(By Raheel Adnan) Can 2014 be the year of first winter ascent of Nanga Parbat? Will the twofold strength of Polish team be able to conclude the mission instigated by Maciej Berbeka 25 years ago? Can Simone Moro pull off another 8000m peak, in winter? Who else is mesmerized by the prospect of ‘cold and sufferings’ at altitude? Answers to these questions will start unfolding once the winter climbing season kicks off in less than three weeks.
The Winter Game
After remaining untouched for more than two decades, the ‘easier’ eight-thousanders in Karakoram were climbed in past three winters. The foundation stone of success in Karakoram was laid by Simone Moro, Denis Urubko and Cory Richards with the ascent of GII in winter 2011. Then Poles took the charge and went on to scale GI and Broad Peak in following years. But the scenario has changed, now. Two pillars of Polish Winter Himalaism, Artur Hajzer and Maciej Berbeka, are gone and, apparently, PZA official winter team isn’t coming to Pakistan, this year.
Challenges and dangers of winter Nanga Parbat and K2 are far more distressing and chances of success are fewer. Nanga Parbat has already repelled 16 attempts, of which only two teams could reach above 7000m. It’s needless to write about the formidability of K2, which has been attempted only thrice in winter. In past three out of five years, K2 summit remained off-limits, even in summer season. From expedition cost to mental and physical strength, climbing K2 in winter is a big test in every respect.
As of now, two teams have confirmed their plans to climb Nanga Parbat, this winter.
Justice for All
Independent Polish climbers, Marek Klonowski and Tomek Mackiewicz have attempted Nanga Parbat, thrice, with the slogan of Justice for All. After a couple of unsuccessful attempts on Kinshofer route - Diamir face, they switched to Rupal side, last year. The choice proved to be a promising one, as Tomek managed to gain an altitude of 7400m on Schell route.
This year, ‘Justice for All Expedition’ is returning to Nanga Parbat with a slightly changed formation. The team will be joined by Jacek Teler and Pawel Dunaj. Jacek Teler is a winter altitude climbing old-timer. He was part of the large international expedition that attempted K2 in 2002-03. In winter 2008-09, he along with Jarosław Żurawski, attempted Nanga Parbat from Diamir side.
Justice for All team members was expected to leave for Pakistan on December 1st, whereas the actual climb on Schell route will start on 21st.
The Italian Simone Moro can safely be regarded as finest winter climber of this age. Following the death of legendary Polish climbing leaders in 1989, the winter-ascents of 8000m peaks remained frozen for more than 15 years. It was Simone Moro who shook off the inertia by climbing Shishapangma in 2005, Makalu in 2009 and first Karakoram 8000er, Gasherbrum II, in 2011. He has also attempted Broad Peak twice and Nanga Parbat in 2012.
Simone’s winter partner since Makalu, Denis Urubko, is reluctant to climb Nanga Parbat because of security reasons. The North Face athlete will be accompanied by fellow country-man Emilio Previtali and German David Göttler. David is a photographer and an accomplished mountain guide with four 8000er ascents under his belt. From rock climbing to snowboarding, Emilio is a versatile adventurer. Although his main role on current expedition will be share the story of climb, but he adds, “I know of no climber who goes on a mountain with no desire to go on top. But of course this is a job that takes into account a host of other parameters; we'll see when we get there.”
The team will be arriving in Pakistan after December 21st and will be sharing the route with Poles.
Although long and harsh, the route is relatively safe in winter. In 1991, after failing on Messner’s route, Maciej Berbeka’s team launched an alpine style attempt on Schell route, but the progress was halted at 6600m. A full fledge attempt was made by Poles in 2007, but they too couldn’t go above 6600m.
Four Romanian climbers successfully negotiated the route, this July. Tomek and Marek have had a discussion with the Romanians. They have been told that traverse from pass (at 7200m) to summit is 2.5km aerial and takes three days under normal. The Poles know the mountain very well and are positive about their success.
It has been reported that Ralf Dujmovits will also be attempting Nanga Parbat this winter, but the German climber hasn’t shared further details yet.
Mountaineers on Nanga Parbat will not be competing against each other, but the race is against the hazards of Killer Mountain. The race to the summit is on. It appears that K2 will remain in solitude, this winter.
Based in Lahore, Pakistan, telecom engineer and mountaineering enthusiast Raheel Adnan is a reporter for ExplorersWeb's mountaineering sections. He shares regular updates on Twitter and runs his own blog at AltitudePakistan posting initiated climbing news from Himalaya and Karakoram.
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