Thursday, February 01, 2018

Winter Climbs 2018: Everest Team Nears 8000 Meters, It's Over on Mt. Lucania

We've got more news today from the big winter expeditions that we've been following this year, some good, some not so good. And as the season progresses, we're reminded why this is the toughest, most demanding, and brutal season of all.

We'll start with an update from Everest, where when we last checked in the team was heading up to Camp 3 for a night to continue their acclimatization process. That plan went well, and the following day Alex Txikon and company continued upward to 7850 meters (25,754 ft) before turning back. It seems that they could have potentially gone up to Camp 4 above 8000 meters (26,246 ft), but one of the climbers started to feel under the weather and the high winds began to move into the area. At that point, the squad decided that they had done enough this week, and proceeded back down the mountain. At the moment, they are all gathered back in Base Camp, where they will rest, recuperate, and watch the weather forecast before deciding when they'll head back up again.

Meanwhile, over on K2, the Polish Ice Warrior team isn't waiting around for their compatriot to rejoin them before heading back up the mountain. Several members of the group were involved in the rescue operation that helped bring Elisabeth Revol safely down the mountain, and those climbers are still in Skardu awaiting improved weather to catch a helicopter flight back to BC. In the meantime, two other members of the squad – Artur Malek and Merek Chmielarski – have set off today back up to Camp 1 to check the status of their ropes and gear.

Once the entire team is reunited and back to full strength, they'll continue their regular climbing operations. The next goal will be to establish Camp 3 somewhere around the 7000 meter (22,965 ft) mark. Before that can happen however, the weather will first have to allow the climbers in Skardu to return to BC, and then stay calm enough to allow them to resume shuttling gear up the ńĆesen Route. It could be a few days yet before those things happen.

Finally, we get the disappointing news today that Lonnie Dupre and Pascale Marceau have pulled the plug on their attempt to climb Mt. Lucania in Canada. Conditions have been difficult from the start on this expedition, and they were made worse when the duo couldn't be dropped off at their preferred starting point due to poor conditions. That meant they had to manhaul their sleds further than they had planned, leaving them exhausted before they ever made camp. After that, they discovered the route they had intended to take up the mountain was impassable, and to make matters worse, the high winds and extreme cold made it impossible to get warm, even in their sleeping bags inside a tent each night.

So, with all of that in mind, Dupre and Marceau have skied back to their pick-up point and are waiting for a plane to pick them up. The weather will dictate when exactly that will happen, but they could be retrieved as early as today.

There are a couple of other winter expeditions that are ongoing, although we've had few updates from so far. For instance, according to Alan Arnette, Simone Moro and Tamara Lunger have only now just arrived on Pik Pobeda in remote Northern Siberia, while ah team of Pakistani climbers has set its sights on Masherbrum II. There have been few dispatches on either squad to know if they have made much progress however.

For now, we'll continue watching Everest and K2 to see how things progress.

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