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.“
Across the Baltoro Glacier
According to Urubko’s interpretation, two of the 13 successes commonly noted as first winter ascents of eight-thousanders would have been “only” spring ascents: The Poles Adam Bielecki and Janusz Golab reached the summit of Gasherbrum I on 9 March 2012, the Poles Adam Bielecki, Artur Malek, Maciej Berbeka and Tomasz Kowalski the highest point of Broad Peak on 5 March 2013. On the descent the Polish quartet fell apart, 58-year-old Berbeka and 27-year-old Kowalski were first declared missing and later dead.
Urubko now wants to scale Broad Peak before the end of February and thus create what he sees as a “real” winter ascent. Together with his team partners Don Bowie from Canada and Lotta Hintsa, a former “Miss Finland”, Denis is on the trek across the Baltoro Glacier towards Broad Peak Base Camp.
As clean and light as possible
The Italian team Tamara Lunger and Simone Moro also arrived in Pakistan. The two have set their sights on the winter ascent of Gasherbrum I and, if possible, Gasherbrum II. For Moro it is already his 16th winter expedition. “We will not use helicopters, (bottled) oxygen, high altitude porters, and we will not share the effort with other expeditions,” Simone wrote on Facebook. “We’re going to make it in a style as clean and light as possible, knowing well that it could be done even better and more virtuoso.”
At Everest Base Camp
Meanwhile Jost Kobusch reached the Everest base camp. The 27-year-old German, who has set himself the goal of climbing the highest mountain on earth solo and without bottled oxygen, has acclimatized in Nepal without ruffle and exitement. In the past three months he has climbed four six-thousanders, most recently the 6,189-metre-high Island Peak, not far from Everest. “I feel fit, ready to go,” Jost wrote on Facebook. “Quite windy here. The route up to 7,200 meters looks very good, the conditions are better than expected – at least for now.“
The Spaniard Alex Txikon is preparing in Antarctica for his winter expedition on Everest. Afterwards the 38-year-old wants to climb the 6,812-metre-high Ama Dablam with his team before he will tackle Everest for the third time in winter.
In any case to K2
Mingma Gyalje Sherpa is also en route in the southern hemisphere. The Nepalese has been leading a commercial expedition to Aconcagua, the highest mountain in South America. He then plans to travel on to Pakistan, where he will try his hand at K2 with the Icelander John Snorri Sigurjonsson and the Chinese Gao Li. The financing of the project has not yet been arranged. But he will definitely set out for the second highest mountain on earth, Mingma told US mountain blogger Alan Arnette.