Winter Climbs 2019: K2, Nanga Parbat, Mt. Hunter and Others on the Hit List

Today is December 21, the first official day of winter in the Northern Hemisphere –– at least by most people’s reckoning. That means it’s time for the winter climbing season to get underway as expedition teams are now gearing up for some significant challenges in the weeks ahead. As the rest of prepare for winter in our own way, not to mention get ready for the holidays, some of the world’s best mountaineers are putting the finishing touches on their expedition planning and logistics.

K2 will certainly be one of the main points of interest again this winter with two teams targeting the world’s second highest peak. As the only 8000-meter mountain that is yet to be climbed in winter, it has seen regular traffic during its coldest and snowiest months in recent years. This year, K2 will welcome Spanish mountaineer Alex Txikon, who will be climbing with Felix Criado and perhaps a host of others. ExWeb is reporting that Polish climbers Paweł Dunaj and Marek Klonowski may be joining the team as well, which could potentially balloon in size to as many as ten members. That’s a far cry from when this expedition was first announced, but does give Txikon and company a better chance at success for sure. Alex and his teammates are set to meet in Islamabad shortly after the New Year, arriving in Base Camp soon thereafter.

They won’t be alone in BC for long, as an all-star team of climbers from Russia, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan are gearing up to arrive at about the same time. They’ll be led by none other than Vassily Pivtsov, although the entire team is very strong and experienced. It is unclear which route the team will take to the summit, but ExWeb has indicated they could take the American route used by Jim Whittaker and company back in 1978. That’s no small task as it is a technical climb under the best of conditions and in winter it would be even more grueling.

The Karakoram will see another regular visitor once again this winter as Italian climber Daniele Nardi is returning to have another go at a winter ascent of Nanga Parbat. This will be his fight attempt at the summit, which has eluded him thus far. He’ll bring British climber Tom Ballard along for the ride as the duo looks to go fast and light, and in alpine style, to the top of this incredibly difficult mountain. Nanga was the second to last 8000-meter peak conquered in winter, leaving K2 to stand alone.

As mentioned a few days back, Lonnie Dupre is heading to Alaska for another winter solo expedition. This time, he’ll attempt Mt. Hunter, a remote and incredibly challenging peak that is known for its cold conditions and heavy snow. Dupre gave Hunter a go a few years back but was turned away due to the poor conditions. He expect that it will take him roughly 19 days to make his ascent of the 14,573-foot (4441 meter) mountain. He will set out for Alaska on January 7.

Finally, while it isn’t winter in the Southern Hemisphere there are still some impressive climbs taking place down in Patagonia. ExWeb reports that Denis Urubko has forgone another attempt at K2 after his controversial solo-bid last year, to instead put up a new route on Cerro Solo instead. Climbing with María “Pipi” Cardell, Urubko led the way up the rock spire along a variation near the top. This is just a warm-up climb however as they are really hoping to complete a new line on Cerro Torre in the days ahead.

As if that wasn’t impressive enough, Hervè Barmasse is currently on the Northwest Face of Cerro Pergorgio where he is attempting a new route with Mauricio Giordani, Mirco Grasso and Francesco Favilli. They’ve made the 22 km (13 mile) hike to their Base Camp and will are now preparing to begin the climb itself.

These are some of the expeditions we’ll be keeping a close eye on in the days and weeks ahead as the winter begins to unfold. Each should be fascinating to watch in their own way.

Kraig Becker