For the past few years we’ve followed Alex Txikon’s attempts to make a winter ascent of Everest without the use of bottled oxygen, with the Spanish mountaineer proving his winter climbing chops even without reaching the summit. But this year, Txikon has elected to go elsewhere for his cold weather fix, choosing instead to make an attempt on the only remaining 8000-meter peak that hasn’t been climbed in winter –– K2.
Txikon is preparing to travel to Pakistan in early January to begin his expedition. He’ll be joined by climbing partner Felix Criado from Galicia, Spain, as well as eight very strong Sherpas. That group includes Nuri Sherpa, Chhepal Sherpa, Geljen Sherpa, Hallung Sherpa and Pasang Sherpa.
The team has not announced which route they’ll be using just yet, but they have indicated one way that they’ll be taking a different approach to the climb. Rather than staying in four-season tents as most mountaineering teams do they’ll instead build igloos to serve as their shelters. This is a bit of a novel approach, but snow is a good insulator and should prove very sturdy for this task.
Txikon and company won’t be alone in Base Camp of course, as we already know that an all-star team of Russian, Kazakh, and Kyrgyzstan climbers will be attempting K2 this winter as well. Both groups are hoping to be in Islamabad by January 2, giving them time at home with their families for the holidays before setting off to the Karakoram.
On these recent winter expeditions there has been a lot of debate over exactly when winter begins and ends. I’ve always taken the seasonal tact, with it starting on December 21 and ending on March 20, but that isn’t necessarily the case depending on where you live and the traditions of that region. Alan Arnette, reporting on these winter climbs, does a good job of breaking it down in a recent blog post. Needless to say, there are a lot of different opinions on the subject, which could have an impact on whether or not these climbers succeed and if it will be recognized by others.
We’ll obviously be keeping a close eye on these two expeditions over the coming weeks. For now, they are in final preparation and planning mode as they get set to leave for Pakistan sometime around the start of 2019. Until then, we’ll just have to wait and watch for updates, as it is about to be another very busy season on the world’s second highest peak.
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