The Definition of Winter for K2 and Everest Climbs

K2 Abruzzi Route Map

With the drama dissipating from K2, the Polish team remains at base camp waiting for better weather. Everest is now officially over but the debate about when winter ends, will continue forever. See this post for full background on the K2 and Everest expeditions and the history of winter attempts on the highest two mountains on Earth.

Big Picture – When does Winter End?

One of the big questions this season on both K2 and Everest is “When does winter officially end?” If you have been reading my blog  you might have seen comments from readers with clear views, for example from one reader “They can summit after February, but it won’t be winter.” Other simply say it is at the Spring equinox on March 20, 2018 at 12:15 pm EDT. The reality is, it depends on where you live and the local customs and definition.

First off, both Pakistan and Nepal issue climbing permits with different fees according to the season. On Everest, for example, they charge USD$11,000 per person for a spring permit – the most popular time. But for a winter permit, the least popular time, it drops to USD$2,750. Both countries’ tourism ministry define winter as December, January and February for permit purposes. They simply take the year and divide into four equal parts. For most people born and raised in this environment, that is what defines the seasons.

However, many people, including myself, were raised and taught that the seasons are defined according to the astronomical definition which is based on how the sun hits the earth and the shortest and longest days each year, in other words the equinoxes and solstices.

Then there are the seasonal definitions influenced by length of day and temperatures. Obviously March 1 at the North Pole compared to being on the equator are very different. Also, if it a rainy time of year or dry. To make matter even more complicated, the Hindu calendar has six seasons!! But hold on, it gets worse (or different 🙂  )  Australia and New Zealand use the meteorological definition, so spring begins on September 1 each year. Ireland uses an ancient Celtic calendar system to determine the seasons, so spring begins on St Brigid’s Day on February 1. In Finland and Sweden, the dates of the seasons are not based on the calendar at all, but on temperatures. To make your head spin a bit, take a look at this chart courtesy of Scribd

So if the Poles summit K2 in March will it be winter or spring? The answer is “yes.”

K2 Team Stalled at Base Camp

Look for the K2 news to be slow for a few days. High winds and snow are keeping the Polish team in base camp. They would like to make one more acclimatization rotation above 7,000-meters before attempting the summit. Remember they are climbing without supplemental oxygen so it is mandatory they reach high altitudes to help the body prepare for the summit push.

The latest from their Facebook account :

Action mountaineering suspended due to snowfall and wind intensifying.

Denis Urubko left K2 base camp on 28 February to begin his trip home with a parting shot of “Good Spring” according to

You can follow the Polish team directly on their website, Facebook, and Adam’s SPOT tracker.

Winter Everest – Over

Alex Txikon has officially ended his effort as he said there was not a suitable weather window on the forecast. He told Desnivel

The truth is that times are not easy, my biggest dream was to move from the Camp 4 to top, but the mountain is the decider, and it was impossible to move forward with these conditions. At the end of the day , the most important thing is that the whole team back safely to keep dreaming and enjoying the mountain

Txikon said he would be back next winter.

Climb On!
Memories are Everything

Share this post:

5 thoughts on “The Definition of Winter for K2 and Everest Climbs

  1. Meteorological seasons are not dependent on region-specific or local environment based information, but are used throughout the world as they are consistent with the calendar year with multiple uses [other than measuring and comparing climatological statistics based on variables such as earth’s atmosphere, temperature, air pressure, water vapour, mass flow and others], including measuring trends in agriculture, water cycle management, specific types of industries and commerce activities.

    It is also worthwhile to note that earth travels around the sun in 365.24 days, so an extra day is needed every fourth year, creating what we know as the Leap Year. This causes the exact date of the solstices and equinoxes to vary but not as frequently. The time difference also makes them to change for different locations with different dates.

    Since March generally offers much better weather conditions in the Karakoram compared to December or January, using astronomical season may seem like a good excuse to avoid tougher conditions.

  2. Well, in Ireland, and many other places it IS winter right now!

    The calendar notions in my mind are all human-centric- I tend, therefore, to go with the solstice and equinox as confirmations.

    PS: “Shackleton…”

  3. St. Brigid’s Day – quite right, I remember celebrated it as start of Spring in school. Useless fact – St. Brigid came from the same county in Ireland as Ernest Shackleton. On the main point, if those hardy lads manage to make it to the top of K2 after all that has happened, they should be allowed call it whatever season they wish 🙂

  4. On 1st March Holi was celebrated across India. that festival marks the start of spring and end of Winters in Indian subcontinent. So if you are going by Indian calender the day of Holi festival is the end of winters which is on 15th day of month of Phalguna of Indian calendar.

  5. Looks K2 may have better weather coming starting Monday. (If the Mountain forecast webpage is correct at least).

Comments are closed.