Monday, February 05, 2018

Winter Climbs 2018: Poles Reunited on K2

While most of us in the U.S. gathered around our television sets to watch the Big Game yesterday, the winter mountaineering expeditions that we've been following closely over the past month or so continued to work towards their goals. As usual, weather is the biggest stumbling block at the moment, although the squads on K2 and Everest are extremely happy with the way things are progressing.

We'll start in Pakistan, where the Polish Ice Warriors have reunited on K2. You'll recall that several members of the team left Base Camp last week to assist in the rescue of Elisabeth Revol on Nanga Parbat. After getting her back down the mountain safely, they accompanied her to Islamabad before catching a flight out to Skardu where they could then return to BC. But weather kept them grounded for several days, preventing them from getting back to the work at hand. Late last week however, things cleared up just long enough to allow the entire team to gather together once again and resume their efforts to make the first winter ascent of K2.

The team didn't waste and time in getting back to work either. Well rested after a few days off the mountain, and with a weather window to take advantage of, Denis Urubko and Marcin Kaczkan immediately went up the mountain and have now spent the night in both Camp 1 and 2. That helps to maintain their acclimatization efforts as they look to go higher soon. Depending on the weather conditions, they may even proceed up the peak tomorrow, looking to establish C3 and possibly even spend the night there as well.

In other words, things are back to "normal" on K2.

Meanwhile, over on Everest, Alex Txikon and company have been stuck in Base Camp for a few days. High winds have blasted onto the mountain, keeping them from climbing any higher for now. The team was likely ready for a break, so this weather front may have come at a good time. Last week they reached 7850 meters (25,754 ft) and have been climbing ahead of schedule for the entire season. A bit of down time in BC will allow them to rest, recharge their batteries, and get ready for the next push up the mountain. I would imagine they'd like to establish a camp above 8000 meters, and maybe spend some time acclimatizing above that altitude before making plans for a summit attempt.

Remember, this isn't just about climbing Everest during the winter, which is a pretty impressive feat in its own right. Alex is hoping to summit without the use of bottled oxygen as well, making this truly an expedition for the ages. Technically, there has only ever been one another true winter expedition to Everest, and only one person has ever topped out without oxygen as well. If he is successful, it will be one of the most impressive feats on Everest in recent memory, if not ever.

That's it for now. I'll continue to keep an eye on things on both of these major expeditions and post updates when there is important news to share.

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