That Simone Moro and Alex Txikon celebrate Christmas at home is rather rare. This year is no exception. The 55-year-old Italian and the 41-year-old Spaniard, who always climb without bottled oxygen in their projects, are proven specialists for winter expeditions. Alex has been in Nepal for some time, and now Simone has also arrived in the Himalayan state. Both want to try for the third winter in a row to climb the 8,163-meter-high Manaslu in western Nepal.
In the past two winters, their attempts had failed due to large snow masses on the eighth highest mountain on earth. Moro fears déjà vu. “The weather here has been fantastic for the last two months,” Simone said after arriving in Kathmandu. “I’m worried about that because it’s repeating the script that until Christmas it’s beautiful and then when the mountaineering winter starts, the astronomical winter, the conditions change.”
Together on top of Nanga Parbat
For Simone, he says it is already his 22nd winter expedition. He is in the history books of alpinism with four first winter ascents on eight-thousanders: Shishapangma (in 2005), Makalu (in 2009), Gasherbrum II (in 2011) and Nanga Parbat (in 2016). He achieved the prestigious success on Nanga Parbat together with Txikon and the Pakistani Muhammad Ali Sadpara. The South Tyrolean Tamara Lunger had to turn back just below the summit.
Txikon also made the first winter ascent of the 6,069-meter-high, shapely Laila Peak in the Karakoram in 2013 (with his compatriot Jose Fernandez). Alex has had less success with his three winter attempts on Mount Everest (in 2017, 2018 and 2020) and K2 (in 2019).
Hoping for the “favorable star”
Moro has already cut his teeth on Manaslu a total of four times in winter: In 2015 (with Tamara Lunger) and in 2019 (with Pemba Gyalje Sherpa) and just in the past two winters. “I hope this time to have a favorable star and that at least we can play all the cards,” says Simone, “that it is not the high snow or avalanche danger that stops everything but possibly my inefficiency or inability.”
Of course, says Moro, he has set his sights on reaching the summit and not returning home empty-handed for the fifth time. But he would not “play the hero” for it.
Barmasse and Göttler: Alpine style on an eight-thousander
Txikon and Moro are acclimatizing for their Manaslu project in the Khumbu, the Everest region. David Göttler and Hervé Barmasse are doing the same. What exactly the 44-year-old German and the Italian, who celebrates his 45th birthday on Wednesday, have planned for this winter, the two have not yet announced.
At least Barmasse revealed in an interview with trekking.it that they want to try their hand at an eight-thousander in alpine style: “It’s just me, my adventure partner and my twelve-kilo backpack to tackle a winter ascent that no one has ever done in this way before. It’s a very ambitious goal, but one that’s close to my heart.”
Acclimatization phase on Cho Oyu
Meanwhile, on 8,188-meter-high Cho Oyu in the Khumbu, Gelje Sherpa and five other Nepalese climbers are en route with their two clients, eight-thousander collectors Kristin Harila of Norway and Adriana Brownlee of the United Kingdom – in traditional expedition style: with bottled oxygen, high camps and fixed ropes. As reported, this is Gelje’s third attempt in a year to open a route on the south side of the mountain in Nepal that is also suitable for commercial teams. The acclimatization of the team is underway, the ropes are already fixed up to an altitude of at least 6,500 meters (as of three days ago).
Update 21 December: According to Gelje Sherpa, the route is now secured with fixed ropes up to Camp 3 (at 7,300 meters). The team now wants to wait for better weather at base camp. Meteorologists expect strong winds in the summit zone of Cho Oyu at least until the end of next week, sometimes in hurricane force. “Looks like Christmas at BC,” writes Adrian Brownlee in her Instagram story.