Monday, January 28, 2013

Winter Climbs 2013: Dupre Descends On Denali, Progress In Pakistan

It was another busy and active weekend in the mountains for our winter mountaineers. As usual, weather dictates when they can move and patience is the name of the game. Over the past few days, one of the winter expeditions came to and end, while the others have started the process of strategically placing themselves for the challenges ahead.

The big news coming out of the weekend is that Lonnie Dupre had abandoned his third attempt at a January ascent of Denali. A few days ago he was able to climb up to High Camp at 17,200 feet (5242 meters) and he had the summit squarely in his sights. At that point it looked like he might actually have a chance of ending three years of frustration, but the weather forecast predicted that winds would pick-up, so Lonnie took a cautious "wait and see" approach. That proved to be a wise decision as the winds did indeed increase in speed, making a summit bid a very dangerous proposition.

With the winds keeping the summit out of reach, Dupre descended to his camp at 14,200 feet (4328 meters) to rest and weigh his options. The forecast in the days ahead didn't look favorable however, so he decided to pull the plug and head home. He will be descending the mountain today and if conditions allow, a plane will fly in to retrieve him.

In Pakistan things appear to be progressing a bit after a slow start to the season. On Nanga Parbat, the Hungarian-American team has now fully established their Camp 1 and have even spent a couple of nights acclimatizing there. If the weather has held out, they should also have climbed up to Camp 2 and cached some of their gear there. They continue to struggle with communications from the mountain and it isn't clear yet if their back-up generator has arrived, but at least they're making progress on the climb itself.

Also on Nanga Parbat is snowboarder Joel Wischnewski who's latest dispatch simply reads: "I'm in Rupal, and safe. More news soon. Bye." It is hard to determine exactly what that means, but we can assume that Joel has returned to the Rupal face after a recent bout of sickness and is proceeding with his climb. Hopefully he has recovered from the bug that was keeping him in BC and he can now proceed with his acclimatization process.

Finally, the Polish squad on Broad Peak has made significant progress after arriving in Base Camp last week. Yesterday, the team moved up to 5600 meters (18,372 feet) and built their Camp 1 at that location. Several of the team members even spent the night at the location and should be headed back down to BC today. Meanwhile, a second group of climbers will proceed up to C1 today and begin fixing ropes to Camp 2.

This is a very professional, workman like approach to climbing an 8000-meter peak in winter, something the Poles have plenty of experience with. They'll continue to send small two- and three-man teams up the mountain to slowly and methodically build their camps and fix the ropes. By the time they're done, they'll be completely acclimatized to the altitude and ready to make their summit bids. That is still some time off however and there is a lot of work yet to be done.

That's all for now. More news as these climbs develop.


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