ExWeb interview with K2 summiteer, Fabrice Imparato

Posted: Jul 07, 2014 09:17 am EDT

 

(By Correne Coetzer) This season commemorates the 60th anniversary of first ascent on K2. Climbers have started their rotations from Base Camp. Adrian Hayes reported to have commenced their first rotation yesterday morning, to Camp 1 at 6000 metres. In an interview with Adrian back in Islamabad, Adrian told Explorersweb that he got valuable advice from K2 summiteer, Fabrice Imparato. ExWeb checked in with Fabrice to learn more about K2.

 

"First of all,” emphasizes Fabrice, "I am not really qualified to give tips to K2 mountaineers having been on a total of 4 expeditions to the Himalayas”, including K2 via the Cesen route in 2009 (up to the shoulder) and K2 via the Abruzzi in 2012. There are seasoned expedition leaders like Fabrizio Zangrilli and Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, who have been multiple times on K2 and know the mountain better than me."

 

Explorersweb: Why is K2 such a dangerous mountain?

 

Fabrice: Weather: K2 has its own weather system (which can be different from Broad Peak) and there are very few days of perfect weather in each season. The weather can change rapidly and you have to go down quickly as the winds can be brutal. One of the reasons we put fixed ropes on the Cesen and Abruzzi is to allow for a rapid descent in case of deteriorating weather. The Cesen offers a more direct way to reach the shoulder and the descent can be quite fast while the Abruzzi is broken between C2 and C3 with multiple rappels and getting down to the bottom of the route takes about 10 hours from the shoulder.

 

Objective dangers: each route has its own risks and on the Abruzzi there are rockfall danger between C2 and C3 (black pyramid), avalanche danger at C3 and the Bottleneck is the most dangerous part of the climb with the unstable serac. Of course each climber has his own appreciation of the risk he is willing to take and you have to go through the bottleneck section to reach the summit on both the Cesen and Abruzzi.

 

Climbers ambitions: prior to 2012 the ratio of death after summit was 10% a number of which were caused by climbers mistakes. Four of our team members fell while coming down and they were lucky to stop their fall in a small crevasse.

 

If someone wants to climb K2, in your opinion, what experience should that climber have?

 

Fabrice: The best experience to climb K2 is gained through a former attempt and you should not expect to summit at the first attempt (although a number of climbers have managed it). 8000m peak experience and solid Alpine skills are required to be comfortable on 45 degrees terrain without a rope.

 

Your 5 Top Tips to the K2 mountaineers.

 

Fabrice: Never underestimate the mountain.

 

Choose a strong cohesive team and a good leader.

 

Be patient and shoot for the best weather window. Most likely you will have one shot, one opportunity for the summit push.

 

Start the summit push early before midnight to try and summit in the morning and descend in daylight. The climb from 7800m up to 8200m is on gentle snow slopes and can be done at night.

 

Turn around if you haven't reached the summit by 3pm and try another year. If you summit after 3pm you will likely descend in the dark unless you are as really fast.

 

Anything else?

 

Fabrice: The choice between the Abruzzi and the Cesen depends on the conditions on the mountain, the skills of the rope fixing leader (the Cesen is steeper and more technical) and the size of the team (the Cesen has few tent sites on C1 and C2). In 2009, we were lucky to have Fabrizio Zangrilli as our climbing leader and he fixed 80% of the route single handedly. In 2012, we had a strong team of Sherpas led by Chhang Dawa Sherpa, the youngest man to climb the 14x800 peaks and with 2 previous summiteers in the team.

 

Some climbers have criticised the style used on the Cesen and Abruzzi with the use of fixed ropes and oxygen. As far as I know, no one has climbed the Cesen or Abruzzi in Alpine style although there was a notable ascent to the shoulder by Doug Scott, Roger Baxter-Jones, Andy Parkin and Jean Afanassieff in 1983. Not everyone can climb at that level and the majority of climbers are using fixed ropes to get down these 2 normal routes although there are a few skilled climbers who do not need them on the way up like David and Gerlinde. 

 

As for the use of oxygen, it is a personal decision based on the level of risks you are willing to take. We adopted a conservative approach with my friend Tunc and we used 2 bottles on summit day while Azim and Adam didn't need it as they were faster than the rest of the group and they even summited ahead of us. Adam climbed to the summit from C3 with a light jacket but he is climbing in a different league ;-)

 

 

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Fabrice Imparato:

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Fabrice Imparato: "The choice between the Abruzzi and the Cesen depends on the conditions on the mountain, the skills of the rope fixing leader and the size of the team. Image above of the bottleneck couloir, going down. All images of Abruzzi route 2012.
courtesy Fabrice Imparato on Facebook, SOURCE
"The House Chimney offers some interesting climbing." (Click images to enlarge)
courtesy Fabrice Imparato, SOURCE
"Climbing on mixed ground in the black pyramid ."
courtesy Fabrice Imparato, SOURCE
"Negotiating the last section of the black pyramid."
courtesy Fabrice Imparato, SOURCE
"Deep snow below the shoulder."
courtesy Fabrice Imparato, SOURCE
Climbers above the bottleneck traverse at 8300m
courtesy Fabrice Imparato, SOURCE
"The bottleneck traverse at dawn."
courtesy Fabrice Imparato, SOURCE
At the summit with Dawa Tseiri Sherpa, July 31, 2012.
courtesy Fabrice Imparato, SOURCE
The camp on the shoulder at 7800m
courtesy Fabrice Imparato, SOURCE
[VIDEO] Fabrice: "This documentary tells the story of our successful climb of K2 via the Abruzzi spur on July 31 2012. It is dedicated to all the mountaineers killed on Nanga Parbat in June 2013 including some of our comrades who summited K2 with us."
courtesy Fabrice Imparato, SOURCE
Fabrice (second from right) at celebratory dinner in Islamabad with Nazir Sabir (right), Tunc Findik and Lt Col Manzoor Hussain (left), president of the Alpine club of Pakistan.
courtesy Fabrice Imparato, SOURCE