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Monday, January 16, 2017

Winter Climbs 2017: Climbers in Base Camps and Moving Up

Now that the holidays have come and gone, I've managed to move to a new house, and the Winter Outdoor Retailer Show is behind us, we can finally return to some sense of normalcy around here. To do that, we'll get things started with an update from the major winter climbs that are now taking place in various parts of the world, beginning on Everest where Alex Txikon and his team are making solid progress.

Last week, the small group of climbers, support staff, and documentarians arrived in Base Camp on Everest, and immediately went to work establishing a base of operations there. It did't take them long to get ready however, and within a few days they were already moving up the mountain to begin their acclimatization efforts. The team then spent four days building a route through the treacherous Khumbu Icefall, before they were then presented with favorable weather conditions that allowed them to move up further.

Taking advantage of these good conditions, the climbers moved through the Icefall and up to 5870 meters (19,258 ft), where they spent the night at a provisional location. The following morning, they continued up to 6050 meters (19,849 ft), where they established Camp 1. Since then, they have climbed a bit higher as they scout the route, install ropes, and work to reach Camp 2 further up the slopes.

Reportedly, the climbing is even more difficult and demanding than they had thought, but things are proceeding according to plan. They should return to BC for rest shortly, but are continuing to try to make progress while the weather cooperates. For now, they are happy with how things are going, and the idea of a winter ascent of Everest remains a very high possibility.


Meanwhile, Elisabeth Revol is now in Base Camp on Manaslu too, where she reports heavy snow making progress very difficult. In fact, she says that it has snowed there everyday since the start of January, with 2.5 meters (8.2 feet) of accumulation over that time. Despite that however, she says that everything is going well and as expected on a winter expedition to the Himalaya. There is now indication yet of how much progress they are making in moving up the mountain however.

Finally, the last time we checked in on Lonnie Dupre he was just arriving on Mt. Hunter in Alaska in preparation for a solo winter ascent of that difficult peak. In the brief time I was away, he has already called off that attempt however. It seems that Lonnie made two attempts on the summit, both of which were thwarted by conditions, before taking a nasty fall. That was enough to convince him that it was time to pull the plug and consider some other projects instead. The polar explorer and mountaineer is currently in Canmore, Alberta where he is regrouping, considering what he could do differently, and preparing for some other adventures. Hunter won't be climbed during the winter this season it would seem.

You may recall that Lonnie made a solo ascent of Denali in January a few years back, going up that mountain in alpine style. During that expedition he eschewed the use of tents and used snow caves instead. He had hoped to make a similar approach to Hunter, which isn't as tall as Denali, but is considered more technical. Unfortunately, the mountain was able to win this round, but something tells me Dupre may be back to give it another go in the future. For now though, one of the winter expeditions that we were watching closely is already over.

More updates to come as the remaining teams make progress.

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