(Newsdesk) Before kicking off the Pakistan climbing season with a brand new list of expeditions, let's revisit the recent winter season with a stats wrap by ExWeb contributor Brazilian Rodrigo Granzotto Peron.
FIRST WINTER CHRONICLE SEASON 2010/2011
by Rodrigo Granzotto Peron
a) The information below reflects the opinion of the author, and is not the official position of the website.
b) Data refers to the Winter Season on Karakoram, deadline April 5. Summits and events occurred after are not part of this chronicle.
I What can be considered a Winter Ascent?
In modern rules, a winter ascent is one in which all events of the expedition, from arrival at BC to departure, are performed in calendar winter (from 21 December to 21 March).
The mountaineering community endorses these rules. Since top climber Simone Moro begun to mention, in his interviews, that a winter ascent must be strict to the calendar, all expeditions from 2007-on are arriving at BC after December 21.
This does not affect the first winter ascents by the Poles, because those ascents were in different times, with different rules, but we are forced to admit that some of the classic ascents are not complete winter, but just partial winter ascents (like, for example, Wielicki on Lhotse, when they arrived at BC early November and all the route and camps were set and prepared in Autumn).
Here goes the complete list of winter ascents, using modern rules:
01 - 1980 - Everest (Krzyztof Wielicki & Leszek Cichy)
02 - 1985 - Cho Oyu (Maciej Berbeka, Maciej Pawlikowski, Jerzy Kukuczka, Andrzej Heinrich)
03 - 1987 - Annapurna (Jerzy Kukcuzka & Artur Hajzer)
04 - 1988 - Cho Oyu (Fernando Garrido)
05 - 1993 - Cho Oyu (Lito Sanchez, Manuel Diaz, Luis Arbues, Fernando Guerra, Manuel Rincón, Jorge Morales, Marianne Chapuisat)
06 - 1994 - Cho Oyu (Jordi Guell & Juanjo Garra)
07 - 2005 - Shishapangma (Simone Moro & Piotr Morawski)
08 - 2009 - Makalu (Simone Moro & Denis Urubko)
09 - 2011 - Gasherbrum II (Simone Moro, Denis Urubko & Cory Richards)
So, just Everest, Makalu, Cho Oyu, Annapurna, Gasherbrum II and Shishapangma were summited totally in wintertime.
Simone Moro is the Mr. Winter, with three 8000ers summited completely in the coldest season of the year (all his expeditions, from arrival at BC to departure, take place on calendar winter). Behind him, two other legends, Jerzy Kukuczka (POL) and Denis Urubko (KAZ), with two 8000ers each. The only woman is Marianne Chapuisat, with Cho Oyu (1993).
II The 2010/2011 Winter Season:
In spite of low temperatures, the season was very hot and exciting, with action on nine different mountains, including four 8000ers. The most important event in many years took place on Gasherbrum II, with the first ascent of a Pakistani 8000er.
While the story of winter in Himalaya begun with the ascent of the highest peak (Everest, 1980), the story of winter in Karakoram started with the lowest one (Gasherbrum II, 2011).
For curiosity, excepting Cho Oyu 1994 and Shishapangma 2005, when the summit was reached in January, all other winter triumphs were on February. To be more precise, the lapse between February 1 and February 17 contains all the other complete winter ascents of 8000ers so far (EV 1980; CO 1985; AN 1987; CO 1988; CO 1993; MK 2009; and G2 2011).
Now, lets see what happened in each winter expedition, in separate topics:
2) GASHERBRUM II
Five-Stars top climbers Simone Moro (ITA) and Denis Urubko (KAZ) joined forces with newcomer Cory Richards (USA) and headed towards Gasherbrum II (8035m). The task: to make the first ascent of an 8000er on Karakoram in pure winter. They arrived at BC on January 10 and, on a fast acclimatization process, they were ready to try the summit on January 26, just two weeks after the arrival.
On the end of January the team received a weather forecast from Austrian guru Karl Gabl. The meteorologist warned Simone: You need to rush out extremely fast because the Hell will begin in Karakoram. For many days. Realizing that the time had come, the trio sped up the slopes of the regular route of Gasherbrum II, with brief stops at Camp 1 (5960 m), a bivouac (6250 m), Camp 2 (6500 m) and Camp 3 (7050 m), and wrote one of the most incredible pages in Pakistans mountaineering history, topping out on February 2.
Finally, the first 8000er in Pakistan was conquered in winter, after 21 attempts over 24 years (see table), and now the doors of Karakoram are open to other teams.
