The autumn climbing season in the Himalaya isn’t even officially over yet and already we’re turning our attention towards the winter. The harshest season of all requires a tough, determined team on pretty much any mountain, but when it comes to climbing the last 8000-meter peak to be summited in winter, it demands a higher level of focus and the ability to endure plenty of suffering.
ExWeb is reporting that a team of all-star climbers from Eastern Europe are preparing to travel to Pakistan in December to make an attempt on the first winter ascent of K2. The squad will be led by Vassily Pivtsov from Kazakhstan who has summited all 14 of the 8000-meter peaks. He’ll be joined by fellow Kazakhs Vitaly Akimov and Ildar Gabbasov, as well as Russians Roman Abildaev, Vitaly Akimov and Eugeny Glazynov of Russia, and Mikhail Danichkin from Kyrgyzstan.
The group is filled with veteran climbers who have not only spent a lot of time on big mountains all over the world, but have endured some cold winter climbs too. They’ll need all of that experience if they want to summit the world’s second tallest peak in winter, as conditions are notoriously bad on K2 during that time of year. Climbers who have ventured to the mountain during the coldest months have experienced prolonged periods of weather during which temperatures drop to -40ºF/C, with high winds and heavy snow making it difficult to launch a summit bid or making any meaningful progress at all.
The team’s biggest challenge at the moment may not be the mountain however. In a press release announcing their intentions to climb K2 it is also noted that they are still seeking sponsorship to defray some of the costs. It is likely they will secure the funding, but it could mean they will have to scrub the attempt before even leaving for Pakistan.
ExWeb also indicates that there are rumors that Spanish climber Alex Txikon will forego another winter attempt without oxygen on Everest to give K2 a try instead. If that’s the case, we could see two teams in Base Camp this winter. Txikon has had plenty of experience the last two seasons on the world’s highest peak in winter as well, which should translate nicely to K2, even though the climbing is much more technical on the Pakistani peak.
Looking beyond 2019, we already know that the Poles intend to return during the winter of 2020 to have another go at the first ascent, that is if no one else has cracked the mountain first. This is one of the last great prizes in all of mountaineering, and it seems that there are a number of alpinists who are getting serious about solving it.
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