Mount Everest remains unclimbed in this (meteorological) winter. After the German solo climber had abandoned his last attempt on Tuesday at 7,360 meters on the West Shoulder, the two teams on the normal route also turned back today at about 7,000 meters. “No way to get to Camp 3. 45 centimeter of fresh, unstable snow on the Lhotse Face have proven too dangerous”, Alex Txikon let us know. „We also had some close calls with avalanches yesterday . It’s frustrating, we’re strong and willing to go on, but conditions are unforgiving! We must go down.“ This means that after 2017 and 2018, the 38-year-old Spaniard’s third attempt to climb Everest in winter without bottled oxygen has failed too.
Also the four Sherpas of the “Breathless Winter Everest” team, who showed up at base camp only on Monday and planned a winter speed ascent of the highest mountain on earth, threw in the towel just below Camp 3. Expedition leader Tashi Lakpa Sherpa, like Txikon, pointed out the dangerous conditions in the Lhotse flank: too much unstable fresh snow, underneath blue ice.
Is it over? As Jost Kobusch’s GPS tracker showed today, he descended from the Everest West Shoulder to Lho La. On the 6,000-meter-high pass between Nepal and Tibet he had set up his Camp 1. Yesterday, Monday, the 27-year-old German climber had reached an altitude of about 7,300 meters, but had then climbed down again to his Camp 2 at about 6,800 meters.
Kobusch had set himself the extremely ambitious goal of climbing the highest mountain on earth solo and without bottled oxygen, via the rather rarely climbed West Ridge and the Hornbein Couloir in the North Face. Before his current try he had spoken of the “final attempt”. This was also in line with his announcement before the expedition to break down his tents on Everest by the end of the calendrical winter next Saturday at the latest.
Will the four-year-old Mateo Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo junior, aged nine, one day enchant the football world like their famous fathers? Quite possible. The two sons of the superstars Lionel Messi from Argentina and Cristiano Ronaldo from Portugal already showed a remarkable feeling for the ball as little children. But that they really follow in their fathers’ footsteps is by no means guaranteed.
Simon Messner, son of the legendary Reinhold Messner, didn’t even want to know anything about mountaineering. “The subject was too present in my family, too commonplace,” the 29-year-old explains on his website the astonishing fact that he started climbing only as a teenager. In addition, Simon was afraid of heights, which had to be overcome: “Don’t fall, then nothing can happen, was my motto. It has remained so to this day.”
Today Simon regularly goes into the mountains and also on expeditions: Last summer he achieved two first ascents of six-thousanders in Pakistan. Simon Messner actually studied molecular biology, but then switched “from the microworld of molecules back to the macroworld of mountains,” as he says. That doesn’t just include climbing. With his 75-year-old father Reinhold, Simon Messner also makes documentary films in and about the mountains.
Simon, do you currently see yourself more as an alpinist or as a filmmaker?
There can be no more than one summit attempt. Jost Kobusch and Alex Txikon agree on this. Both want to climb Mount Everest without bottled oxygen this winter, but in different styles and on different routes. The German solo climber Kobusch wants to do it via the West Ridge and then through the Hornbein Couloir in the North Face to the highest point at 8,850 meters, the Spaniard Txikon with three Sherpas via the Lhotse flank and the South Col.
Kobusch has again ascended to Lho La, a pass of about 6,000 meters on the border between Nepal and Tibet, at the foot of the West Ridge. Yesterday, he reported on Facebook in “light snowfall” from Camp 1. He has rejected all alternative routes, the 27-year-old announced, sounding not very optimistic: “I will make my last and final attempt on the heavily icy route I explored last time in a 17-hour push.“ Before, Jost had complained about new pains in his stressed left foot.
“(It) Is Enough!” That Denis Urubko with this statement on Monday did not only mean the failed winter expedition on Broad Peak, but also his eight-thousander career, was not really clear. But then it gradually seeped through the social networks: The 46-year-old says goodbye to expeditionary mountaineering after two decades. “I plan to stop risky mountaineering, in any mountains,” Denis confirmed yesterday to the Spanish website desnivel.com. “I want to walk on hills and sport climbing.” He will probably do the latter mainly with his partner, the Spanish climber Maria “Pipi” Cardell.
The Russian, who also has a Polish passport, has stood on the top of eight-thousanders 22 times, most recently in summer 2019, when he solo climbed a new route on Gasherbrum II.
