Winter Climbs 2013: Struggles On Denali And In The Karakoram

No one ever said climbing in winter was easy. That point is being reiterated to some of the teams hoping to stake their claim on climbing history, as climbers in several locations worldwide are experiencing bad weather as they attempt to scale their mountain of choice. In some cases, they’re even having problems just getting to that mountain in the first place.

Late last week, Lonnie Dupre found a weather window that actually allowed him to go to the mountain, but he hasn’t had a whole lot of good weather since. The polar explore caught a plane out of Talkeetna last Tuesday and spent the first day and a half skiing across the Kahiltna Glacier just to get to the starting point of his climb.

Since then, he’s been dealing with deep snow, high winds, and freezing temperatures. In other words, pretty much standard conditions on Denali in January.

Despite whiteout conditions and post-holing through two feet (60 cm) of snow, he has managed to climb as high as 8800 feet (2682 meters) on the mountain, where he has been stashing gear and building snow shelters to protect himself from the frigid winter.

However, it has been tough going, and in his most recent dispatch, we’re told that Lonnie only spent about 4 hours climbing thanks to the generally poor weather and challenging terrain. He still has two weeks to go to complete his solo January ascent of the mountain, but just like his previous two attempts on this climb, unless the weather cooperates, he’s not even going to get a look at the summit.

Alaska isn’t the only place dealing with difficult winter conditions. Apparently, the Polish team that intends to climb Broad Peak has met with some horrible weather in Pakistan. The team hopes to reach Skardu, which is the main city in the region.

From there, they’ll launch their trek to the mountain, although it seems it is frigid and icy in the region too. In their latest update, we’re told that Skardu houses don’t have heat and that the streets are frozen over with ice, keeping residents of the town locked inside for several days.

Roads in and out are also said to be blocked, and extra firewood and kerosene are now at a premium. It has gotten so bad, in fact, that six people have frozen to death in recent days. Remember, this is all before the team even gets to the mountain!

The climbers hope to get to Skardu tomorrow, where they would traditionally grab some last-minute supplies and gear before starting the trek for BP Base Camp. If the weather doesn’t improve, they may find it impossible to get what they need and leave town for their next destination. We’ll have to wait to see if they actually arrive on time and, if so, how long they are delayed in setting out for the 8051 meters (26,414 ft) mountain.

Finally, there have been no new updates from the Hungarian-American team taking on Nanga Parbat this winter. The last we heard, the team scouted a route up to Camp 1, shuttling gear and acclimatizing in the process.

Since then, there has been little word on the progress of David Klein, Zoltan Acs, and Ian Overton, who are hoping to claim the first winter ascent of the 8125 meters (26,657 ft) Himalayan giant. At this point, we can only assume that they’ve at least climbed up to C1 and possibly higher, but until that is confirmed, all we can do is wait and hope for the best.

As is typical with these winter climbs, everything is dictated by the weather. It sounds like the season is off to a rough start on the climbers, so let’s keep our fingers crossed that things improve, and these teams will get a legitimate chance at tagging the summit. Stay tuned for more soon.

Kraig Becker