Ace climbers eye K2 summit via ‘scarily vertical’ route

Two Japanese climbers will be in Pakistan to attempt to summit K2 from the West Face where the terrain is unknown, without bottled oxygen and any help, said the Alpine Club of Pakistan.

“Kazuya Hiraide and Kenro Nakajima have set one of the most ambitious goals in current alpinism. They are attempting a new route on the West Face of K2, likely in alpine style. Only one previous party, a big Russian team led by Viktor Kozlov in 2007, has climbed the West Face of K2. The Russians used classic expedition tactics, fixing ropes all the way. At the same time, they used no supplementary oxygen. The Japanese will continue the tradition,” said Alpine Club of Pakistan Secretary Karrar Haidri.

Karrar Haidri said that Kazuya Hiraide had won three Piolets d’Or, the first with his late partner Kei Taniguchi and the others with Nakajima. Their climbs were highlighted on Karun Koh in 2022, and Tirich Mir in 2023, as among the best expeditions of the year. Yet for Hiraide, these climbs had been a process of learning and preparation for the West Face of K2, the senior official told Dawn.

He said that after a superb new route on the Northwest Face of Sispare in 2017, Hiraide and Nakajima trekked to the West Face of K2, the second highest peak in the world after Mt Everest.

Alpine Club says climbing West Face without fixed ropes will be historic achievement

Studying it, they agreed that their skills and preparation were only enough to climb half that monster wall. “Now they are ready, they say modestly, to find out how far they can get,” said Karrar Haidri.

Karrar Haidri quoted Kazuya Hiraide as saying, “By accumulating experience and taking small steps, I can turn the impossible into the possible. I have always tried to climb mountains like this, so even if it takes me 20 years to accomplish the impossible, it’s still fun. That’s what the Western Wall [West Face] is all about.”

According to ACP, the duo has not specified their climbing style, but Hiraide and Nakajima have done all their previous climbs in the alpine style.

“Climbing in one push with no fixed ropes on the huge West Face would be a historic achievement,” Karrar Haidri said while talking about one of the most anticipated summit attempts this summer.

Although the usual climbing season on K2 unfolds in July, the pair are leaving for Pakistan at the end of May, and will stay in the Karakoram from June until August.

The duo had not yet shared details of their acclimatisation plans or strategy. Unlike the other snowy sides of K2, the West Face mostly involves bare rocks and ice couloirs. “It is also scarily vertical,” said Karrar Haidri.

Published in Dawn, May 13th, 2024