Winter Climbs 2014: And So It Begins…

1280px Nanga parbat abdul rafey

The official start of the 2014-2015 winter climbing season is still a couple of weeks away, but teams heading to the big mountains are deep in preparation for their expeditions. Most will depart for Pakistan and China in mid-December, ahead of the official arrival of winter on December 21, but one climber has already started his acclimatization process, and isn’t looking to waste any time.

According to a report on ExWeb, Polish climber Tomek Mackiewicz is already in Pakistan, and has been acclimatizing in the Rupal Valley ahead of his attempt on Nanga Parbat this winter. Tomek arrived there in November, giving himself several weeks to adjust to the altitude before heading to the Diamir Face of Nanga.

According to the report, Tomek arrived in Pakistan on November 12, and spent a week organizing his gear and handling administrative tasks in Rawalpindi before arriving in Lattabo on November 21. He has spent the time since then acclimatizing on Rupal and Laila Peak. Those two mountains, 5642 meters (18,510 ft) and 5971 meters (19,589 ft) respectively, will serve as a warm-up before the Polish climber joins his partners – Daniele Nardi and Elisabeth Revel – in Nanga Parbat Base Camp in a few weeks.

Meanwhile, Italian climber Simone Moro continues to press ahead with his plans for a winter climb, even though we don’t know what he has in mind just yet. Simone tells Stefan Nestler that he is still waiting on his climbing permit before he announces what his objectives are. He intends to climb this winter, although he won’t start until after the first of the year, which is later than usual for a big winter climb. We do know that the expedition will take place in China, as Simone has indicated that he’s waiting for the Chinese to issue him the permit, but it is unclear if that his adventure will take him to China proper, or if it will take place in Tibet. Rumors suggested that he might try the North Face of Everest in winter, but officials have indicated that the mountain will be shut down from January 1 to March 31, so clearly that is not his objective.

A veteran of 12 winter climbing expeditions – including three first ascents – Moro is an expert on climbing big peaks in the coldest, harshest season of all. When asked why he isn’t on Nanga Parbat or K2 this season, Simone says that his best climbing partners didn’t want to accompany him to Nanga this year, and that he promised his wife that he would never climb K2 in the winter after she dreamt that he had perished on that mountain. So now, he prepares for this secret climb instead, and we all wait to see what exactly he has planned.

Moro goes on to say that winter climbing is “pure exploration,” unlike any other expedition. He enjoys the fact that the mountain is empty, with no other teams climbing, and that the conditions are extremely challenging. It is a lonely time and place for mountaineers, unlike climbing those same peaks during the warmer months.

Other interesting elements in the interview include Simone’s thoughts on how climbing will change on Everest in the wake of the avalanche that claimed 16 lives this past spring, how he has put the high-profile 2013 brawl with Sherpas behind him, and his work as a rescue helicopter pilot in the Himalaya. He also talks about his future in climbing, and at the age of 47, how many more years he has left on these daring expeditions into the Himalaya and Karakoram.

As usually, the interview is a good read, and definitely worth a look for those with an interest in mountaineering on this level.

While the winter climbing season is still a couple of weeks from truly starting, it seems we may have plenty of news to report leading up to it. Stay tuned for more updates.

Kraig Becker