Simone Moro and Alex Txikon: Winter expedition to Manaslu

Simone Moro (r.) and Alex Txikon (l.) in Lhukla in Nepal in 2019

As if Simone Moro had read my thoughts. These days I really wondered what the 53-year-old Italian and the 38-year-old Spaniard Alex Txikon, both proven winter climbing specialists, would be doing in the coming months. Would they, like many others, be drawn to K2, the only eight-thousander never scaled in winter?

Now Simone has let the cat out of the bag in an interview with the Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport: He and Alex will set off together for a winter expedition on Manaslu at the end of the year. Third in the group, according to Moro, will be Txicon’s friend Inaki Alvarez. In 2015 (with Tamara Lunger) and in 2019 (with Pemba Gyalje Sherpa) Simone had to abandon his winter attempts at the 8,163-meter-high Manaslu due to huge snow masses on the mountain.

“K2 base camp crowded”

The eight-thousander Manaslu in Nepal and the Pinnacle East (r.)

He did not want to take part in the race for the first winter ascent of K2 – although he had been asked, Simone said. “It looks like there will be four expeditions: The base camp will be crowded.” Especially the Sherpas there, who have not yet succeeded in a winter first ascent of an eight-thousander, should be highly motivated, says Moro:  “I wish them success, so that they will be able to open a new era: that of walls or cleaner climbing style. For example, a real alpine style winter climb, that is still missing.”

Alpine style or not?

Elisabeth Revol (l.) and Tomek Mackiewicz in 2016

Resistance to this statement is likely to arise. Many people consider the second winter ascent of Nanga Parbat at the end of January 2018 by the Frenchwoman Elisabeth Revol and the Pole Tomek Mackiewicz as an alpine style ascent. Their climb ended in a drama: only Revol could be rescued, Mackiewicz died – snow-blind and suffering from severe high altitude sickness – in an ice cave above 7,200 meters.

In the American Alpine Journal, Lindsay Griffin described the style during their ascent via the Northwest Face as “very lightweight style”. On their first advance in early January, Elisabeth and Tomek had left their tent and a shovel at Camp 2 at 6,600 meters. Purists might see this as a violation of alpine style, since this style does not only mean to do it without bottled oxygen, fixed ropes and porters, but also to avoid high camps and material depots.

Recently failed winter attempts

Simone Moro is in the history books of alpinism with four first winter ascents of 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.

Tamara Lunger (l.) and Simone Moro at Gasherbrum I at the beginning of 2020

Last winter Simone and Tamara returned empty-handed from their attempt to climb Gasherbrum I and II – but still alive: Moro had fallen into a crevasse, Lunger had been able to break the fall with the rope and rescue her teammate. Last winter Alex Txikon had tried in vain for the third time to scale Mount Everest in the cold season without bottled oxygen.

Update 1 December : Moro and Txikon not only want to scale Manaslu, but also the nearby 7992-meter-high Pinnacle East – to send, as Simone says, “a strong message that the future of high altitude mountaineering, even in winter, will inevitably be on the seven-thousanders”. The two Poles Jerzy Kukuczka and Artur Hajzer succeeded in this spectacular traverse for the first time in November 1986.

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