K2: a Fort for Txikon, reinforcements for the Russians and the wait for good weather
The two expedition on the K2 do not have any kind of human contact or technical exchange. A pity but it was predictable.
The abysmal differences in strategy, as well as cultural and personal ones, have become widely manifest in the last 20 days, when the action on the mountain has been reduced to the minimum due to the continuous bad weather.
However, the Russians-Kyrgyz-Kazakhs have continued rotations between Base Camp, Advanced Base and up to Camp 2, bringing materials and maintaining a minimum level of acclimatization; moreover, unlike Txikon, they have already practically passed the Black Pyramid and have the material ready to set up the upper Camps, the C3 at about 7300 meters and the C4 on the shoulder, at about 7950 meters.
Alex Txikon has chosen not to move, and not to move any of his Sherpa, even in the presence of moderate bad weather. His strategy is “save energy for when there will come the good weather”. In the meantime, he kept busy by setting up a “wall” of ice, on the principle already used to build the igloos, to protect the tents from the strong winds expected in the last days; the visual effect … is that of a military fort!
The team of the Russians-Kyrgyz-Kazakhs led by Braun and Plivstov remained in action, though obviously reduced, after February 1, when the team had equipped until the 7200 meters of the Black Pyramid zone; in these 20 days, rotations were made up to C1 and a bet to C2, moreover 3 Kazakh mountaineers arrived at Base Camp, thanks to a late sponsorship.
In an interesting interview with Wspinaie.pl, the great Polish mountaineer Leszek Cichy, geodesist expert and protagonist, among others, of the first winter at Everest with Krzysztof Wielicki in 1980, expresses his thoughts on the strategies of the teams, about the terrain that will challenge the team between the Black Pyramid (which he faced in the winter 1987-88) and the summit of K2, in a very sharp way :
“The Black Pyramid does not present great technical difficulties but it is long, compared to the Tatra I would say a III / IV degree, moreover there are many ropes, not particularly ruined given the exposure and the rocky area, which allow a fairly fast progression in good condition “
“… the real problem will be in the area between C3, at the end of the Black Pyramid and the Shoulder: there are about 700-800 meters of route that, from the sketches and stories of Denis Urubko in the last attempt [last winter,ndR] is considerably full of crevasses and dangerous, depending on the presence of snow or ice, and it could be difficult to find the right path “
On acclimatization: “the Russians, if they think they are going to climb by the end of February – that they consider the real end of winter – they need to sleep at least one night over 7000 meters.. “.
But it is speaking of Alex Txikon that Cichy is lashing: “his two expeditions to Everest and what he has done so far to K2, that is to remain almost always at Base Camp, show that something with him is really wrong, either is logistics, or strategic…he’s not prepared at all, he never managed to climb even the Everest South Saddle [..] now he and his team have no acclimatization, which is only [gained] by making active efforts ; putting the fixed parallel ropes has been insane. “
Also Denis Urubko expressed his thoughts in a similar way, and he is convinced that none of the 2 teams will manage to climb by February 28th, the end of Winter for the mountaineer of Kazakh origin. In a newly released interview, Denis said he was rather tired of 8000ers expeditions, and he think he will do three more before retiring: one at Gasherbrum II this summer to make a new route, one at Broad Peak in winter and in two years the decisive one, at K2 winter..
“The good mountaineer is the old mountaineer,” said Urubko, who in this winter has perfected himself on rock in Patagonia with his partner Pipi Cardell.
In the next days is predicted a rather long window of good weather, all to be confirmed – both on K2 and Nanga, and soon we will see if there are minimal chances of success by one of the teams present ..
Nanga Parbat : snow, snow and snow again
A brief update from Nanga Parbat: Daniele Nardi and Tom Ballard have been practically stopped for over 2 weeks at the Base Camp, except for a few run at C1 and one at C2 (5700 meters), to dig up the bag with the material.
At Nanga the amount of snowfall has been considerable, even if normal for the season; above all, in the short windows of good weather, the two could not move much for the avalanches resulting from the accumulations, very dangerous right in the C2-C3 area, at the base of the Mummery Spur.
In the meantime, bearers arrived with supplies of food and technical gear [the duo lost lot of material buriedby snow at Mummery bottom] , hoping to be able to climb the Mummery in speed during a good weather window.
The acclimatization is now lost, even if the two remain very positive and active at Base Camp, where Nardi and Ballard often train in drytooling on Boulder boulders and lately Tom Ballard in a nice downhill skiing from a side gully of Nanga
Tom Ballardsaid :
“This expedition seems more and more a nice holiday, we are well at Base Camp, we always find new problems of drytooling on the boulders around, and lately I had a lot of fun skiing on magnificent snow …”
Even for them, waiting for a window long enough in good weather is the dream of the moment …
As expected and written in the previous update, Alex Txikon’s team has moved on the Abruzzi Spur route, where is already in action the Russian-Kyrgyz-Kazakh team .
