Ace climber and former British Special Forces solider Nirmal “Nims” Purja openly bragged in K2 Base Camp, he and his elite Sherpa team would reach the summit first, outraging some mountaineering purists.
But he didn’t count on the “Savage Mountain” striking back with such ferocity.
According to Purja’s Facebook, the team hurried to Camp 2 today, only to find total devastation.
Not the mythical Yeti, of course, but the result of fierce Karakoram winter winds — perhaps one of the most hellish environments on earth.
“Our team reached to Camp 2 today and it was a wreckage site,” Purja wrote.
“We found that both our tents and all equipments that we had left here for the summit plan are all destroyed and swept away by the wind.
“We have lost everything including all our kits; sleeping bags, mattresses, heated shoe insoles, summit gloves/mittens, summit base layers, paragliding equipment, cooking equipment etc.
“I am devastated to be breaking this news. Now, I have to reassess and replan everything.”
Planetmountain.com reported that 48-year-old Spanish climber Sergi Mingote may have lost his tent at Camp 1, and there are no updates on Mingma Gyalje Sherpa’s tent and gear, which is based slightly higher than Purja’s Camp 2.
It could be destroyed as well.
“We are not sure about our camp at 7000m,” Mingma G told alpine website Alan Arnette.com.
“We have most of our gears in our Camp2 which is just below Black Pyramid. If the tent was blown away then we are done to go back home. Hope our tent is there and everything is inside the tent.”
Other climbers such as John Snorri, Muhammad Sadpara and Sajid Ali Sadpara also fear that they have lost gear stashed at altitude.
Several climbing teams are now in jeopardy of being scuttled for winter 2021.
“It looks bad, very bad,” Mingote wrote. “Tonight we will take the final decision. This is winter K2.”
So unforgiving are the conditions on the 8,611m (28,251 ft) high peak, that it has long been referred to as The Savage Mountain.
It was a name that stuck after US mountaineer George Bell said of his own attempt in 1953: “It is a savage mountain that tries to kill you.”
Meanwhile, one climbing team — that of Romanian Alex Gavan and Italian Tamara Lunger — appear to have dodged a bullet.
“For over a week we haven’t been able to see the peak of K2 due to unstable weather,” Gavan wrote on his Facebook.
“But this is something normal in the high mountains and even more in winter and in this place, especially. In order not to be flown by the wind, we collected our tent in Camp 1 before descent and anchored it well to the rocks.
“We have also properly anchored our base camp tents as well as the ten blue plastic barrels containing mine and Tamara’s equipment, as well as all that we need to cope with our stay here through winter or as long as it will be.”
Gavan, who considers him a minimalist, packed equipment of no more than 320 lbs., wisely taking “nothing extra, nothing worthless.”
Although he was prepared for it, Gavan reports that base camp winds were up to 80 km/h yesterday, for a temperature of -34C and windchill of -66C.
“We want to set up Camp 2 and spend the night there,” said Gavan. “Then weather permitting, we will venture up to the Black Pyramid, aiming for lower Camp 3.”
While others in Base Camp ponder whether to call off their expedition, Lunger and Gavan are in the driver’s seat now, thinking ahead to acclimatization and a summit bid.
They just need a good weather window, and a little bit of luck.
But beyond all these teams, is a rogue dark horse. A youthful, bold spirit that could take the prize — 28-year-old Pole Magdalena Gorzkowska.
“Everyone can have their opinion, and some believe that it takes many years to be able to face such challenges. I just do what I feel I can do,” Gorzkowska told Reuters by telephone from her base camp.
“Why should I limit myself?”
“The conditions were very difficult. The mountain gives you a hard time, it is very demanding. You have to climb hard all the time, the wind is very strong. It is at least minus 30 degrees non-stop,” she said.
Eighty six climbers have died on K2’s deadly slopes.
Two years ago a Polish team abandoned their attempt to reach the summit in winter due to heavy snow.
Gorzkowska is unfazed by such comments.
“I dreamt of K2 in winter and that’s why I’m here. Maybe they (her critics) don’t have dreams like that, maybe they aren’t so determined.”
A small woman with a lion heart. Don’t count her out.