Winter Climbs 2019: It’s Over on Manaslu, Teams Struggle on K2, Nanga Parbat

While we were away at Outdoor Retailer last week, a lot changed in regards to the winter mountaineering expeditions we’ve been following so far this year. In fact, when I left for Denver there were three teams struggling against Mother Nature and now we’re down to just two. Worse yet, those remaining teams have seen their numbers depleted, which doesn’t bode well for their chances moving forward.

We’ll start on Manaslu, where Simone Moro and Pemba Gelje Sherpa have pulled the plug on their expedition. The team saw so much snow fall on the mountain that they ended up stuck in Base Camp for days on end, waiting out the storm. Eventually, they decided the risk of avalanche was becoming too great, as more than six feet (2 meters) of fresh powder fell on the mountain. With more in the forecast, and supplies starting to run low, they elected to leave the mountain and head home. They arrived in Kathmandu over the weekend, officially ending their climb.

Meanwhile, things haven’t gone much better on Nanga Parbat, where the team now finds itself down two climbers. Daniele Nardi and Tom Ballard remain, but their two Pakistani teammates, Rahmat Ullah Baig and Karim Haiat have left the expedition after their tents and gear in Camp 2 were buried and lost under heavy snow. This reduces the chances of success, as now Daniele and Tom are left to do the bulk of the work themselves, but they remain on the mountain and continue to climb. Last week, they went up to Camp 3 and found a similar situation there, with their tents and equipment buried under the snow as well. They spent some time acclimatizing while rebuilding the camp, before descending back to BC.

Finally, things on K2 aren’t going much better. Last week, six members of the team were struck by falling rocks while descending from C2 to C1, sending three of them back to Skardu to be treated by injuries. Later, another member of the international squad departed due to a persistent, and worsening, respiratory issue, so now the once strong team is starting to see its numbers depleted. Still, they persist onwards and have now reached Camp 2 at 6800 meters (22,309 ft). At the moment however, they are back in Base Camp waiting out the weather, as the snow continues to fall and high winds hold them place.

Essentially, those are the major updates from the past week. One team has abandoned its attempt at a winter ascent, while the other two remain, although attrition is certainly taking its toll. There is still plenty of time for these remaining expeditions to find success, but as usual it isn’t going to be easy. Whether or not there will be a summit of an 8000-meter peak this year remains to be seen, but at the moment the chances seem increasingly smaller.

Kraig Becker

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