Monday, February 12, 2018

Winter Climbs 2018: Poles Make a Change on K2, Summit in Siberia

While it has only been a couple of days since I posted my last update on the major winter expeditions that we've been following so far this year. There has been a steady stream of news over the weekend that makes it worth of yet another update. Things are happening quickly right now, and the fate of these climbs is hanging in the balance.

On K2, the Polish Ice Warriors team has made the jump from the Česen Route over to the Abruzzi after yet another climber suffered an injury, this time serious enough to send him home. Last week, you'll recall, Adam Bielecki was struck by a falling rock, breaking his nose and opening a cut that required six stitches to heal. Over the weekend, Rafael Fronia also was hit be a falling rock, this time breaking his arm. This was enough of an injury to send him packing for home, and convince the team to switch to what they hope will be a safer route.

While conditions have been cold and windy on K2, there hasn't been a lot of snowfall, making rockslides much more common. Frozen snow and ice helps to keep that kind of debris in place, but a lack of it has created unsafe conditions. The hope is that the longer, less-steep climb up the Abruzzi will help mitigate some of these issues.

Meanwhile, the team has had some internal problems it seems as well. Denis Urubko posted some blistering thoughts about the progress so far, blasting his teammates to a degree. Urubko took umbrage with the fact that he was the only one installing ropes at higher altitude, and was critical of the other climbers for not staying hydrated and using their cooking stoves inside tents that aren't ventilated properly. Are these messages signs of discontent amongst the group or just his frustration on the lack of progress thus far? We'll have to wait to see, but perhaps the change of route will be good for morale all around.

Over on Everest, the Alex Txikon, Ali Sadpara, and the rest of the team continue to wait out the winds. Conditions high on the mountain are expected to improve early this week and they are tentatively planning a summit push once the forecast indicates better weather. For now though, there isn't much to do but rest, watch the skies, and prepare for the work yet to come. With 5 weeks of winter still on the calendar, they can afford to be patient.

Finally, there is new of a successful summit in Siberia. Simone Moro and Tamara Lunger have reached the top of Pik Pobeda, a remote mountain located in the Chersky Range. The peak is just 3003 meters (9852 ft) in height, but it is located an a bitterly cold location. Last week, prior to launching their summit bid, temperatures were hovering around -40ºC/F, with winds making it feel even colder than that. Despite those conditions however, the duo were able to top out over the weekend, logging the first winter ascent of this mountain.

That's all for now. More updates soon.

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