Winter Climbs 2020: High Winds Stall Progress on Everest

Perhaps the greatest attribute a high-altitude mountaineer can have is patience. This is especially true in the winter, when changing conditions can alter plans quickly. Yesterday, I posted an update on the status of the three remaining 8000-meter winter expeditions, two of which are on Everest. At the time, they were preparing to set off from Base Camp to reach their higher camps, but today we learn they have stayed firmly in place thanks to the unexpected arrival of high winds.

German climber Jost Kobusch had already left BC when yesterday’s blog post was published. He had hoped to climb high up the West Ridge in order to scout his potential route to the summit, although he knew that reaching the top of the mountain was unlikely due to strong winds. But, the forecast called for clear and stable conditions lower on the peak, which would give him time to scout the area. Unfortunately, those forecasts proved to be inaccurate, and Kobusch now finds himself tentbound in Camp 1, waiting for conditions to improve so he can continue up or go back down.

Alex Txikon shared an update on his team’s status not long after cancelling their planned ascent. They had hoped to scramble up to Camp 3 to spend a few nights and work on fixing ropes to C4 in the process. The high winds have forced them to stay in Base Camp however, postponing any plans to climb higher. Txikon says that the winds in BC exceeded 89 km/h (55 mph). That’s enough to flatten their tents and throw the campsite into disarray, something that is not unusual at the higher camps, but seldom happens in BC. For now, they’ll hold tight and wait for another weather window to arrive, although these kinds of unexpected delays are exactly why climbing an 8000-meter peak in winter are so difficult.

Finally, Denis Urubko is back in Base Camp on Broad Peak after hiking down to Concordia yesterday. No doubt, he had restless legs after spending a few days in camp alone. Now that his teammates have left, all Urubko can do is wait for favorable weather conditions to launch his final summit bid. The forecast says that could come early next week, but with the porters arriving on February 20 to break down the camp, he has a very narrow window indeed.

That’s all for today. I’ll keep posting updates as long as there are things to share. Heading into the weekend, things could get pretty quiet while all of the teams wait for better weather, but as quickly as things are changing right now, we may still see some action.

Kraig Becker