Winter Climbs 2019: Sleeping in Igloos on K2

Sleeping in Igloos

Now that Lonnie Dupre has canceled his attempt to climb Mt. Hunter in Alaska, we’re essentially down to three major expeditions that we’ll be following in the weeks ahead. Those expeditions include the international squad on K2, as well as alpine style ascents on both Nanga Parbat and Manaslu. All three teams are now hard at work fixing ropes and establishing camps, but as always it is Mother Nature who ultimately dictates the terms of the climb.

The joint team of international climbers from Spain, Poland, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan arrived in Base Camp on K2 late last week. Once there, they wasted little time getting their affairs in order, establishing both BC and ABC in relatively short order.

They’ve also fixed ropes up to Camp 1 at 5900 meters (19,356 ft) and started to press on to C2 before hurricane force winds moved in and forced them back down. As of now, the lines have been installed up to 6300 meters (20,669 ft).

Back in BC the team will rest up and wait out the weather. But rather than relaxing and sleeping in a tent, some members of the group have elected to build an igloo instead. In fact, Spanish climber Alex Txikon has indicated that he much prefers sleeping inside the igloo and has gotten his best night’s sleep ever on a winter expedition doing so.

The igloo is not only warmer, but it is much quieter too, cutting down on wind noise significantly. Perhaps this will allow the climbers to stay more well rested and comfortable throughout the expedition, which could pay off should they ever get the chance to make an attempt on the summit.

Speaking of poor weather conditions, Italian alpinist Simone Moro has checked in from Manaslu, where he posted an update on his progress. Simone says that heavy snow is now falling on the mountain and is expected to continue to do so until January 29. This is likely to impede their progress significantly while he and his team wait for the weather to improve.

Avalanche danger is a real possibility and blowing snow makes it difficult to climb. Prior to the storm arriving on the mountain however, Moro and his partner Pemba Gelje Sherpa had climbed up nearly to Camp 2, where they spent the night as part of their acclimatization. They were stopped just short of C2 however due to crevasses along their route that were difficult to spot. Now, they’re back in BC waiting for a window to go back up.

Finally,  Daniele Nardi, Tom Ballard, Rahmat Ullah Baig and Karim Haiat continue their attempt at a winter ascent of Nanga Parbat. The team had a close call at Camp 3 when one of their tents was buried in snow in the middle of the night.

Thankfully, they were all able to get out safely and dig out their position, but with conditions deteriorating they elected to descend back to BC for some rest. In a few days, they’ll head back up but for now they wait out the weather and regain some strength. As Ballard posted in a Facebook update: “Well, what did you expect? It is winter on the ninth highest peak in the world. No picnic.”

That about sums it up for all of the winter warriors at the moment. More to come soon.

Kraig Becker