Monday, December 21, 2015

Winter Climbs 2016: Work Begins on Nanga Parbat

Winter has now officially arrived here in the northern hemisphere, and that means it is time for the very tough and challenging winter climbing season to begin as well. This year, the focus will be placed squarely on Nanga Parbat, the 8126 meter (26,660 ft) mountain located in Pakistan that is one of just two eight-thousand meter peaks that have yet to be climbed in winter. The other is K2 of course, which won't see any teams on its slopes this year. But as I write this, at least five teams are either on Nanga or will be arriving soon, with the race to be the first to top out starting today.

The first team to arrive was the Polish Justice For All squad. They've been on the mountain for nearly a week already, and have been busy setting up Base Camp, organizing their gear, and acclimatizing on some treks throughout the region. But now that winter is officially here, they'll begin the arduous task of shuttling equipment up the slopes as they start to build the series of camps that could eventually grant them access to the summit.

This team has been on the mountain before, and the Poles have a rich history of winter ascents. As usual, they have come well prepared for the challenges ahead, and have already stated that they are ready to stay in place all season long if it means they can finally climb Nanga Parbat. We'll see if it actually comes to that.

Simone Moro and Tamara Lunger should also be on the mountain by now, although it is unclear exactly where they are located at the moment. They've been in Pakistan for several weeks now, and arrived in Skardu on December 9, which should have put them in position to reach Nanga ahead of the start of winter. Simone also has quite a history with winter climbing, although he and Lunger were forced to cancel their expedition last year. They're hoping for more success this time out however, and as a result they have arrived in country a bit earlier. Unlike the Polish squad though, they will be attempting to climb in a lighter fashion, as it is just the two of them working the route.


Meanwhile, Alex Txikon and Daniele Nardi have wrapped up their acclimation efforts in the Argentinean Andes, and are now preparing to leave South America for Pakistan. Last week they summited several 6000 meter peaks, including  Incahuasi, a 6638 meter (21,778 ft) mountain that was once scared to the Incas. Those climbs have helped get them ready for Nanga Parbat, although it could be the early days of 2016 before they actually get to their intended target.

Similarly, Adam Bielecki has been acclimatizing in Chile as well before he departs for Pakistan. He summited Ojos del Salado (6893 meters/22,615 ft) on Saturday, and prior to that spent three nights above 6700 meters (21,981 ft) to let his body adapt to the altitude. He has likely descended now and is preparing to leave South America as well.

With the winter climbing season now underway, we'll be keeping a close eye on the proceedings on Nanga Parbat. The various teams that are already on the mountain will launch their efforts to climb the peak over the next day or two, while the others will focus on getting to Base Camp. It should be an interesting year on this massive peak, and although there is a long season ahead, I have a good feeling that we might just the first winter ascent early next year.

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