Although Txikon had clearly written that he would have return to check the East wall (and the way of the Americans), the day after the facts showed that he had already decided not to return there, and suddenly the Basque declared “that the mountain was discharging all the avalanches on that side [East, ndR] and that the traverse [to rejoin the Abruzzi, above 7500,ndR] was too dangerous “.
Alex’s sherpa team, and Alex himself, have equipped up to over Camp 1, parallel to the ropes already installed by the other team. The Russians have already equipped up to 6500 meters, at the beginning of the famous and technical Camino Bill.
Both have stayed at C1, we will see today the conditions of … traffic on the way.
At the moment, considering the team last communications, there are no great possibilities to join forces on the “Normal” of K2: it would have been desirable, a massive set up of ropes certainly does not help an easy progression ; however we believe – and hope – for a pact between the two team leader, as for not to hinder each others, along the progression on the route – especially on the technical Bill’s Chimney and the “black pyramid” , towards the 7200 meters of Campo 3, which does not have large spaces for tents.
*** Update 13:53 GMT+1 Waldemar Kowalewski, member of Txikon team, got hurt by a falling stone while carrying heavy sack of gear at 6000mt. During his retreat due to pain, he fell again then got lost on the glacier before BC, when it was dark. Then Alex got radio contact with him, sending help ; he’s now at BC, waiting to be airlifted : expedition is over for him
Really difficult situation, for Simone Moro, Pemba Sherpa and the 2 assistant chefs at the Manaslu Base Camp.
An exceptional amount of snow has literally buried the tents of the climbers, forcing them to disassemble the little tents and shelter everyone in the large kitchen tent, turning continuously to shovel the terrifying accumulation – “Terrible situation [..] Fuck, 6 meters of snow! ” the understandable words of Simone, which continues:
“If the kitchen tent would break, we’d be really fucked in. Gas and gasoline are enough for 6 days, food for a few days longer, here is an ocean of moving snow, giant avalanches everywhere. The Base Camp has been wisely placed on a hilltop , windy but super safe “
An equally problematic situation for the Daniele Nardi team. Daniele and Tom Ballard went up to Camp 2, they slept there surrounded by frightening avalanches, fortunately passed to the side; they proceeded to the C1, writes Daniele, with a huge effort causing a lot of snow; besides at C2 a tent, with a lot of material and crampons by Karim Hayat, has disappeared; Rahmat Baig is practically out of the game, he had to go down to Gilgit to treat throat problems with antibiotics but he did not get well.
In addition, Karim declared “he does not want to die in this mountain”.
Therefore, the defection of the two Pakistanis from the expedition appears certain. In fact, Daniele wrote :
“I feel that we’ll need only one tent”
Daniele and Tom do not give up and proceed to check the conditions of C3, but will not sleep there because of the high danger of avalanches.
Unfortunately, in the lost tent, there was a lot of important gear for climbing …
Nanga Parbat : Mummery Spur, a brief history
Albert Frederick Mummery, defined by Hermann Buhl (who became the first giant of the 8000 Pakistani 8000), “one of the greatest alpinists of all time”, was perhaps too far ahead of his time: his attempt, the first ever, to climb an 8000, occurred in the Summer 1895, along with 3 other British alpinists and 2 carriers. A small team, “by fair means” (with loyal means), a forerunner of the alpine style. Mummery first attempted to climb along that central Spur, apparently reaching the 6100 meters, and then disappearing forever, together with the porters, in an attempt to transfer along the Rakhiot slope, to look for another access to the mountain.
To him is dedicated the name of the dreamed route, almost “plumb”, which rises above the Diamir glacier, and that climbs along a formidable rocky spur – the Mummery Spur or Rib, indeed – up to almost 7000 meters, where horrendous and gigantic seracs mark the passage on the Basin, that is the huge and crevassed plateau that finally leads to the “summit trapezoid” of the Nanga, last 1000 meters before the summit.
approx mummery spur route (d.nardi) nanga parbat
No mountaineer – except the Messner brothers, forced to descend along the spur or in its immediate vicinity, in the terrible crossing subsequent to the climb that led them to the summit up to the Rupal wall; place where Gunther found his death , almost arrived at the base on the glacier, killed by an avalanche, at the end of June 1970 – no mountaineer has ever tried that line, considered suicide for the terrifying funnel of avalanches, looming seracs , the difficulty even to just access to the Spur, because the horribly crevassed glacier.
Reinhold Messner has always spoken of the potential route along the Spur as impossible and suicidal, a line “that does not lead anywhere”, full of objective dangers.
