Blank ice or deep snow – this is how the eight-thousanders are currently presenting themselves to climbers attempting them this winter. “Compared to last time, the conditions are much icier,” Jost Kobusch tells me.
Just over a week ago, he had climbed Mount Everest towards the West Shoulder, on the same route that had taken him to just below 7,400 meters during his first winter attempt two years ago. As he did then, this year Jost is again climbing solo and without bottled oxygen. “There wasn’t as much snowfall as last time. And the little snow didn’t stay on the ice, of course, but was immediately blown away.”
It will probably be a base camp weekend. Whether on Mount Everest and Manaslu in Nepal or on Nanga Parbat in Pakistan, meteorologists are expecting snowfall this weekend on all eight-thousanders where climbers are already staying in order to climb these mountains this winter.
Jost Kobusch is recovering – according to his GPS tracker – in the village of Lobuche at nearly 5,000 meters from his previous days’ climb towards the West Shoulder of Everest. The maximum altitude his tracker showed was 6,464 meters yesterday (Thursday) before he descended back into the Khumbu Glacier Valley via the Lho La, a 6000-meter pass between Nepal and Tibet.
The “naked mountain” – that’s Nanga Parbat translated – is still naked as far as successful winter ascents via the southeast-facing Rupal flank, the highest mountain wall in the world, are concerned. The only two winter summit successes so far on the 8,125-meter-high mountain in Pakistan have been via the northwest side, the Diamir flank: the first winter ascent in 2016 by Spaniard Alex Txikon, Italian Simone Moro and Pakistani Muhammad Ali “Sadpara” (South Tyrolean Tamara Lunger turned back 70 meters below the summit) and the second one by Frenchwoman Elisabeth Revol and Pole Tomek Mackiewicz (who died on the descent) in 2018.
This winter, top German climber David Göttler (43 years old) and Italian Hervé Barmasse (44) plan to climb Nanga Parbat via the Rupal side – in clean style, without fixed ropes and bottled oxygen. The American Mike Arnold (34), who accompanied the two to Pakistan, will “as planned soon travel back towards home,” as David writes me from the base camp at 3,500 meters. “Only Hervé and I will attempt the mountain.”
The base camp at the foot of Nanga Parbat is pitched. And when the German David Göttler, the Italian Hervé Barmasse and the American Mike Arnold look out of their tents, they see the Rupal Face of the eight-thousander Nanga Parbat – “an almost 4,500-meter-high wall of snow, ice and rock,” as Hervé said in an interview with the Italian sports newspaper La Gazetta dello Sport: “It is the highest wall in the world, and no one has ever managed to climb it in the coldest season.” By comparison, the Rupal Face is about 1,000 meters higher than the North Face of Mount Everest and two and a half times higher than the Eiger North Face.
“The mountain is still unclimbed for a reason,” Ralf Dujmovits told me before setting off for Pakistan with his wife Nancy Hansen. “Even the approach to the base of Biarchedi I is difficult.” The German-Canadian mountaineering couple is attempting the still unclimbed 6,810-meter-high mountain in the Karakoram this summer.
In 2016, Ralf had caught sight of the Biarchedi group during Nancy’s and his failed attempt on the also still unclimbed 7,134-meter-high Praqpa Ri and learned afterwards that the highest mountain of the massif had not yet been climbed – unlike the 6781-meter Biarchedi II, which the legendary Polish climber Jercy Kukuczka (1948-1989) had first climbed solo in 1984. In the meantime, the two have moved into their base camp at 4,500 meters. During the first eight days in Pakistan “everything has gone incredibly smoothly and we have been warmly welcomed by everyone we met,” Ralf writes on Instagram.
25 January 2018, on the summit of Nanga Parbat, about 6.30 p.m. After the French Elisabeth Revol, the Pole Tomek Mackiewicz also reaches the summit. Revol is the first woman to succeed in a winter ascent of the 8,125-meter-high summit in Pakistan, Mackiewicz the first Pole. “‘Eli what’s happening with my eyes? Eli, I can’t see your head torch any more; you’re a blur!’,” Revol recalls. “This second lasts an eternity. Everything changes. I retch and shake; fear overwhelms me. My legs turn to jelly and I collapse.” Success turns into drama. In the end only the French climber is saved, Mackiewicz dies in an ice cave at 7,238 meters.
He’s back to his passion. In the northwest Italian region of Piedmont and in the Dolomites Carlalberto, called “Cala”, Cimenti, rides his mountain bike again, climbs mountains and flies downhill with his paraglider. In March, the 45-year-old – as reported – was tested positive for the coronavirus. The doctors diagnosed Cimenti with pneumonia, but sent him home from the hospital – with medication and the advice to call if things got worse. For days he lay in bed with a high fever, cared for by his wife Erika Siffredi. “My attention is fixed on the thermometer marks, on every breath that must not be worse than the previous one,” Cimenti wrote on Facebook at the time. He recovered.
