Thursday, December 08, 2016

No Major Winter Climbing Expeditions This Year?

Now that the fall climbing season in the Himalaya is done, we would typically turn our attention to the winter climbing season that would usually get underway near the end of December. But, it appears that there won't be any major expeditions to the big mountains this year as numerous teams take a break and look forward to next year.

According to a blog post by German adventure sports journalist Stefan Nestler, two of the more prominent names in winter mountaineering are staying home for sure this year. Polish climber Tomek Mackiewicz has been a staple on Nanga Parbat the last six years, but he won't be going this winter. He says that he couldn't raise the funds necessary to launch the expedition, which was probably made all the more difficult considering Italian climber Simone Moro, along with Basque mountaineer Alex Txikon, and the Pakistani Muhammad Ali “Sadpara”, put up the first winter ascent of that mountain last February. They were accompanied on that expedition by Tamara Lunger, who was forced to turn back due to illness. Lunger says she'll pass on a winter ascent this year as well as she focuses on getting her helicopter pilots license instead. Next year, she hope to attempt Everest in winter however.

As of now, there are no expeditions announced for any of the Himalaya or Karakoram peaks. That could obviously change, as a lot of climbers keep their plans close to the vest until they're ready to set out. But now that K2 is the last remaining 8000-meter peak that has not been climbed during the winter months, it seems most have decided to stay home. K2 is treacherous enough under the best of conditions, but is even more deadly in the winter. That said, there are already some teams gearing up for a winter expedition to that peak as well, it is just a matter of when they will go.

Nestler reports that Indian climber Arjun Vajpai has announced that he'll make a winter ascent of a 7000-meter peak in his home country, but he hasn't said which one just yet. The 23-year old mountaineer has already summited five 8000-meter peaks, and appears to have a promising career ahead. How he does on a winter climb should be interesting to follow.

While at the moment it doesn't appear that we'll have any big winter climbs this season, that doesn't mean that there won't be interesting expeditions to keep an eye on. Last year, Moro and Lunger didn't go to Nanga Part until well into January, and we could see something similar this season. Perhaps we'll have a few expeditions pop up on the radar as the winter gets rolling along. But if not, 2017 is already shaping up to be a promising one for winter mountaineering.

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