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Why Alpenglow guide Topo Mena is excited for Pakistan 2023

Footprints in the snow on a Gasherbrum II Expedition

Last year during Alpenglow’s annual International Guides Meeting, we asked the guides what their favorite expedition of the year was.

Topo’s answer? Gasherbrum II. We asked him to share a few reasons why he was excited to return to Pakistan this year to climb Gasherbrum II and Gasherbrum I.

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No Crowds

“I think there are many positive things that have come with the popularization of high altitude climbing; getting to help facilitate powerful mountain experiences is one of my favorite parts of guiding. But, with climbing’s rise in popularity has undeniably come an increase in crowds. A crowded mountain changes the experience and takes away from the adventure. The Gasherbrums are far from crowded. They’re tucked in a corner of the Karakoram that gives you a chance to see the range for all its grandeur while staying away from the crowds of neighboring K2.

The lack of crowds brings back the feeling of exploration and heightens the adventure. It’s a special feeling when you’re the first team to summit a mountain in a season or if you’re the only commercial team on the summit. A mountain with fewer climbers also takes away the objective hazard that crowds present. The images of climbers waiting in line on a summit show a dreadful reality when you’re part of one of a dozens of teams in an 8000er. On the Gasherbrum’s, you’ll be one of dozens of climbers, not one of hundreds.”

This is where I fell in love with the Gasherbrums – climbing these mountains provided a full-on adventure.

Lead Guide, Topo Mena

A Real Adventure

“I climb mountains for many reasons, but from the very beginning, one of the constant driving forces has been the overarching adventure of it all. For me, an adventure is voyaging into the unknown. It’s experiencing a vibrant culture in a new and exciting place. It’s being challenged and pushed close to my limits. As a climber, I’m always looking to maximize the feeling of adventure. This is where I fell in love with the Gasherbrums – climbing these mountains provided a full-on adventure.

The Gasherbrums are in a very different space than the rest of the “easier or safer” 8,000m peaks. They involve everything that you can find in the mountains; glaciers, steep terrain, exposed ridges, high altitude, and breathtaking summit views; all this in a very dynamic environment that challenges but doesn’t have demoralizing objective hazards. Both G1 and G2 are all-encompassing mountains. The truth is, there is no such thing as an easy 8,000m peak. But for an adventure seeker looking to break into the 8,000m peak game, they’re the perfect place to put skill, experience, and fortitude to the test for the first time.

I will never guarantee 100% summit success. The mountain ultimately decides who summits, and the chance of failure is a big part of the adventure. That’s the reality of climbing 8,000m peaks.

We can’t guarantee success in the form of reaching summits, but we can guarantee two things: 100% adventure along the way, and that our team of professionals both in the field (guides and high altitude workers) and at home (operations manager, guides, logistic providers, doctors, meteorologists, and overall mountaineering experts) will do everything in our power to ensure a safe and rewarding experience. Our team pulls from the experience of leading hundreds of expeditions across the globe to support our goals in the Gasherbrums.

Last year, our team couldn’t reach the top on our first summit push. We were turned around a few hundred meters above high camp by high winds and snow. So we decided to wait another day to see if the conditions improved. Fortunately, we were able to reach the summit the following day. Our first failed attempt added to the adventure and made the summit that much sweeter. We failed, chose to persevere, and achieved our goal in light of the adversity and difficulty. It was epic!

We love climbing and we strive to share these adventures in a safe and fun environment.”