ON JULY 25, 2013, Chris M. Warner, age 36, Martin “Marty” Schmidt, 53, and Martin’s son, Denali, 25, climbed comfortably from Base Camp to Camp 2 on the Abruzzi Spur on K2, the second-highest mountain in the world. They cut and leveled a tent platform, cooked and talked in the tent.
“We were all happy as usual, enjoying the mountain,” says Warner. “We felt strong.”
Before dark, other climbers passed by with reports that a group of Sherpas on a carry had failed to reach Camp 3 at 7,200 meters (24,100 feet). Eventually the Sherpas themselves came by, reporting sluffing and waist- to chest-deep snow.
Upon the reports, most of the 20 or so climbers and Sherpas in Camp 2 left for Base Camp, while the rest intended to descend in the morning. The Schmidts, dual KiwiAmericans, and Warner (not the American climber and gym owner of the same name), of Canberra, Australia, held off.
They felt fresh and keen. “We had only been on the mountain a day,” Warner says. Moreover, conditions can be variable on the peak. The trio had found little new snow on the way up to Camp 2, and a band of clouds wrapped only the middle of the mountain.
The three talked about judging conditions for themselves, and agreed on “checking it out.”
That night they slept well, or about as well as anyone can crammed in a tent at altitude. Gentle but consistent snowfall continued through the night,