The descent was thrilling, epic and dramatic (and resulted in a great video released by the team with the title The Long Way Down). In the middle of a impressive storm, with hurricane winds (bursts up to 90 km/h) and freezing temperatures (that reached -40ºC), they had a close encounter with death. A huge avalanche dragged them down the mountain 150 meters. In Simones words, We flew above a huge crevasse and finally stopped/landed just 5 meters from it. By miracle, I was on the surface. I unclipped the carabiner and ran to Cory I dug him out without my Mitt (lost in the avalanche) then I ran to Denis and did the same. They were buried with only the head sticking out. No one was injured, so we continued down following the flags. The following day they arrived sound and safe at BC.
And so, Cory Richards became the first American to have summited an 8000er in winter. Denis Urubko reaches the same mark of Jerzy Kukuckza, with two calendar winter ascents. And Simone Moro is the undisputed leader in winter, with three complete ascents. In addition, Simone is the only person with a winter summit in Nepal (Makalu), one in China (Shishapangma) and one in Pakistan (Gasherbrum II).
To the record: this was the third winter expedition to Pakistan under leadership of Simone and was the very first winter attempt on Gasherbrum II.
3) GASHERBRUM I
The beginning of the expedition was problematic. The first list of members included Gerfried Goschl (AUT), Louis Rousseau (CAN), Don Bowie (CAN), Alex Txikón (SPA), Roberto Gorri Rojo (SPA), Jacques Olek (USA) and Pierre Masson (USA). After several defections, the group was reduced to Goschl, Rousseau and Txikón.
They also faced bureaucratic problems and with the transport of the equipments, and therefore the arrival at BC was very late, on February 1, circumstance that had direct influence on the result of the expedition.
The task they proposed themselves was not only a winter ascent, but to open a new route on the SW Face of Gasherbrum I (8068m).
The first half of the expedition was centered on the opening of the new route. By this new line they reached 6700 meters on February 15. The second half was marked by the understanding that the route would not be completed in time, and so they moved to the regular line (Japanese Couloir). The climate was very cold (-35ºC inside the tent) and the winds were like a gargantuan wall of cold breath. Talking about these conditions, Txikón declared that G1 was too hard, too cold. Several times they were forced back while trying to reach higher on the mountain. Finally, on middle March they decided to call the expedition off, having reached 7050 meters (camp 3).
After the end of the adventure, Txikón declared: Were gonna finish what we started. The team will come back next season (2011/2012) to finish the job. Meanwhile, they have applied permit to try Gasherbrum I, Gasherbrum II and K2 on Summer.
To the record: Gasherbrum I was never attempted before in winter.
4) BROAD PEAK
The Polish/Pakistani expedition under leadership of Artur Hajzer, consisted on Robert Szymczak, Marcin Kaczkan, Ola Dzik, Raphael Fronia, Jaroslaw Gawrysiak, Arkadiusz Grzadziel, Robert Kazmierski, George Natkanski, Krzysztof Starek, Mohammad Ali III, Ali Sadpara, Ishaq and Mosin. They arrived at BC on January 15. Shortly after, Arkadiusz was evacuated by helicopter with HAPE symptoms.
The first summit bid was thwarted by -45ºC and strong winds (90 km/h), that resulted on the destruction of the high camps and a great level of danger and difficulty. The second summit attempt started on March 14, when Robert, Marcin, Krzysztof and Ali Sadpara marched up, while Artur Hajzer decided not to go, thus giving the young ones the opportunity to try the summit. At 7600 meters, Starek and Marcin turned around. Robert and Ali continued, in spite of the poor visibility and the horrible wind. But, at 7830 meters they found a giant crevasse, impossible to be surpassed on those conditions, and this signed the end of the expedition.
To the record: this was the 6th expedition to Broad Peak in winter. The most successful so far still is the very first, in 1988, when leader Maciej Berbeka (POL) bagged the Broad Peak Fore Summit (8035m). Until the summit of Gasherbrum II, this year, that was the only time when the 8000m-barrier was broken in winter on Karakoram.
5) NANGA PARBAT
Two different expeditions went to Pakistans Himalaya to try Nanga Parbat.
The first was a Polish duo Tomasz Mackiewicz & Marek Klonowski , unknown to the great public, went not far from 6000 meters on the regular route. They spent only ten days on Nanga Parbat, and the expedition was cancelled because of the dangerous conditions on the Kinshofer Route. To wspinanie.pl, Marek explained: In one night fell at least half a meter of snow, and the route taken was covered with loads of ice and snow and was frequently dangerous. Admitting they were not prepared to the task (they had less equipment than necessary), the Poles will be back next season: We will be back next year, with a larger team, with more equipment, and a comfortable base camp.
