The winter climbing season is over at long last. No, we really mean it this time. With less than a week to go before the season officially ends, the last major expedition has called it quits, bringing an end to a busy and interesting few months in winter climbing, even if there wasn’t much in the way of success.
Over the past couple of weeks we’ve been following Lonnie Dupre and his team as they made a winter attempt on Mt. Hunter in Alaska. The 14,573-foot (4442 meter) mountain is located near Denali, and while it isn’t nearly as high as that peak, Hunter is considered to be more difficult and technical. This is especially true in the winter, when cold conditions, high winds, and heavy snow make things even more challenging. Dupre and company did launch a summit push early last week, but stalled out around 11,000 feet (3352 meters) after running into a wall that was simply too long and difficult to climb while exposed to extreme conditions.
With one team member already suffering from frostbite, the group elected to descend and potentially search for another way up. But after turning back and surveying the mountain a little further, they instead decided to simply call it quits and return to Base Camp instead. On Friday, they called for an airplane to come pick them up and fly them back to Talkeetna, which is where they currently are as they prepare to head home.
In his final dispatch from the expedition, Dupre noted that after making several attempts on Hunter, he is now ready to not just pull the plug on this particular expeditions, but all future winter attempts as well. He has deemed the mountain too dangerous to climb during the colder months of the year and moving forward he will look for other winter climbing challenges to undertake instead. He’ll have his hands full in 2021 for instance, when he plans to cross Greenland by dogsled.
With Dupre and his team now officially done for the year, this drops the curtain on the winter climbing season for good. There were a lot of ambitious plans for the past few months, including attempts on Everest without oxygen, a traverse of Gasherbrum I and II, and of course the first winter ascent of K2. But none of those expeditions panned out and there were exactly zero successful summits on the big peaks this winter. That is a clear indication of just how difficult it is to climb during this time of year.
With the spring climbing season in the Himalaya officially cancelled, we’ll now have to patiently wait for summer in the Karakoram and see if it continues as usual. It’s going to be a long few months to be sure.
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