Monday, December 29, 2014

Winter Climbs 2014-2015: Teams Gathering in Pakistan

Just a quick update on the winter climbing expeditions that are either now underway, or are preparing to begin. With the new season just over a week old at this point, most of the teams are still making their way to the mountains following the holiday season last week. While they are in transit, the climbers are mentally and physically preparing themselves for the challenges ahead on what will likely be the most difficult expedition of their careers.

As mentioned last week, the planned attempt on the North Side of K2 has been scrubbed following the denial of a climbing permit by the Chinese government. This has left Denis Urubko, Adam Bielecki and Alex Txikon on the sidelines this season after they had been planning their expedition for months. As you can imagine, the team is disappointed by this turn of events, but they have vowed to try again in the future. Chinese officials cancelled the permit after terrorist activity in the region picked up in November. They have already invited the climbers to reapply for a permit when conditions improve and it is once again safe for foreign visitors to travel in the Xinjiang region.

With K2 now off the table for this winter, all attention will now turn toward Nanga Parbat, the only other 8000 meter peak that remains unclimbed in the winter. There are no fewer than three teams attempting that mountain, including Daniele Nardi, who arrived in Pakistan on Saturday and is now making his way out to Base Camp. He'll climb with Elisabeth Revol on the Diamir Face, and now expects to be in BC by January 1.

That duo will be sharing Base Camp with Tomek Mackiewicz, who spent a few weeks acclimatizing in the Rupal Valley before the arrival of winter. Tomek should already be in BC at this point, where the is scouting the route and already preparing to make his solo attempt on the mountain.

The Russian team of Nickolay Totmjanin, Valery Shamalo, Serguey Kondrashkin and Victor Koval arrived in Pakistan in time for Christmas, and wasted no time in getting to work. They were in and out of Islamabad as quickly as possible, and arrived in Base Camp on December 27, where they report that all is okay. After a few days of getting settled, they will begin the first preliminary steps of heading up the mountain, while they begin to acclimatize to the altitude and cold weather.

Finally, we leave the Karakoram behind to check in with Lonnie Dupre on Denali. He is busy preparing for his attempt to summit the tallest mountain in North America in January, and has already been very busy establishing some of his higher camps. He has already climbed up to 11,200 feet (3413 meters) where he has started to get a taste of the weather that the mountain is so well known for. Wind speeds have already been in excess of 50 mph (80 km/h), and temperatures are well below zero. Still, he is happy with his progress thus far, and will take a rest day today before continuing to shuttle gear up the slope. Once January 1 arrives, the expedition will be officially under way, with Lonnie hoping to become just the 4th person to stand on the summit during the coldest, darkest, windiest month of the year on Denali.

That's all for today. I'll post more updates as the teams start to progress.

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