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.
Kobusch back in base camp
Jost Kobusch returned to base camp today safe and sound. “I have reached my goal“, the 27-year-old German wrote on Facebook yesterday. According to his words, he had planned to reach once more an altitude of 7,200 meters on his last ascent towards the West Shoulder. In the end he turned back at 7,360 meters. “(I)Could have even gone further, the weather seemed to be keeping up, but my intuition told me: stop – if you want to tackle the summit you should have camped at least at 7500m-8000m before and descended again,” Jost said. “This would not have been possible this winter and walking the long ridge did not convince me – especially since my sprained ligaments and stomach problems can significantly minimize the safety reserves and always cause surprises.”
Kobusch had set the bar very high: He wanted to ascend solo and without bottled oxygen via the rarely climbed West Ridge and through the Hornbein Couloir towards the summit at 8,850 meters. Already in the expedition’s run-up he had estimated his chance to reach the highest point as relatively low. “I want to gain a lot of experience under the conditions under which I will one day climb Everest in winter,” Jost told me before his departure for Nepal in mid-September. “Maybe that’s often misunderstood. People say: Jost will make the summit. But that’s not the way it’s meant to be. It’s a big lesson for me.”
He has learned his lesson. With impressive patience and tenacity, Kobusch has tried to put his ambitious plan into practice – despite the adverse weather and health problems. Several times he climbed up to the 6000-meter-high Lho La in order to explore the best route for him to climb up to the West Shoulder. Then he ventured further – not in the style of a gambler, but of a mountaineer who is willing to take risks, but tries hard to stay in control. Even if he didn’t break the 8,000-meter mark, which Jost had dreamed of in advance (“That would be a mega success”), his solo attempt off the normal route was exciting to follow and deserves respect. After all, this winter on Everest, no one reached higher than the lone fighter from Germany.
Update 28 February: Everyone is back safe and sound at base camp. Alex Txikon writes on Facebook: “It’s over now. We’re all fine… by miracle! If we would have continued, we would not have made it back alive. Nearly 1m snow in C1. 50cm on the way to C3. The entire Lhotse face was about to slide down upon us. Feeling lucky to be back.”