Thursday, December 17, 2015

Winter Climbs 2016: Teams Pre-Acclimatzing in South America, Gathering in Pakistan

The winter climbing season is nearly upon us. The season officially arrives next Monday, which is the date that several teams have circled on their calendar as the start of the big challenge ahead. This year, there will be at least five individual teams attempting the first winter ascent of Nanga Parbat, while there are none currently scheduled for K2. In the days leading up to the start of the season, the climbers are busy preparing for what promises to be a long, difficult season. And while some are acclimatizing elsewhere, others have already arrived in Pakistan and are preparing to begin.

The Polish Justice For All squad is the first to arrive in Base Camp on Nanga Parbat. The team reached Lattabo two days ago, and have been busy building their camp ever since. They've set up their satellite communications system, solar panels, tents, and other gear, and are now patiently waiting for winter to officially arrive. They won't even begin to head up the mountain until that happens, but when it does, they'll be more than ready. The team is prepared to stay on Nanga for the entire season if necessary, waiting well into March for their chance at a summit. Hopefully it won't come to that, but with fickle weather a common occurrence on the mountain, anything is possible.

Meanwhile, the duo of Simone Moro and Tamara Lunger are also in Pakistan. They arrived in Skardu last week, and while there haven't been updates since then, it is safe to assume they are now trekking towards Base Camp themselves. Depending on when they departed, they should arrive on the mountain before the start of winter as well. Simone reports that they had an armed escort with them, which is unsurprising considering the 2013 attack on Nanga Parbat BC by militants that left 11 people dead. The Pakistani government has taken strides to ensure that doesn't happen again, but it still weighs on the thoughts of climbers going there.


Elsewhere, Alex Txikon is busy acclimatizing in the Andes region of Argentina. He reports that while the altitudes there are helping his body prepare for the Karakoram, the climbing is non-technical, and the spring weather isn't anything close to what he'll face on Nanga Parbat. Still, it is a good way to get ready for the challenges he'll face on the mountain once again this year, as his team looks to complete the first winter route as well.

Finally, Adam Bielecki is also in South America acclimatizing, although he has chosen to workout in Chile instead. He reports that he is currently camping on the edge of a crater of a volcano at 22,244 ft (6779 meters), which is of course preparing him for altitude, but he too says that this is a non-technical climb. In a Facebook post he says that he is already bored with just hiking in the mountains, and is now ready for the real climbing to begin.

Both Alex and Adam will depart for Pakistan next week and begin making their way to Nanga Base Camp. Look for them to arrive around the start of the new year.

Right now, we're in a period of calm before the start of the winter season. After that, things will start to get interesting. The teams will be very busy acclimatizing, establishing their camps, fixing ropes, and watching the weather. Hopefully at least a few of them will get a legitimate shot at the summit this year. Those chances are few and far between, which is why the mountain has never been climbed in the winter before.

Stay tuned for more.

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