Thursday, February 22, 2018

Winter Climbs 2018: Summit Bid Begins on Everest

The moment we've all been waiting for has finally arrived on Everest. After months of planning and weeks of preparation on the mountain, Alex Txikon, Muhammad Ali Sadpara, and the rest of the team have launched a summit bid on Everest, and things are already going well. But, as with all things involving the highest mountain on the planet, it won't be an easy ascent.

The attempt on the summit – the first so far this season – got underway yesterday with the Alex and company reaching Camp 2 in a single push. They'll likely move up to C3 today and be in their final position tomorrow for a potential push to the top on Saturday or Sunday (February 24/25) of this week.

The forecast calls for a good weather window over the next few days. That is a relative forecast of course, this being winter in the Himalaya. Temperatures on the summit are expected to hover around -40ºF/C, with windchills approaching -80ºF/-62ºC. In other words, it will be brutally cold on the way up, and remember Alex is attempting this summit without the use of supplemental oxygen.

In a post on Facebook Alex has called this the "first and last chance to get to the summit of Everest," indicating that he expects this to be their only real chance at topping out this winter. With about a month to go yet before the end of the season, I would have expected the team to at least consider a second summit bid should they not make it this time. But, it has been a long couple of months on the mountain and the entire squad is probably ready to get the expedition over with. Hopefully that means they'll come home with their mission completed.
Meanwhile, over on K2 the Polish Ice Warriors have posted a short and sweet message about their current status. The entire team is now in Base Camp where they are resting and recovering from recent efforts. The group has now gone as high as 7200 meters (23,622 ft) in their acclimatization and gear shuttling efforts. They'll now spend a few days regaining some strength before launching the next phase of the expedition, which looks to make the first winter ascent of the mountain.

Finally, fresh off of his failed-attempt on Mt. Lucania with Pascale Marceau, Lonnie Dupre has announced he is about to embark on a late winter solo attempt on Mt. Hunter in Alaska. The peak was first climbed in winter back in 1980, but no one has managed to solo it during that season just yet. Dupre himself made an attempt last year, but was turned back on that expedition too. Now, he's returning to the 4441-meter (14,573-ft) peak to give it another go.

Hunter is considered one of the more challenging and technically demanding 14ers in North America.  This is especially true during the winter when high winds, deep snow, and brutally cold temperatures add to the equation. Durpre says he'll head to the mountain in the final week of February and will begin by first shuttling gear up the first 450 meters (1500 feet) to create and advanced base camp not he mountain. When the forecast gives him a good window, he'll launch a week-long, ultra-light push to the top. No doubt the plan is to sleep in snow caves like he did on his solo summit of Denali a few years back.

The entire expedition, which is dubbed "Cold Hunter One," is expected to take just 15 days to complete.

We'll of course keep an eye on all of these climbs as they continue to unfold.

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