First ascent of Gasherbrum VII
In summer 2019, Cala had scaled Nanga Parbat in Pakistan and had skied down from the eight-thousander. He then succeeded in the Karakoram in the first ascent of the 6,955-meter-high Gasherbrum VII – the ascent is on the candidate list for this year’s Piolet d’Or, the “Oscar of climbers”. On the descent from Gasherbrum VII, his team mate Francesco Cassardo fell about 450 meters deep. In a dramatic rescue operation it was managed to get Francesco to safety. Cimenti had previously scaled the eight-thousanders Cho Oyu (in 2006), Manaslu (in 2011) and Dhaulagiri (in 2017).
Cala, how are you currently doing, have you recovered from your corona infection one hundred percent?
Wednesday was a successful summit day on the eight-thousander Nanga Parbat. Several groups that had formed a large group during their summit push reached the highest point at 8,125 meters. The data from their GPS trackers confirm the summit successes of the Spaniard Sergi Mingote and the mountaineer Stefi Troguet from Andorra.
Sergi Mingote scaled Nanga Parbat without bottled oxygen – after Lhotse in spring it was his second eight-thousander this year he climbed without breathing mask. “Happy!!!”, Sergi let us know about his emotional state via Facebook. Last spring, the 48-year-old had originally wanted to climb Mount Everest after Lhotse, but after an in the end futile rescue operation for the Bulgarian Ivan Tomov (who died, apparently of an high-altitude cerebral edema) he decided not to do so. In 2018, Mingote had reached the summits of three eight-thousanders without bottled oxygen: K2, Broad Peak and Manaslu. This summer, after having scaled Nanga Parbat now, he has set his sights on Gasherbrum I and Gasherbrum II.
It’s quite normal that mountaineers return from an expedition with dirty clothes. After all, it’s important to travel with as little weight as possible. And that’s why, after the trip, the strong smell in the laundry room at home from clothes worn too long is simply part of it. But is it really necessary to wash your dirty laundry in public? For days, the members of the two recently failed K2 winter expeditions have been engaged in a media exchange of blows. With the meanwhile almost usual echo on the social networks – from people who weren’t there, but think they have to put their oar in.
The second highest mountain on earth has once again shown its teeth in winter. After the team from Kazakhstan, Russia and Kyrgyzstan, led by Vassiliy Pivtsov, had broken off their summit attempt on the Southeast Ridge of K2 at 7,500 meters due to poor visibility a week and a half ago, the Spaniard Alex Txikon and his Sherpa team now also returned to base camp without summit success. Their Camp 3 at about 7,050 meters altitude was the end of the line.
“The strong wind didn’t let us climb upwards,” Alex explained. “Winter K2 resists, but we must respect it. You have to listen to the mountain. This winter has showed us that it is not the time yet. I will definitely return!” Perhaps already next summer. Txikon has announced that he wants to try the first traverse of the mountain: ascent via the Chinese side of K2, descent via the Pakistani side. Let’s see if the Chinese authorities will grant him a permit.
“We’re heartbroken; we inform you that the research of Daniele and Tom has ended. A part of them will always remain on the Nanga Parbat,” Daniele Nardi’s home team wrote on Facebook. “The big pain hurts; facing objective facts and after doing everything possible finding them, we must accept what happened.” So now it’s sad certainty: 42-year-old Italian Daniele Nardi and 30-year-old Brit Tom Ballard have died while trying to fully climb the striking “Mummery Rib” in the Diamir Face for the first time.
There is much speculation these days about the search for the two climbers Daniele Nardi and Tom Ballard missing on Nanga Parbat. And it’s not always easy to keep facts and assumptions apart in the countless publications. Nardi’s home team announced today that Spaniard Alex Txikon said he discovered yesterday with a telescope from base camp “two silhouettes” on the Mummery spur. Actually, it was planned to fly to this spot by helicopter today.
Even ten days after the last sign of life of Daniele Nardi and Tom Ballard from Nanga Parbat, there is still no trace of the two missing climbers. After three days of searching in vain for the 42-year-old Italian and the 30-year-old British in the area around the “Mummery Rib”, a striking rock spur in the Diamir Face, and today also on the nearby Kinshofer route, the Spaniards Alex Txikon and Felix Criado as well as the Pakistanis Muhammad Ali Sadpara and Rahmat Ullah Baig returned to base camp. The rescue team had also used camera drones during their search.
The third winter ascender of Nanga Parbat in 2016, Simone Moro, is staying in his home country Italy after his return from Nepal. The 51-year-old and his Nepalese climbing partner Pemba Gyalje Sherpa surrendered to the huge masses of snow on the eight-thousander Manaslu at the end of January. I had sent Simone some questions before the events in Nanga Parbat took their dramatic turn. Among other things, I asked him about the chances of the teams on K2 and Nanga Parbat. Moro replied with reference to the current developments on Nanga Parbat as follows: