Winter Climbs 2019: The Teams are on the Move Once Again

As weather conditions improve across the Karakoram, the climbing teams on Nanga Parbat and K2 have resumed their expeditions and are making plans for what comes next. Meanwhile, on Manaslu there is a brief break in the weather, although more snow is on the way, adding to the 6 meters (19 feet) that is already the ground.

As usual, we’ll start with an update on the large international team attempting the first winter ascent of K2. The mountain remains the only 8000-meter peak to be climbed in the coldest, harshest, and most demanding season of all, and so far it is living up to that reputation. After arriving in Base Camp back on January 17, the team went to work immediately and began fixing ropes up the mountain, reportedly reaching as high as 6300 meters (20,669 ft). Then, bad weather set in and they’ve spent the better part of last week confined to BC. Things have improved somewhat now, and Spanish climber Alex Txikon says the team has been exploring the east side of the mountain looking for the best route to use moving forward. According to Russian Climb however, the team shuttled gear and supplies up to Camp 2 over the weekend and is set to resume fixing ropes today.

Over on Nanga Parbat, conditions have improved enough to allow Daniele Nardi, Tom Ballard, Rahmat Ullah Baig and Karim Haiat to head back up to Camp 2 as well. Once there however, they discovered that one of their tents had gone missing, blown off the mountain by the passing blizzard. So far, all of their efforts to locate the tent have been for naught, as there is no sign of the missing shelter. The problem is, there was a lot of gear and equipment stored inside, so the search will continue. The weather is expected to remain good for the next few days, before more snow and wind is expected to move in.

Finally, on Manaslu Simone Moro checked in with Pemba Gelje Sherpa a few days back to report that the snow had finally stopped. The problem is, another storm arrived the following day, preventing them from making much progress. The route to their higher camps were already dangerous with crevasses and potential avalanche risks, but now it is even more so. No word on when they may resume their climb or if they’ll explore alternate routes. Prior to the arrival of the poor weather conditions they had reached Camp 2. Now, they mostly sit and wait.

That’s the current status of the major winter expeditions we’re watching this year. As usual, their progress is completely dictated by the weather, which could change in a matter of just an hour or two. Still, any progress is good progress and with a month and a half to go in the calendar winter, there is still time for them to find success.

Kraig Becker