Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Next Big Winter Mountaineering Challenge? Everest Without Oxygen

The winter climbing season has barely been wrapped up, and already climbers are looking ahead to the next big challenge. Last month, a team of international climbers that included Alex Txikon, Ali Sadpara, and Simone Moro put up the first winter ascent of Nanga Parbat, bringing an end to a decades long quest to complete that climb. Now, those climbers have barely had a chance to return home, and reflect on what they've accomplished, before they've started to think about what comes next, and the answer may surprise you.

With Nanga Parbat now summited during the coldest, most difficult season of all, there is just one 8000-meter peak yet to be climbed during the winter. That would be K2, the second tallest mountain on the planet at 8611 meters (28,251 ft). But it is an extremely difficult mountain even under the best of conditions, and it could be some time before anyone even gets close to the summit during the winter months. Still, Txikon has indicated that he might be interested in attempting that climb, perhaps as early as next winter.

But Simone has promised his wife that he would not attempt to climb K2 after she had a dream that he died on that mountain. So, now he is looking for other challenges to take on during the winter months. So, what does he have in mind? According to this story, he wants to summit Everest during the winter without the use of supplemental oxygen. That would be a formidable challenge indeed.

Moro is no stranger to Everest, having already climbed it on four previous occasions. But he has never done it during the winter, and no one has summited during that time of the year without using bottled oxygen either.

Simone is one of the premiere climbers of his generation, and has earned a reputation for being a fantastic winter mountaineer. In addition to putting up the first winter ascent of Nanga Parbat, he also was part of a team that accomplished the same feat on Gasherbrum II back in 2011. In other words, if anyone can climb Everest in winter without O's, it is probably Moro.

It's unclear when he'll launch this attempt, but it could be as early as next winter too. It'll be interesting to follow such an attempt, if and when it does happen.

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