Messner declaration is understandable also in the light of what he felt on that wall and for the obvious presence of objective dangers: the constant breaking of the hanging seracs, with consequent discharge of avalanches, testified also in the beautiful video, directed by Francesco Santini, product by Daniele Nardi, “Toward the Unknown”. The hope of Nardi is that in winter the extreme temperatures reduce these discharges and that along the Sperone there is an area – rather narrow and random – where to climb without being excessively exposed.
No one except the Italian alpinist Daniele Nardi, this is 5th attempt on this path. Daniele Nardi and Elizabeth Revol are the only “team” that has reached the highest point on the Mummery Spur, at about 6450 meters in 2015.
Since then, other attempts have always stopped before, partly because Nardi has no longer found any companions willing to risk along that route: the same Elizabeth Revol, together with Tomek Mackiewitz, refused to join Nardi, both for the delay in the arrival of the italian alpinist at the Base Camp, both as because they had already begun the attempt along the route Messner Eisendle: the route that the two completed last year, at the very high price of the death of Tomek and of the freezing and loss of Elizabeth’s feet toes , also she was rescued from Urubko, Bielecki, Tomala, Botor who were engaged in K2 – they rushed, with great courage and humanity, to try to save the two ; an attempt that ended with the recovery of the Revol at 6100 meters just above the Kinshofer wall and with the impossibility of trying to climb over 7000 meters where Tomek stopped, killed by a probable cerebral edema.
This year, finally, Daniele Nardi has managed to form a team of 4 climbers for the challenge to the Mummery: himself, the Pakistani mountaineers Karim Hayat, Rahmat Ussain Baig and the very strong young Tom Ballard, English alpinist already able to climb the 6 North of the Alps in winter and alone, 26 years: Cima Grande di Lavaredo, Pizzo Badile, Matterhorn, Grandes Jorasses, Petit Dru and Eiger.
In the first 10 days of shipping, the team showed a formidable harmony and managed to set up 3 camps, the c1 at 4700 meters as a storage depot, the c2 at 5200 meters towards the glacier exit, and the c3 inside a crevasse, at the base of the actual rocky spur at 5700 meters.
In the next days the expedition will face the real rocky wall.
italian adventurer and explorer, was born in a little village of the North East Alpine Region Friuli.
Content not available in English, sorry
A great start for climbing season in Patagonia, with the feat of the French Martín Elías, Jérome Sullivan and François Poncet who have opened a new path, “La Mariposa” (1200 mt, A3, M7, 6a) between 18 and 19 October on the inviolate spire of the South Pillar of Cerro San Lorenzo, called “El Faro” (3150 mt)
South Pillar Cerro San Lorenzo
“We started climbing at 10 in the morning, the forecast gave good conditions of high pressure until the next night, so we had 48 hours. First a part of technical climbing on mixed terrain and good rock, after we reached a ramp of snow and ice that we had identified during the previous exploration. From here, untied we quickly climbed the ramp of over 500 meters, with access to the steepest part of the wall. We climbed quickly and this made us hope to be able to sleep on the hill – but when we reached the end of the ramp, we realized that the bad conditions of the snow, the rock and the lack of ice would have created many problems and slowed down. When the night reached us I was climbing the first 30 meters of what would become the key section of the whole street: a vertical 80-meter chimney covered in snow, which I miss the words to describe the ugly quality of the rock. “Loose” is not suitable. “An asco” as the locals say! “
At this point the team rappelled down 30 meters, grading the ice for an uncomfortable bivouac. The next morning they started climbing rock and ice of extremely poor quality. Finally, a transit on the north wall, where they completed the three final shots of brine rock up to the summit, reached at dusk.
“We constantly questioned about chance of summit, with all that snow, the horrible rock and the adverse weather – in our experience, the weather at San Lorenzo range is always worse than expected – being on top was really a magical moment”
Patagonia / Upcoming
Denis Urubko, the strong russian Himalayst (Polish naturalized, living in Italy), will be in Patagonia to try Cerro Torre – and perhaps Fitz Roy – in duo with the strong Maria “Pipi” Cardell, with whom he has shown excellent harmony already in 2017 (Pik Chapaev in Kyrgyzstan, nomination at Piolet D’Or) and last 2018 Summer in Georgia (long route up Mt Ushba, 4710mt). After 2 months that they will spend in Patagonia, starting from the end of November, they aim to try a new route on Gasherbrum II , during Summer 2019.
Also coming soon in El Chalten, two more “light” expeditions from Italy: Hervè Barmasse, arriving in the next days and in January the President of famed “Ragni di Lecco” climbing team, as well patagonia “champion”, Matteo Della Bordella. Their climbing goals remains unknown as today.