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Monday, March 27, 2017

Winter Attempt on Everest Ends, North Pole Skiers Cancel Expeditions Too

I'm back from my adventure across the Southern Ocean to the Falkland Islands and South Georgia, and obviously have a lot to catch up on. Some major expeditions pulled the plug on their intended journeys while I was away, so before we turn towards new adventures about to begin, I thought it was best to post a recap of a few things that happened while I was away.

We'll start with an update on Alex Txikon's attempt to summit Everest in winter without the use of bottled oxygen. When I left the country a few weeks back Alex and his team were preparing to make a summit bid, even as the clock was ticking. He had been in the Himalaya since early January and with the end of winter looming, the Spanish climber knew that it was now or never.

Unfortunately for him, Mother Nature didn't cooperate and a projected weather window never materialized. High winds hit the mountain while the team was moving upwards, closing off all attempts to get anywhere near the summit. Worse yet, the weather forecast looked gloomy for the days ahead, so Alex made the tough choice of calling it quits – at least for now. Judging from his remarks following the expedition he plans to return to Everest in the future to give another winter summit a go.

Meanwhile, just as I was heading south, two teams planning to ski to the North Pole this year were embarking on their own epic journey's to the north. Sebastian Copeland and Mark George made up the Last Great March squad, while Martin Murray (along with dog companion Sky) were the other team heading in that direction. Both teams cancelled their trips just a few days into their expeditions however, meaning that once again no one will complete a full-distance journey to 90ºN this year.


Just a few days into their polar adventure, Sebastian and Mark had to call for an evacuation after Copeland began to suffer frostbite in six of his finger. Both men had been struggling with the cold conditions, which were hovering in the -60ºC/-76ºF range. That's cold, even by polar standards. The forecast had temperatures improving in the days ahead, but unfortunately the damage had already been done. Sebastian's fingers needed treatment, and the lone stove that the team had with them wasn't creating enough heat to keep them from shivering in the sleeping bags while they huddled inside their tents.

As it turns out Murray wasn't faring much better. The extreme cold had hit him and Sky hard as well, and he actually joined Sebastian and Mark on the evacuation flight. Their pick-up was delayed however because the conditions were so cold that the pilot worried that the fuel in his engine would freeze up en route. Eventually they were plucked from the ice however and returned to their starting point in Resolute Bay in Canada. It was a tough end to two expeditions that had been years in the planning. Just a few days after they left, temperatures warmed up considerably, but it was already too late for this season.

That's it for these three major expeditions we were following before I left. Now, we'll start looking ahead to big things to come, including the start of the spring season in the Himalaya.

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