43 years, Australia
Japanese climber Akira Oyabe and his expedition have arrived in Pakistan. The team has spent the last two years preparing to climb K2, the second highest peak in the world.
Oyabe has faced the 8,611m peak twice before. In 2009, strong winds forced him to turn back at 7,900m. In 2013, heavy snowfall stopped his progress.
“But now we are back again,” Oyabe said on Saturday. “This time, we are roughly a week early, and we are the first team to reach Pakistan to climb K2. We have time on our side and intend to make the best of any clear weather windows, and that increases our chances of success this year.”
Of the expedition team, only Oyabe and one other team member have previously climbed an 8,000m peak. Takashi Higashiyama, the youngest member, attempted to climb K2 five years ago, but he was forced to abandon his ascent after an avalanche blew away Camp 3, killing two climbers from New Zealand.
Oyabe does not feel that the team’s inexperience will be a problem:
“We intend to make gradual progress on the mountain. We will be fixing ropes since we are the first group to arrive. This does make our work harder, and probably more difficult, but it sounds like more fun. We have three Pakistani high altitude porters to assist us, and that is a plus point,” he said.
Higashiyama described K2 as the most magnificent peak in the world, but warned that conditions could be unpredictable:
“Strong winds will be our biggest concern,” he explained. “They do not let the body warm up and that can cause fatigue and frostbite.”
Karrar Haidri, Secretary of the Alpine Club of Pakistan, reports that the group is serviced by veteran climber Nazir Sabir’s tour company.
“K2 is one of the hardest peaks to climb, throwing more unexpected challenges at climbers than other 8,000m mountains. In summer, there is a greater risk of avalanches and rock falls,” he added.