Winter climbs of the world’s highest peaks have a poor summit rate primarily due to harsh weather. Well, history repeats itself this winter of 2021/2022. Teams are calling it quits or returning to large cities to wait out the weather.
Winter Everest – Fighting the Wind
German climber Jost Kobusch is having a tough time as the wind is challenging his no O solo attempt on Everest’s West Ridge. Thus far he has reached about 6464 meters above the Lho La pass. He gave this brief update:
“Overnight, the tent had bent completely. I heard cracking, poles broke and tore a hole in the flysheet. The whole thing completely collapsed.😬 The only option left was to crawl out, remove the poles and try to get some sleep in that wreck of a tent. I’ll say this much, it didn’t work out very well… 😅The wind was so strong I was lucky not to have flown back to Everest Base Camp with my tent like a magic carpet.😜 Fortunately, the snow anchors had held well. There are worse things! Nevertheless, in the end I am glad that everything turned out so lenient.🙌🏻
Everest has seen only 13 winter summits for 371 attempts out of the total 10,656 summits. The last winter summit, defined by Nepal and the Himalayan Database as December through February was in 1993 by a very strong Japanese team led by Hikaru Hoshino on the SW Face (Bonnington Route). Polish climbers Leszek Cichy and Krzysztof Wielicki were the first on February 17th 1980 via the South Col route with oxygen.
Please see this video interview I did with him a few months ago, where we discussed his plans in detail. He says his goal is to reach 8,000-meters and not the summit. You can follow him on Instagram, Facebook, and an excellent 3D view of his current location on his website.
Manaslu – Wating out the Weather
My faithful friend @PasangRinzee sent me this video from Base Camp confirming that the strategy of descending at low altitude and waiting for the right conditions was appropriate. The persistence of snowfalls and winds gave me the opportunity and the time to return to the capital and carry out all the formalities, interviews and necessary examinations to be able to work for three months as a rescue and supply helicopter pilot here in Nepal in spring.As already written and repeated, winter expeditions and climbs at high altitude are a combination of strategy, anticipation and action and not just a pure exercise of skills and muscles. It takes months, sometimes years, and infinite patience. I have learnt to keep my agenda free for the entire winter season from December to March, to optimize my possibilities and hopes and often this was not enough. The windows of good weather are rare and often short and I’ve learnt to wait for them, and to court them to the end, taking advantage of the wait, resisting discouragement and homesickness. Let’s hope it serves for this fourth attempt at the Manaslu.
Gelje Sherpa has begun his effort to create a standard route on the Nepal side of Cho Oyu but no updates on their progress. The Nepal side is rarely climbed due to avalanches and other objective dangers. Of the 3,923 summits on Cho, only 135 have been from the Nepal side. Gelje’ team includes Pasang Tendi Sherpa, Lakpa Dendi, Chandra Tamang, Gesman Tamang, Tashi Sherpa, Phuri Kitar Sherpa, Ashot Wenjha Rai and Karma Sherpa.
Nanga Parbat – Over
After German climber David Göttler and Italian Hervé Barmasse, “climbed up to 6200m on the Schell route and spent 3 nights on the route,” they have ended their entire effort. Also on the team were American Mike Arnold who had to leave due to schedule conflicts, and the Pakistani Qudrat Ali. Göttler posted on Facebook,
I’m a firm believer that so much of life happens as a result of the choices we make. Luck is definitely in the mix as well, more so in the choices life presents us with: but ultimately there are always choices. In the context of our winter expedition to Nanga Parbat here are some of the choices we made from the outset:
– the first choice was to climb in a very light alpine style as a team of only two. No fixed ropes and no fixed camps.
-the second choice we made before we even left home was that we would not spend the whole winter sitting in BC waiting.
Now we are making our third choice:
the long term weather forecast confirms that there is not a decent weather window on the horizon. The Jet Stream is sitting very comfortably stable just above the summit of Nanga Parbat. (The jet stream is a very strong wind system at very high altitudes that often interferes with climbing on 8000m peaks but that aircraft often take advantage of if it’s a tailwind!) So our third choice is to end our expedition now. It’s not an easy decision, but we have thought carefully, discussed endlessly and listened to our emotions in order to make it.
Were these the right choices? For us, yes. The first choice, undoubtedly so. The second and third – maybe a great weather window appears in a couple of weeks that would have been perfect, but we have chosen not to take the risk of sitting endlessly in the cold waiting for that small chance. I am happy with what I have learned and with the time I’ve spent here. Now it’s time to move on. I’ve been reading Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa whilst I’ve been here, and a great quote comes to mind: “I will do nothing that I will regret”
They reached 5600-meters on their first rotation. They wanted to complete the first winter climb of Nanga Parbat by the Direct Rupal route, a 4,500-meter wall that terminates at the 8,126-meter summit, conditions caused them to switch to the more indirect Schell.
Winter K2 at BC
Taiwanese climber Tseng “Grace” Ko-Erh supported by seven Sherpas through Dolma Expeditions is expected to arrive at K2 Base Camp any day now for a K2 for a winter attempt. Being the only team on the Hill will be a challenge for them suggesting they will have to fix all the ropes or use old rotten ones that dramatically decrease any safety margin, manage the winter snowfall between rotations, and more. This is an ambitious effort.
Memories are Everything