Winter Climbs 2020: Summits on Ama Dablam, Progress on K2

The 2020 winter climbing season has seen its first summit(Summits on Ama Dablam) as Spanish alpinist Alex Txikon has successfully reached the top of Ama Dablam in Nepal. Alex, along with Jonatan García, Pasang Sherpa, Cheppal Sherpa and Kalden Sherpa, made the ascent on Saturday amidst high winds, deep snow, and cold conditions.

The group stood on the summit around 10:15 AM local time, and all have since descended safely to Base Camp to prepare for the next phase of the expedition—a winter ascent of Everest without oxygen.

The team set off for the summit of Ama Dablam late last week, but upon reaching Advanced Base Camp they found that winds had swept away several tents and important pieces of gear. This forced the group to stagger their ascent, with three smaller squads at various points on the mountain. This proved successful, as everyone has been able to get up and down the mountain safely just has poor weather is scheduled to return today.

The Ama Dablam climb was used as an acclimatization ascent prior to heading to Mt. Everest. The team is likely set to begin the transfer to EBC this week as they edge ever closer to their real goal.

This is Txikon’s third attempt in four years to summit Everest without oxygen during the winter and he’s hoping to arrive on the mountain better acclimated and ready to take advantage of any weather window that comes his way. It should take several days for the group to relocate to Everest Base Camp, but look for further updates from that location later in the week.

Speaking of Everest, the latest update from German climber Jost Kobusch is that he is back in Base Camp on that mountain after making a push up to Lho La pass at the end of last week. Heavy snow is making things tough there right now, with 100 km (62 mph) winds blasting the area.

With conditions deteriorating, Kobusch decided to descend back to his camp to wait for better weather, but as he headed back down he discovered part of the route had collapsed, making things treacherous. In a Facebook post he says that it was incredibly demanding to get back to BC. So much so that it has taken him four days to recover. Having done so, he’s simply waiting out the storm before going back up.

Jumping over to Pakistan, the K2 winter team has gotten settled into Base Camp and have started shuttling gear up the mountain. They’ve elected to attempt the Abruzzi Spur route after spending a few days scouting the conditions there. To that end, they’ve decided to skip establishing ABC for now, as the fear is that high winds will just destroy any gear that is left there. The group has begun installing the fixed ropes up the route and has even cached gear at 5600 meters (18,372 ft) as they start their long, slow acclimatization process too. Right now, they are all in Base Camp waiting out poor weather.

Over on Broad Peak, the team of Denis Urubko, Don Bowie, and Lotta Hintsa are also in BC waiting for another opportunity to go up. Last week, there was some talk about a potential summit push, but after reaching 7000 meters (22,965 ft) the trio of climbers decided that a bit more acclimatization might be needed. Now, they’re getting ready to have a go at the summit, they’re just waiting for conditions to improve first. Once they’ve wrapped up their business on BP, the team may travel to K2 to have a go at that mountain as well.

That’s the latest from the big winter expeditions taking place right now. Stand by for further updates soon.

Kraig Becker