Makalu Winter Update: Kazakhs Turned Back!

Hongu.Makalu has posted two more SMS text messages from Denis Urubko today. He, along with fellow Kazakh climbers Serguey Samoilov and Eugeny Shutov, have been struggling to complete the first Winter ascent of Makalu over the past few weeks, but the high winds and harsh weather, have continually turned them back. Today comes word that they have turned back once again, and this time for good.

Yesterdays dispatch informed the Russian Climb that the team couldn’t stay high on the mountain. The hurricane force winds that have buffeted that region for the past week continue unabated, despite forecasts of a weather window opening. The men managed just 400m in 3 hours, and finally had to admit that the mountain, and the Winter conditions, had beaten them. They returned to BC safe and sound, although Denis remarked that the way down was awful.

Today, a final message was sent from Makalu. The team reports that they have “some frostbite” but are alive, and tomorrow they will begin their journey home. You can almost see the sadness in their words, as they turn back, with the summit so close, and yet so far away.

No word yet on if the Italian team of Nives Meroi, Romano Benet and Luca Vuerich will stay on the mountain and attempt another go at the summit. Denis notes in one of his messages that the Italians are in base camp, but that the weather report does not look promising in the days ahead. If there is no weather window open, it’s likely we’ll see Nives and t he boys pick up their camp and go home as well.

Makalu remains the last of the 8000m Himalayan peaks to go unclimbed in Winter. If I were a betting man, I’d say it’s going to remain that way, at least for another year. I wish the Italian team all the luck in the World, but sometimes, the weather has to cooperate for things to go your way. And there is just nothing you can do about that.

Kraig Becker

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