Winter Climbs 2014-2015: Lonnie Descends on Denali, Progress on Nanga Parbat

Northern Areas 68

With the winter climbing season now in full swing, teams are working hard Nanga Parbat, where several squads are hoping to complete the first winter ascent of that 8000-meter giant. While they gird themselves for the challenge ahead, another climber is already wrapping up his expedition on the tallest peak in North America.

We’ll start with an update on Lonnie Dupre, who successfully completed the first solo ascent of Denali in January on Sunday. When I posted the news of his success yesterday, Lonnie had already returned from the summit to his high camp located at 17,200 feet (5242 meters). An update later in the day indicated that he only spent a few hours resting there before proceeding down to his camp at the West Buttress Ridge, which sits at 14,200 feet (4328 meters). He stopped there long enough to cache some of his supplies, and then was immediately proceeding further town to 11,200 feet (3413 meters) where he had hoped to rest for the night. That means he is almost safely off the mountain, and while he still has further to go before he gets to Base Camp, the most treacherous part of the climb is now behind him.

Lonnie’s home team expects to hear more from him later today, including potentially more details on his summit push. As you can probably imagine, he is exhausted from his efforts and could use some rest, but the weather on Denali is fickle, and it is best that he get to the safest place possible before the winter weather returns.

Meanwhile, the Russian team of Nickolay Totmjanin, Valery Shamalo, Serguey Kondrashkin and Victor Koval arrived in BC on Nanga Parbat last week, and have immediately gone to work. According to Russian Climb, the team has now shuttled gear up to their camp at 6000 meters (19,685 ft) on the Rupal Face, and have fixed ropes to that point, but were forced back down due to high winds. After four days of working the route, they have now returned to Base Camp to rest and gather their strength before proceeding up further.

Italian climber Danielle Nardi is back in BC on the Diamir Face as well. He reports that snow is in the forecast over the next few days, so he’ll wait for the weather to pass before going back up the mountain. At that time, he hopes to finish establishing Camp 2, located at 5100 meters (16,732 ft). Danielle is hoping to make a solo-summit of Nanga, which means he’ll have to be very patient, conserve his strength and energy, and hope that the weather turns in his favor.

Tomek Mackiewicz and Elisabeth Revol are sharing BC with Danielle, and are bit further along in their acclimatization efforts. They have reportedly climbed up to Camp 3 at 6600 meters (21,653 ft), and are planning on going as high as 7200 meters (23,622 ft) before turning back. They report that the weather is holding at the moment, but the route is extremely difficult, with very cold temperatures.

As you probably already know, Nanga Parbat is just one of two 8000-meter peaks that remain unclimbed in the winter. K2 is the other mountain to hold that distinction, and an attempt on that peak was shut down this year when the Chinese refused to issue a permit to climb from the north side. With all of these climbers concentrating on Nanga, it seems that there is a good shot of someone reaching the top this year. But as always, the weather will dictate if that proves to be true.

The season is truly just getting underway. Stay tuned for more updates soon.

Kraig Becker