8000er winter expeditions: Already or not yet in base camp

Denis Urubko at Broad Peak

The year tips over into the next. It’s high time to take another quick look at the 8000er winter expeditions that will keep us on our toes in early 2020. The Kazakh-born Denis Urubko, now a Russian with a Polish passport (or a Pole with a Russian one), the Canadian Don Bowie and the Finnish Lotta Hintsa have set up their base camp at the foot of Broad Peak. All three fought with diseases during the trekking over the Baltoro Glacier and had to swallow antibiotics. But apparently they have the worst behind them. Denis and Lotta set up a first material depot at 5,100 meters. “We’re trying to get our last member Don Bowie into fighting condition,” Lotta wrote yesterday on Instagram. “Today was the first day my lungs felt clear, and I should be ready to climb in a few days,” Don let us know last Saturday.

The Italian duo Tamara Lunger and Simone Moro should have reached the base camp at the feet of the Gasherbrum group today. Yesterday they reported from Concordia Square, the penultimate stop on their Baltoro trek. They have set their sights on the winter ascent of Gasherbrum I and if possible also Gasherbrum II.

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8000er winter expeditions run up

Broad Peak (with the shadow of K2)

The time for differences of opinion is over – at least as far as winter ascents in the northern half of the world are concerned. This Sunday marked the beginning of the two months in which the meteorological winter (1 December to 29 February) and the calendar winter (22 December to 31 March) overlap. Should a summit success be achieved by the end of February, it will be noted everywhere and by everyone as a winter ascent. At a later date, there are some (few) like Denis Urubko who complain. For the native Kazakh, who meanwhile has a Russian and a Polish passport, the climate is decisive, not the calendar. In March, he argues, the temperature and the conditions mean less winter than in December: “In this context the ‘astronomical’ year is only naked abstraction which doesn’t have a real embodiment for terrestrial conditions.“

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Runway Everest

The Nepalese models are determined by casting

Once again, Mount Everest will be used for an entry in the “Guinness Book of Records”. If everything goes as planned, the “Highest Altitude Fashion Runway“ will be held on 25 January on the 5,643-meter-high Kala Patthar, a popular trekking peak opposite Everest.

During the “Mount Everest Fashion Runway” 15 female and male models from all over the world, five of them from Nepal, will present the winter collection of a local fashion label. In order to prevent the models from suffering from high altitude sickness, they are to trek through the Khumbu region with expert guidance in order to acclimatize properly. “The team of Sherpas who shall lead the way are all locals. They know every nook and cranny of the Khumbu region,“ said Dawa Steven Sherpa, head of the expedition and trekking operator “Asian Trekking”, who was among those who presented the project in Kathmandu. The “Mount Everest Fashion Runway” is one of those activities from which the Nepalese government hopes for positive headlines worldwide as part of its PR campaign “Visit Nepal 2020“.

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Alpinism is Intangible Cultural Heritage

The Reintalanger hut near the highest German mountain Zugspitze

In the middle of the night in the dormitory of an alpine hut. I lie awake, snoring around me, mountaineers and hikers smelling for sweat and beer, ramming their elbows into my back from time to time while I try to sleep. So far I have asked myself in this situation: What am I actually doing here? Now I know: I practice intangible cultural heritage. Since yesterday, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has recognized alpinism as “Intangible Cultural Heritage” – just like playing the harp in Ireland or driving down cattle from mountain pastures in fall in the Alps and the Mediterranean region.

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How many 8000er winter expeditions are left?

Mingma on the summit of K2 (in 2017)

The meteorological winter has begun, the calendrical is just around the corner. And yet it is still not quite clear how many eight-thousander winter expeditions will really take place in this cold season. The expedition announced in September by Mingma Gyalje Sherpa (Nepal), John Snorri Sigurjonsson (Iceland) and Gao Li (China) to K2, the only eight-thousander not yet summited in winter, is on the brink due to financial problems. “We have raised money from our pocket but calculating everything, we found it’s beyond our budget,” Mingma writes on Facebook. “As this is winter climb, there are huge hidden cost.” The 33-year-old, who has already scaled K2 twice in summer, has started a crowdfunding campaign (click here) to raise the obviously still missing sum of 75,000 US dollars.

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Lhakpa Gyaltsen Sherpa: Life and survival on Everest

Lhakpa Gyaltsen Sherpa in front of his lodge in Thame

The village of Thame in the Khumbu region has already seen many Sherpas who achieved fame on Mount Everest. So first ascender Tenzing Norgay grew up there. The legendary Apa Sherpa, who reached the summit of Everest 21 times between 1990 and 2011, was also born in Thame. And Kami Rita Sherpa, with 24 ascents the current record holder, comes from there too. So it’s hardly surprising that the first lodge at the entrance to Thame is called “Third Pole Summiter Lodge”. But it is not named after one of the famous Sherpas mentioned above. In fact, the name indicates that the owner of the lodge also stood on the highest point on earth, the “Third Pole”. “Since 2010 I have tried ten times to reach the summit, eight times I was on the top, twice via the Tibetan north side”, Lhakpa Gyaltsen Sherpa tells me when we stay overnight in his lodge in November. He was a monk for six years before his older brother persuaded him to enter the Everest business too.

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