Thursday, February 02, 2012

Winter Climb Update: Weather Thwarts Efforts In The Karakoram

These winter climbing updates are starting to sound a bit like a broken record. It comes as no surprise that the weather in the Karakoram is once again making life difficult on the teams there, and the forecast for the next few days doesn't look like it is going to improve any. High winds and cold temperatures have been the norm of course, but it looks like there may be more snow on the way as well, particularly at altitude. That will make things tough on the climbers, who are continuing to struggle with simply building their camps and fixing their lines at this point.

On K2, the Russians have now climbed as high as 7200 meters (23,622 ft) in their efforts to fix their ropes. They had hoped to establish Camp 3 at about 7000 meters (22,965 ft), but they still need to carve out a platform in the snow and ice to set up tents there. As a result, they now have lines in place, but no shelters erected just yet. Meanwhile, they've also continued to shuttle gear up to Camp 1 in preparation for the big push to come, but their latest dispatch says that all team members are currently in BC due to the weather taking a turn for the worse.

That same dispatch says that climber Vitaly Gorelik has gotten frostbite on fingers on both hands and is currently being treated for the condition by the team doctor. Expedition leader Victor Kozlov has called in an evacuation helicopter to pick him up, but the weather is currently not allowing for flights in or out of Base Camp. This is the second member of the team to suffer from frostbite that has needed to be evacuated from the mountain.

Meanwhile, Denis Urubko and Simone Moro have had to put their summit plans on halt on Nanga Parbat.  The weather forecast calls for very few days of good weather in the week ahead, and they need at least four or five days to make a legitimate summit bid in a safe fashion. The men are now in BC and waiting for their opportunity to go up, but in the days ahead the prediction is that winds above 8000 meters will be in excess of 140km/h (87 mph), which is obviously not safe for an approach to the summit. The boys did have cause for celebration however, as one year ago today they completed the first ever successful winter ascent in the Karakoram by topping out on Gasherbrum II. (Also, be sure to read ExWeb's interview with Denis found here.)

The Polish team on Gasherbrum I are hoping for similar success this year, and as of yesterday they've managed to establish their Camp 2 without any major problems. The climbers are currently taking turns in their acclimatization rotation, Surprisingly, they are reporting that the trek up to C2 is actually easier than going to Camp 1 at the moment. They expected to have all the climbers back in BC today however, as the bad weather sets in on their mountain as well. They expect the conditions to stay bad through the 7th or 8th of the month.

Finally, Alex Txikon and Carlos Suarez are basically in the same boat, since they are sharing BC with the Poles. They report going up as high as 6100 meters (20,013 ft) a few days back, but bad weather has now forced them down as well, so they sit and wait for an opportunity to keep working the route.

More to come soon, but for now, it seems that the weather will keep everyone stationary into next week.

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