Winter Climbs 2020: Who’s Headed to the Big Mountains This Winter?

As of today, we’re officially 11 days into winter here in the Northern Hemisphere, or 10 days from its start depending on whether or not you follow the calendar or the astronomical definition of the seasons.

That means that the launch of the 2019/2020 winter climbing season is nearly upon us (or already started!), with some amazing expeditions about to get underway very soon. As the alpinists prepare to depart for their respective mountains, this a rundown of the teams we’ll be watching closely in the weeks ahead.

K2 – Mingma Gyalje Sherpa, John Snorri Sigurjonsson, and Gao Li
One of two teams with permits for K2 this season, this three-man team is the only one that is dedicated to the only 8000-meter peak yet to be climbed in winter. The team has been struggling with raising funds for their climb, but I’ve heard from the operator in Pakistan that will provide support while they’re on the mountain that they’re still planning to go.

The start of climb has been postponed into January however while they look for more sponsorship dollars and prepare for the expedition. To that end, they group has set up a GoFundMe page to collect donations, which hasn’t been altogether successful so far.

That’s an auspicious start for such an ambitious undertaking, but they are determined to get this adventure off the ground.  Mingma G has climbed K2 twice in the past and is familiar with the mountain. His companions have also notched a number of 8000-meter peaks as well and all three have climbed together in the past. Hopefully they’ll be on their way to K2 Base Camp in the very near future.

Broad Peak and K2: Denis Urubko and Don Bowie
The other team that might take a crack at K2 this winter is Denis Urubko and Don Bowie. They’re focusing on Broad Peak first and foremost however, and that mountain remains their primary goal.

Urubko, who has spent time on K2 in winter as recently as 2017, says that if there is time and they are feeling up to it, they’ll give K2 a go once they’re done with BP. In other words, don’t hold your breath on these two giving it a real go, as summiting two 8000-meter peaks in winter is an extremely tall order.

Particularly, when one of those has never been climbed before. Still, Urubko and Bowie are two of the strongest climbers in the world, so don’t count them out either.

Everest: Alex Txikon No-Os Attempt
As reported yesterday, Alex Txikon is headed back to Everest this winter to make his third attempt on the mountain during that season. What set his attempt apart from all of the others is that he’ll try to summit once again without the use fo bottled oxygen.

The Spanish climber will reportedly first head to the South Shetland Islands for a warm-up climb in the Antarctic before traveling to Nepal in early January. Once there, he and his team will attempt a summit of Ama Dablam as a way to acclimate and prepare for Everest, only traveling to Base Camp once they are full ready.

Everest: Jost Kobusch Solo
German climber Jost Kobusch is proceeding with his plans to attempt Everest solo during the winter. He’s actually been in Nepal for most of the fall, climbing lesser peaks in preparation. That means he should be well acclimated already and could be just waiting for the astronomical start of winter before launching his expedition.

His goal is to summit the mountain completely on his own, without any assistance, or the use of fixed ropes. To make an already difficult proposition even more challenging, he’ll also climb without bottled oxygen while on the Hornbein Couloir route, a seldom attempted path to the summit that is extremely hard.

That said, Kobusch seems to be taking a realistic approach to this undertaking, saying he doesn’t expect to summit, but he’s going to give it his all and find the edges of what he is capable of.

Gasherbrum Traverse: Simone Moro and Tamara Lunger
Finally, we have Simone Moro and Tamara Lunger heading to the Gasherbrum Massif to attempt an ambitious project of their own. The duo, who have climbed extensively with one another over the past few years, will first attempt to climb GI. If successful, they’ll descend to the Gasherbrum La on the ridge that connects the two main peaks.

From there, they’ll then attempt to summit GII, before descending back to BC. Once again, summiting two 8000-meter peaks in winter will be difficult, and the Gasherbrum Traverse has only been done once in the past. That was way back in 1984 and during the summer, so this isn’t going to be a walk in the park by any stretch of the imagination.

Stay tuned for updates on all of these expeditions as they get underway in the days and weeks ahead.

Kraig Becker

2 thoughts on “Winter Climbs 2020: Who’s Headed to the Big Mountains This Winter?”

    • I haven’t seen an update on their status since last week when they were stopped in Skardu. My guess is that they haven’t been arrested, but may have been prevented from going to the mountain. There is no indication that they purchased a permit to attempt K2 either, which would be exceedingly unwise considering their experience level.

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