Winter Climbs 2013: First Winter Ascent Of Laila Peak, Hopes Fading On Nanga Parbat

280px Laila Peak

It has been another difficult year for the winter climbers in Pakistan where the weather conditions have once again been extremely difficult to overcome. But the season isn’t over just yet and one team has found success by putting up the first winter ascent of a mountain in the Karakoram.

ExWeb is reporting that Alex Txikon and Jose Fernandez were successful in their bid to climb Laila Peak, topping out on Monday,  February 18. The 6096 meter (20,000 ft) mountain located in the Hushe Valley didn’t make it easy on them however. The two men battled high winds and snow that was chest deep at times just to reach the summit. Their final push took ten hours to complete, with the descent requiring another four.

Alex and Jose say that wind speeds on the final push were in excess of 60 km/h (37 mph) and temperatures were hovering around -35ºC/-31ºF before taking into account the windchill. Exhausted from their efforts, the climbers spent the night in Camp 2 with two teammates who turned back earlier in the day due to injuries. All four have since descended to Base Camp where they are resting and preparing to head home.

Congrats to Alex and Jose on a job well done.

On Nanga Parbat search and rescue teams continued to look for missing French snowboarder Joel Wischnewski. It has been two weeks since we last heard anything from him as he started a summit push up the Rupal face that was expected to take three days to complete. The SAR team reached Camp 2 yesterday but still found no trace of the man. The rescue effort had to be halted however as bad weather prevented them from going any higher. Heavy snow and high winds are now expected over the next few days, so it will likely be the weekend before they can even think of proceeding higher.

After so long on the mountain without word, it is getting increasingly more difficult to see a happy ending on this one. Supplies would have to be running very low at this point and if he was capable of coming back down, he probably would have by now. I’m still hoping for the best, but reality is setting in.

Finally, the Polish team on Broad Peak has returned to BC to wait for another weather window. They had made a summit push over the weekend and into the first part of the week, reaching as high as 7800 meters (25,590 ft), but once again it was the poor weather that turned them back. The team has posted a recap of that “attack” on the summit, which you can read here.

For now, the entire squad will rest and watch the forecasts closely. They still have a few more weeks of winter left and with most of the work done, they simply wait for an opportunity to go up. All of their ropes are fixed, they’re acclimatized to the weather and altitude and they’re regaining their strength for another push. Lets hope they get the opportunity to have another go.

Kraig Becker