8000er winter expeditions: Between flight and race

Masses of snow on Manaslu

Winter expeditions to eight-thousanders are not a walk in the park. This winter proves that once again. As reported, Manaslu in Nepal has already put the Italian Simone Moro and his Nepalese climbing partner Pemba Gyalje Sherpa to rout. According to Simone, fresh snow in the base camp piled up to six meters. The danger of avalanches was correspondingly high. Time to disappear: “Sometimes giving up is an essential ingredient for future success,” Moro wrote on Facebook. “With this decision I want to honor the nickname ‘winter maestro’ I have been given.” Having scaled Shishapangma, Makalu, Gasherbrum II and Nanga Parbat in the cold season, the 51-year-old had succeeded first winter ascents on four of the 14 eight-thousanders. Today is the eighth anniversary of Simone’s success on G II in the Karakoram.

“I don’t want to die on this mountain”

Make two out of four: Baig, Hayat, Ballard, Nardi (from l. to r.)

Not only on Manaslu, but also on Nanga Parbat there was heavy storm and snowfall. The Italian Daniele Nardi and the Brit Tom Ballard lost two tents and equipment with a total value of about 10.000 euros, which they had deposited on the Mummery Rib before. Even more importantly, they are now on their own. Their two Pakistani teammates Rahmat Ullah Baig and Karim Hayat have left the expedition. Rahmat suffered from a severe sore throat. Karim estimated the avalanche danger to be too high. “When Tom and I were in Camp 2, Karim contacted us from Base Camp. He saw avalanches and begged us to come down immediately. He told me clearly that he would not climb the mountain anymore,” Daniele Nardi told the Italian internet portal iene.mediaset.it. “I do not want to die on this mountain,” wrote Karim from Nanga Parbat Base Camp.

Nardi and Ballard do not want to give up yet. “We’ve lost a lot of critical equipment involuntarily and two good friends voluntarily,” Tom wrote on Facebook. “However, we are more determined than ever. Our quest continues.” They both want to reach the summit of Nanga Parbat via the never completely climbed Mummery Rib in the Diamir Face.

Two parallel fixed ropes

On K2, the only one of the 14 eight-thousanders  that has never been scaled in winter so far, the extreme conditions also take their toll. The two Poles Waldemar Kowalewski and Marek Klonowski from the team of the Spaniard Alex Txikon were – as reported – flown out of the base camp. Kowalewski had been hit by a stone or chunk of ice on his collarbone during the descent, Klonowski suffered from heart problems. The Kyrgyz Mikhail Danichkin from the international team led by the Kazakh Vassiliy Pivtsov has health problems too. Mikhail suffers from a severe cough, but takes antibiotics and hopes to be fit again before his team’s next ascent.

One track, two fixed ropes

The climbers from Russia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan have secured the normal route over the Southeast Ridge up to an altitude of 6,800 meters with fixed ropes. The pictures they published on Facebook show two obviously new fixed ropes running parallel to each other, about one meter apart. That doesn’t look like cooperation, but rather like Pivtsov’s and Txikon’s’teams, climbing on the same route, want nothing to do with each other. Does it even end up as a race? As if K2 wasn’t dangerous enough …

Update February 3: Alex Txikon’s team has responded to my question why the two teams on K2 do not work together and only use one fixed rope together to save time and power: “From C1 to C2 there is only one route equipped with new ropes, Alex’s. They have been equipping that way. The other ropes are old ones.”