“I am (back) in base camp”, Denis Urubko wrote today in a text message to his partner, the Spanish climber Maria “Pipi” Cardell”. “No summit, but (I) survived despite some incidents.” The Russian-born, who has a Polish passport too, left yesterday for his, as he had announced, last summit attempt on Broad Peak. The wind in the summit area was blowing at 70 to 80 kilometers per hour, Denis reported to Cardell. “An avalanche (made me) slide for 100 m, then I fell down with a broken fixed rope for 50 m – not into a crevasse fortunately. I fought despite everything. (It) is enough!”
The three remaining winter expeditions on the eight-thousanders Broad Peak and Mount Everest are entering a potentially decisive phase. At the 8,051-meter-high Broad Peak in the Karakoram in Pakistan, Denis Urubko announced yesterday via Facebook that he would be setting off for his last summit attempt this Sunday – solo and without bottled oxygen. He said he would try to climb to Camp 3 at about 7,000 meters in one go and then reach the summit on Monday. After returning to base camp he wants to finish the expedition. The weather forecast predicts sun and wind speeds between 30 and 40 kilometers per hour for the planned summit day.
No, climbers are not normal employees – even if a glance at the winter expeditions in the Himalayas and Karakoram might give this impression. The mountaineers returned to their base camps just in time for the weekend, but not just to put their feet up, but for other reasons. On Broad Peak, Denis Urubko and Don Bowie abandoned their summit attempt because the latter is ill. “We are in base camp. Today (the) weather is miracle for (the) summit, but I was not able to leave Don alone,” Denis let us know via Facebook. “He was very bad. Now he needs rest.” Yesterday Urubko had informed that the route is secured with fixed ropes up to an altitude of 7,500 meters: “We have two weeks more. I feel well and will wait (for) the (right) moment.”
The good weather window will be only open for a short time. But Denis Urubko and Don Bowie want to take the opportunity to climb “through the window” to the 8,051-meter-high summit of Broad Peak in the Karakoram. As Urubko announced on Facebook, the former Kazakh citizen, who now has a Polish and a Russian passport, and his Canadian teammate left base camp today. They climbed up to Camp 2 at about 6,400 meters in one go. Tomorrow the 46-year-old Denis and the 50-year-old Don plan to reach Camp 3 at 7,000 meters, on Friday the highest point.
Is the other one the perfect climbing partner? Yes, answer both the 41-year-old German high-altitude climber David Göttler and the 42-year-old Italian Hervé Barmasse. “We complement each other super well,” says David. “We train more or less the same way, we have almost the same fitness, we move as fast as is necessary on eight-thousanders,” says Hervé. “Sometimes we have discussions, but that’s quite normal.” In questions of mountaineering ethics, Barmasse is “sometimes even more blatant than I am”, says Göttler: “I accept fixed ropes here and there where it makes sense. He is more rigorous in this respect and says: We don’t do that.”
Fast, clean, without bottled oxygen
Therefore, Hervé reports, he did not accompany David to Everest. In spring 2019, Göttler had tried in vain to scale the highest mountain on earth without bottled oxygen – via the normal route secured with fixed ropes. “I think that for the next generation of the best alpinists, it is no longer just about reaching the summit of Everest or any other mountain, but about respecting the mountain, respecting our planet,” says Barmasse. “That’s why I want to climb clean, in Alpine style.” On the whole, he agrees with Göttler on this point: They want to be en route on the eight-thousanders fast, in a clean style, without breathing mask. This also applies to their next project.
Analogy of events: As it happened already on Gasherbrum I two weeks ago, Alex Txikon’s winter expedition on Mount Everest has now also suffered a fall into a crevasse, which fortunately ended relatively mildly. The Spaniard Jonatan Garcia was carrying latters to secure the route through the Khumbu Icefall when an ice bridge collapsed below him. Jonatan fell twelve meters deep into a crevasse. Alex Txikon managed to bring his companion back to the light. Garcia suffered rib injuries and was to be flown out by helicopter. This ist most probably the end of the expedition for him and Alex has lost an important companion. Last week, Txikon and Garcia had stood together on the summit of the 6,814 meter high Ama Dablam.
At 7,650 meters it was over. Denis Urubko finished the first summit attempt of the winter expedition on the 8,051-meter-high Broad Peak and turned back. “No ropes and a lot of crevasses,” the 46-year-old posted on Facebook. „(Too) Tired to break trail, too risky, not enough time, but good acclimatization. Now we are drinking tea in Camp 3, tomorrow base camp.” It almost sounded as if Denis had been en route all the time today with his expedition companions Don Bowie and Lotta Hintsa. But Urubko climbed up alone.