I mentioned that I had heard it through the grapevine that a major expedition was gearing up for Everest this winter, but that I hadn't quite heard all of the particulars just yet, even though I suspected who might be involved. Well, it turns out my hunch was correct, as we now know more about the impending climb, who's involved, and how it might unfold.
On Friday, Spanish climber Alex Txikon announced that he is indeed leading a small team to Nepal to attempt a winter summit from the South Side. The 35-year old Txikon be joined by 28-year old Carlos Rubio, who is a talented extreme skier in his own right. The expedition will also include Aitor Barez and Pablo Magister, who will both document the climb. They'll also be accompanied by 5 Sherpas who will handle route fixing duties through the Khumbu Icefall.
A winter expedition to Everest is challenging enough with weather that is bone chilling to say the least. In January, high winds and brutal temperatures will likely test the team's resolve. Alan Arnette says that the average temperature on the summit during the month is -36ºC (-33ºF), although it has dropped as low as -60ºC (-76ºF) in the past, with windspeeds topping out at 280 km/h (174 mph).
But, the altitude, weather, and deep snow won't be the only obstacles that Txikon will be looking to overcome. He says that he also intends to make the climb without the use of bottled oxygen, which will add an entirely new level of danger and difficulty to his quest. Presumably, Rubio will be attempting to ski the mountain as well, but those plans have yet to be clarified.
The team will leave for Kathmandu on December 23 and arrive on Christmas Eve. Winter will have officially started by then, so they'll be looking to spend the next two months on the climb. The team will first have to trek to Base Camp however, which will help start the acclimatization process and get them acquainted with the current weather conditions. Reportedly, there has been heavy snow in the region thus far this year, so how that impact the climb remains to be seen.
Txikon is now stranger to climbing in the big mountains during the winter. In recent years he's made several visits to Pakistan to climb in the Himalaya and Karakoram there during the harshest time of year. Earlier this year he was part of the team – which included Simone Moro, Tamara Lunger, and Ali Sadpara – who completed the first winter ascent of Nanga Parbat. Now, he'll take everything that he learned on that journey and apply it to Everest as well.
We will of course be following this expedition closely in the weeks ahead. It should be interesting to see the first true winter expedition to Everest in a number of years. Good luck to everyone involved. Stay safe!