The other was a solo attempt by another question mark Serguey Tsygankov (RUS) , on the same route and with the same result. The endeavor was aborted at 6000 meters, just few days before the arrival at BC (January 6), with Serguey feeling the symptoms of a pulmonary edema (HAPE).
To the record: these were the 10th and the 11th expeditions to Nanga Parbat in winter. The most successful so far was the 3rd expedition (1996/1997, under leadership of Andrzej Zawada, when the Poles went to 7870 meters).
6) MANGLIGH SAR
Two feminine expeditions challenged the slopes of Mangligh Sar (6050m) the present season.
The first was Samina Baig's (20y), with Ali Musa, Mirza Ali, Yusuf Khan e Jennifer Rawlins (USA). Samina was forced back just 150m short from the summit, due to high winds and lack of proper gear to face the tough weather.
The second was the Shimshal Mountaineering School expedition, with Dur Begum (30y), Farzana Faisal (22y), Shakila Numa (25y), Mera Jabeen (21y), Tokht Bika (23y), Hafiza Bano (16y), Gohar Nigar (22y), Hamida Bibi (18y), and guides Qudrat Ali, Shaheen Baig, Rehmat Ullah Baig and Wahab Ali Shah. They arrived at the mountain on December 29 and the summit was reached on January 3. The lady climbers experienced rough conditions, on a windy summit day (45 km/h) with -38ºC. It gives a thermal sensation of -59ºC. A great victory for these girls, in special Hafiza Bano, who became the youngest 16 years old woman from Pakistan to summit a 6000er in winter.
7) KYAJO RI
In middle-December, Sherpas Dawa Steven, Nanga Dorje and Pemba Tenzing summited Kyajo Ri (6182m), a peak in the hidden valleys of Nepal (Gokyo and Nangpa). The expedition started at December 5, and the summit push lasted just 28 hours (usually the peak is scaled in 5 to 7 days). Since the top was reached before the beginning of winter, this expedition must be classified as late autumn.
8) DINGJUNG RI
North-American Andy Parkin completed a solo ascent of a new route on the giant North Face of Dingjung Ri (6249m). The expedition started on January 14 and the summit was conquered on January 17, in a three-days alpine style single push, with two bivouacs.
9) KHAN TENGRI
A Kazakh group, under leadership of Maxut Zhumayev, and including Alexander Sofrygin, Vassili Pivtsov, Ildar Gabassov and Dmitry Khonin, made the incredible third winter ascent of Khan Tengri (7010m), via the stunning North Face.
They reached BC on January 8. While Maxut went back home earlier with HAPE and Dmitry retreated at 6700 meters, Ildar, Alex and Vassili topped out on January 20.
This was the third winter ascent of Khan Tengri, after 1992 (Valery Khrishchaty team) and 2003 (Nikolay Chervonenko team).
A South Korean trio Hwang Gi-Young, Shin Dong-Seok and Yoo Hak-Jae opened a very difficult new mixed route on the N Face of Pharilapcha (6017 m). They arrived at BC on December 13, and topped out on December 16. The new line was christened Korean Route. The author of this expeditions report was Lindsay Griffin, and can be read in total at thebmc.co.uk. In addition to Lindsays report, this was the 6th ascent of the main summit of Pharilapcha, while the lower West Summit was ascended three times. Unfortunately, Hwang collapsed on descent and died. To the record: since the summit was conquered on middle-December, this cannot be considered a winter ascent, but only late autumn.
III How to Succeed in Pakistans winter:
Not by coincidence, the three last successes in winter were performed by one man: Simone Moro (SH 2005, MK 2009, and G2 2011). In fact, Simone is a visionary and is the direct responsible for the renewal of the winter himalaysm. He developed a set of conditions and follows them strictly, what can be the secret of his success.
Interviewed by ExWeb after the conquest of Gasherbrum II, Simone explained the reasons of triumph: First of all, light team. Second, forget the classic style. Third, be ready to stay and suffer for many days continuously on the mountain. Four: have Karl Gabl behind you. Five: be fast, be fast, be tactically smart and fast. Bad weather doesnt mean to stay in BC.
Therefore, we can resume the requisites of success to:
a) small group
b) skilled, focused and highly motivated climbers
c) fast acclimatization process
d) very precise weather forecasts
e) light style
f) dont expect good weather, go to the top as soon as possible and obey calendar winter
For sure, to follow the knowledge of Simone these days is the key to succeed in Pakistans winter.
Pakistan All Winter 8000er attempts 1987 to 2011 (pdf)
* This Chronicle is based on preliminary data and under analysis. Some will be revisited in the following months, with possibly a few corrections to be done by then.
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