Winter expeditions: Down – and over?

Sunrise on Mount Everest
Sunrise on Mount Everest (in fall 2019)

This Monday marks the end of the meteorological winter. All attempts to reach an eight-thousander summit in this cold season were unsuccessful. On Mount Everest, Jost Kobusch returned to the valley today after spending three days and nights at almost 6,500 meters.

“The weather forecast predicted higher speeds at the last minute, which would have made a climb too much of an unnecessary risk,” Jost writes on Facebook. “After all, the route remains technical. And believe me, it was definitely exciting enough to climb down the hard ice backwards and in the dark at high wind speeds.”

The 29-year-old German climber had already declared when setting out on his last ascent that he no longer saw a realistic chance of reaching the summit at 8,849 meters. In the best case, he could perhaps reach higher than during his first attempt two years ago, Jost had said. In 2020, he had reached the West Shoulder of Everest at just below 7,400 meters. But nothing came of it now, the strong wind did not abate. “It was really stormy and maybe a touch worse than I had hoped,” Kobusch summed up his expedition: “But at the end of the day, I learned a lot and am very grateful for the experience.”

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#ClimbersForPeace

I am depressed. The war in Ukraine 🇺🇦 lies on my soul like a heavy burden. I think of the people there who fear for their lives, of the killed, the injured, the displaced, of the suffering, the tears that are shed. In war, there are only losers. And I despair that there are still and always people who use war and violence to secure or enrich their personal power. They have never been in the right, and they never will be!

I have met climbers from all over the world. Very few were caught up in nationalistic thinking. Of course, there were some with an exaggerated ego. But even these usually felt like citizens of the world, open to people from other countries, cultures and languages. We are all united by our love for the mountains. Let us now raise our voices for the love of life! Against death and violence, for peace!

Jost Kobusch on Mount Everest: As high as possible – Waiting for summit chance on K2

Jost Kobusch as he set off
Jost Kobusch as he set off

It is the last ascent in his second solo winter attempt on Mount Everest. In view of the continuing strong winds, Jost Kobusch knows that – as two years ago – he will not reach the summit of the highest mountain on earth at 8,849 meters. He is aware that “the chance of reaching the summit is practically non-existent,” the 29-year-old German climber let it be known on social networks. “The only remaining hope is that I will get higher than last time, see more and gain experience. Maybe I’ll even beat my own record!”

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Gelje Sherpa’s team abandons summit attempt on Cho Oyu

Gelje Sherpa's team on ascent on Cho Oyu
Gelje Sherpa’s team on ascent on Cho Oyu

At 7,560 meters on the Southeast ridge of Cho Oyu was the end of the line. Due to announced gusts of up to 100 kilometers per hour in the upper zone of the eight-thousander, the ten-member Nepalese team led by Gelje Sherpa abandoned its summit attempt – “because the (weather) window was too short to get going,” as Ashok Rai, manager of the expedition, told the Internet portal “Everest Chronicle”: “There will be a second attempt once the weather improves.”

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Tough struggle for the winter expeditions on Everest, Cho Oyu and K2

Mount Everest
Mount Everest

What is still possible this winter for climbers on the eight-thousanders? After the expeditions on Nanga Parbat in Pakistan and on Manaslu ended unsuccessfully, only the attempts on K2 in the Karakoram in Pakistan and on the Himalayan giants Cho Oyu and Mount Everest in Nepal are still running.

Jost Kobusch currently has plenty of time to read during his solo attempt on Everest. “My favourite book at the moment: Positive Psychology for Dummies,” writes the 29-year-old German climber from Lobuche in the Everest Valley. “With the current conditions here, I really need this book!” In it, two English psychologists give tips on how to deal with difficult feelings and make your life happier and healthier.

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Winter expedition on Manaslu ended

Too much snow on Manaslu

Simone Moro is fed up. “The problem is that you can’t really go beyond Camp 1,” the 54-year-old Italian writes on social media, explaining why he is once again breaking camp on the 8,163-meter-high Manaslu in western Nepal. Behind Camp 1 at around 5,600 meters, the avalanche danger is too great “and the wind is a real problem,” writes Simone adding that more snowfall is predicted for the coming days. “Today, all together, with the Sherpas, the companions with whom we shared this experience, we looked reality in the face and decided to end it here.”

This is the fourth time Moro has returned empty-handed from a winter attempt on Manaslu, after 2015, 2019 and 2021. And as with his previous three attempts, the masses of snow on the mountain threw a spanner in the works. “I have spent exactly one year of my life here on Manaslu,” Simone sums up.

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Extreme ice melt on Mount Everest

Ice sample above Everest South Col (red arrow; yellow arrow shows location on the “Balcony” where a weather station was installed)

The ice high up on Mount Everest, the highest mountain on Earth, is also under attack. If climate change continues unabated, climbers could find a completely ice-free Everest South Col at around 8,000 meters in 2050. This is the conclusion reached by researchers from the University of Maine in the USA.

While the South Col Glacier (SCG) used to lie under a blanket of snow, the ice is now often exposed to solar radiation without protection, which could lead to “extremely rapid mass loss,” the scientists wrote: “At an estimated thinning rate approaching 2,000 mm (two meters) per year, even glaciers such as SCG that are above 8,000 m may disappear by mid-century.”

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Winter expeditions on Everest and Co.: Patience is needed

Suddenly aged? Jost Kobusch
Suddenly aged? Jost Kobusch

Jost Kobusch hasn’t lost his sense of humor yet. “And I’m still waiting for better weather…,” the 29-year-old German climber wrote on social media, posting a fake portrait showing him as an old man with a gray beard. For the past week and a half, Jost has been killing time in the village of Lobuche, located at about 5,000 meters in the Everest Valley. Snowfall and gale-force storms are currently making mountaineering impossible in the region around the world’s highest mountain.

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