Monday, February 22, 2016

Winter Climbs 2016: Summit Push Begins on Nanga Parbat

It seems that the time is now no Nagna Parbat, one of two 8000 meter peaks that remain unclimbed during the winter season. A team of international climbers that joined forces a few weeks back, and have remained patient over the past two months, has now launched a summit bid as a weather window is expected to open later this week.

Alex Txikon, Ali Sadpara, Simone Moro, and Tamara Lunger left Base Camp earlier today and are now in Camp 2 at 6100 meters (20,013 ft) on the Kinshofer route. The team has previously fixed ropes up to Camp 3 at 6700 meters (21,981 ft), and had determined that further rope-fixing would not be necessary from that point on. Whether or not those conditions have changed over the past few weeks, when high winds buffeted the mountain, and heavy snow fell at times, remains to be seen.

Later in the week, a small but – but very stable – weather window is expected to open, giving the team a chance to potentially reach the summit in just a few days time. It seems that conditions aren't likely to get any better than they will at the end of this week, and the climbers are now getting themselves into position to take advantage of the shift in weather.

The biggest challenge that they'll have to overcome will be the high altitude. Alex and Ali have been as high as 6700 meters as part of their acclimatization, but that was weeks ago. Likewise, Simone and Tamara have been up to 6100 meters, but not much beyond that. How that will impact their ability to climb higher will be a key element of their success or failure.

I'll be keeping a close eye on their progress over the next few days. It is possible we could see history made later in the week. The weather and route should be in the best shape of the season, which means it could be now or never. With just a month to go until the arrival of spring, there may not be a better chance in the near future. Keep your fingers crossed for these four climbers to get up and down safely, summit or not.

Meanwhile, ExWeb is reporting that Cleo Weidlich has probably left the mountain. She was a late arrival, showing up at the end of January with 5 Nepali sherpas, just as the weather took a turn for the worse. While she shared few details of the expedition, it seems unlikely that she was ever able to get much higher than BC.

If Cleo has indeed left, that means that Alex, Ali, Simone, and Tamara are the only climbers still on Nanga Parbat. If it is going to be climbed this winter, it'll have to be by them.

Good luck to the climbers as they set off on a potentially historic summit bid.

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