Read unlimited digital content from 15+ brands, including Outside Magazine, Triathlete, Ski, Trail Runner, and VeloNews.
  • Watch 600+ hours of endurance challenges, cycling and skiing action, and travel documentaries.
  • Learn from the pros with expert-led online courses.
Join Outside+

*Outside memberships are billed annually. Print subscriptions available to U.S. residents only. You may cancel your membership at anytime, but no refunds will be issued for payments already made. Upon cancellation, you will have access to your membership through the end of your paid year. More Details

Climbing has begun on, arguably, the world’s most difficult 8,000-meter mountain. Standing at 28,251 feet, K2 is on the border between Pakistan and China. While many people climb Everest for bragging rights at cocktail parties, K2 remains a mystery for those partygoers but receives respect from the serious climbing community.

Five of the fourteen 8,000-meter peaks are located in Pakistan: K2, Broad Peak, Nanga Parbat and Gasherbrum I and Gasherbrum II. About 150 climbers have received permits for them this summer, plus a few more on various 7,000-meter peaks. Compared to Everest—where the 9,000th summit mark was broken a few months ago—Pakistan remains relatively quiet.

K2 Projects

A Japanese team, led by Akira Oyabe, is leading the rope-fixing operation on K2. Oyabe has been preparing for two years and is on his third attempt after being stopped by high winds in 2009, and heavy snowfall in 2013. Another interesting project is by the Pole Andrzej Bargiel, who is planning to ski from the summit of K2. He was thwarted last year by poor conditions. The route is currently set to Camp 2 at 22,110 feet.

Dangerous Routes

There are nine named routes on K2 but two dominate the activity: the Česen and Abruzzi Spur. The Abruzzi sees 75% of the climbing. However, there are no easy routes on K2. Harsh conditions result in many years with no summits. According to, plus my own research, from 1986 to 2016 there were 12 years with no summits. From 2009 to 2016, there were only three years with summits.

[Also Read Everest Deserves Respect: Why It’s Hard, From Someone Who’s Been There]

Climbing K2 is filled with objective dangers, from avalanches to rock fall to unpredictable weather. While only a mile away from another 8,000-meter mountain, Broad Peak, K2 can have drastically different weather. In 1995 high winds were assumed to have blown climbers off the summit, including the British alpinist Alison Hargreaves, the American Rob Slater and four others.

Snow Problems on Nanga

On Nanga Parbat (26,660 feet), 150 miles away from K2, 14 climbers have permits including the South African-born Swiss explorer and adventurer, Mike Horn. He has already returned to Islamabad ,saying the snow conditions were too dangerous. He might return this season, but it is unlikely.

Also on Nanga is Turkish climber Tunc Findik, along with his Romanian partner Alex Gavan. Find is hoping to score his 12th 8,000er.


One of the more interesting climbs this summer is not on an 8,000er, but on the unclimbed 6,955-meter-high Gasherbrum VII, which will be attempted by Polish climbers Adam Bielecki and Jacek Czech plus German Felix Berg. They are planning to acclimatize on the 8,035-meter Gasherbrum II.

On Gasherbrum IV (26,001 feet), an Italian expedition comprised of Alpini Valerio Stella, Marco Farina, Marco Majori, Maurizio Giordano and Daniele Bernasconi will attempt the second ascent of the Bonatti-Mauri route on the northeast ridge.

The South-Korean alpinist Kim Hong-bin, working on his 13th 8,000er, will attempt Gasherbrum I. He summited Annapurna this past spring. In 1991 he lost all his fingers to frostbite on Denali.

Solo Attempt

The 34-year-old Austrian Hansjörg Auer will make a solo attempt on the West Face of the 7,181-meter Lupghar Sar West.

Heavy snow is being reported on all the 8,000ers this week, delaying progress on establishing the high camps. The Karakoram season usually ends by mid-August with summits the last week of July into early August.

Alan Arnette is a speaker, mountaineer and Alzheimer’s Advocate. He has completed over 30 major expeditions including four Everest climbs with a summit in 2011. He completed his 7 Summits Climb for Alzheimer’s project to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s research. Find out more at

Also Read

Sherpa Dies on Everest During ASKfm Publicity Stunt

Nanga Parbat: Rescuers Save Revol, Could Not Help Mackiewicz

Life and Death in the Karakoram: Climbing Latok I and Ogre II

Nobukazu Kuriki, Japanese Solo Climber, Dies On Eighth Everest Attempt

Everest Deserves Respect: Why It’s Hard, From Someone Who’s Been There

Xia Boyu, 69-Year-Old Double Amputee, Summits Everest