The 2020 winter climbing season is starting to unfold nicely. A number of teams are already on their target peaks for the season, with some making solid progress. Meanwhile, others are now preparing to travel to Base Camp as they start to ramp up their operations. With the middle of January now almost upon us, the season is already starting to rapidly slip away. Still, there is some time left to achieve big things during the coldest, darkest, and most demanding season of all.
Much of the action this winter is centered around Pakistan, where the K2 team lead by Mingma Gyalje Sherpa is now fully assembled. The squad gathered in Islamabad last week, then made their way out to Skardu to collect and organize their gear. Yesterday, the team — which includes Gao Li, Tomaz Rotar, John Snorri, Tamting Sherpa , Pasang Namgel Sherpa, and Kili Pempa Sherpa—drove to Askole where they had planned to begin their trek to K2 Base Camp today. After suffering through that long and challenging ride however, they have decided to stay an extra day in the village to rest up and recovery. The new plan is to set out for BC tomorrow, with the hopes of reaching their starting point sometime early next week.
Over on Broad Peak, Denis Urubko, Don Bowie, and Lotta Hintsa have benign BC for a couple of weeks now and are starting to make solid progress. The trio have begun shuttling gear up to Camp 1 and have worked to open the route to Camp 2, So far, they’ve been as high as 6150 meters (20,177 feet), which means there is still a long way to go. But, their bodies have begun to adapt to both the altitude and the cold, which is a major step towards success on any mountain in the winter.
Simone Moro and Tamara Lunger are making similar progress on Gasherbrum I, although they have run into a bit of a snag as they work to open their route to the summit too. The two winter climbing veterans have been working their way through a maze of seracs and crevasses, making slow but steady progress upward, at least until they came across a major crevasse too large to cross. They need to use a ladder to safely reach the other side, but fortunately they’ve found just the thing near an old military camp on the mountain. They’ll have to wait to put it into place however, as bad weather has descended upon GI for the first time since their arrival ten days ago. It has brought howling winds and very cold temperatures (-31ºC/-23ºF) with it. For the next few days it looks like they’ll be hunkered down in their tent.
Jumping over to Nepal, German solo climber Jost Kobusch has reached his first milestone by arriving at Lho La pass. That is the start of the West Ridge of Mt. Everest, which he hopes to climb without oxygen and completely on his own this winter. His most recent update indicates that he is starting his push up to Camp 1 at 6000 meters (19,685 feet) with clear skies, but incredibly cold temperatures currently settled over the area. High winds are in the forecast though, so things are about to get a lot worse.
Finally, Spaniard Alex Txikon has arrived in Nepal and received his climbing permits for Everest. He hopes to climb the world’s highest peak in winter and without oxygen too, although he’ll be tackling the standard route and has teammates along to assist. Before heading to EBC however, Txikon will first warm up with an ascent of Ama Dablam, which should make for a good acclimatization ascent before heading further up the Khumbu Valley to Everest itself.
That’s the latest news from the big winter climbs that are unfolding right now. Stay tuned for further updates soon.
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