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.
Black Pyramid zone, russian team shot
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 …
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.
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”
Route La Milagrosa – South Pillar Cerro San Lorenzo / Patagonia Vertical
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.
The Romanian trio made up of alpinists Romeo Popa, Zsolt Torok and Teofil Vlad has opened a new route on the South East wall of the Pumori, the iconic 7161 meter peak that overlooks the Everest Circus.
The new route, very cool for logic and sustained difficulty, is mainly on ice with some mixed climbing difficult to protect; it run for 1100 meters, reaching the summit ridge at 6700. 5 necessary bivouacs, three of which on the wall and the last two on the ridge; a day of rest the first, then the second day the final attack, which occurred facing winds up to 100 kmh.
everest,lhotse e nuptse in background ( Romica Popa, Zsolt Torok and Teofil Vlad )
The descent took place 1000 meters of rappelling along the west wall. The difficulty has been classified as AI 4, R (the degree should be in Romanian system, indicates a medium difficulty like D type , French reference ).
Lunag Ri , October 28 – 2018
David Lama has realized the dream, long pursued, to climb the Lunag Ri (6905 meters), and he did it alone: after the famous 2 attempts in duo with Conrad Anker, the last of which ended with a dramatic retreat following a heart attack that affected Conrad. For now, we do not know the details of the climb, which theoretically should be the completion of previous attempts, with ascent on colouir running the base in the center left of the photo, then along the ridge up to the summit.
Marco Milanese, from Friuli, born in 1987, studied at the Liceo Scientifico and at the same time carried out professional experience as a rugby player. He started Forestry Sciences, then the mountain “called” him : he then became an Alpine Mountain Guide since 2011, slackliner from 2013, base jumper, wing pilot and speedflyer since 2014.
Marco is getting noticed, since a couple of years, for his very interesting adventures that have had a good echo on social media: he’s not like a compulsive video poster, but in its adventures it is always present a character of experimentation or exploration in the broadest sense, such as the base jump from the Bell Tower of Val Montanaia, the speedflying of a volcano, a trip to Turkey with many base and wingsuit jumps and highlines ; his most recent feat, realized in late August was the freesolo climb of the Tre Cime di Lavaredo in Dolomites, with descent through base and wingsuit base jump from all three peaks.
The following is an interview that has kindly released us – and hopefully will make you understand more deeply the path, the motivations, the emotions that Marco Milanese puts into play in his intense life between Earth and Heaven, looking for a Equilibrium.
Marco : Your progression, your path in balance between climbing and jumping, is something really impressive. By reading your resumé, I have the idea of a kind of monk, because the extensive and fast training in the individual disciplines you have faced, considering the complexity and hardness in managing each one of them. Is that it? Do you have a common methodical approach on all your projects? And if so, what are your greatest difficulties, the limits that you recognize ?
I come from professional rugby so at the beginning of my activity I moved this type of approach in climbing and mountaineering in general, but lately, also because of the work as a mountain guide, I cannot train so constantly. Fortunately I still have a little ‘margin physically speaking, but lately I’m mainly training the mind, which is something you can not do in a climbing panel, you have to go out, you have to be exposed. I do not have a common approach to projects except for the fact that when they start to turn around in my head they do not leave me alone, I practice too many different activities that require very different approaches. The limits that I recognize are certainly not having a physical-fit body for climbing at high levels, and a mind that does not bear too much long drudgin’ around. I’m more a type of “Fast & furious” but who knows what will happen to me soon or later …
I have a curiosity about your path between disciples : I know that generally at least a 200 jumps from the plane are considered indispensable before the transit to the base jump. More to wear a wingsuit, both in the air then to Alpine Base. But there are exceptions. Can you tell us something about it? What or who inspired you on this road of jumping, which strongly intersect with mountaineering ?
I have always had a strong attraction towards emptiness, it relaxes me, makes me think more clearly. I researched it at the beginning with the climbing.. because it was the most obvious thing, then with the highline and finally, thanks to a left wrist injury that did not allow me to climb, but to open a parachute, I threw myself in this adventure .
The “normal” route to jump from the mountains with a wingsuit is long. You need 200 jumps from the plane before you can wear a small beginner jumpsuit, as you need 200 to do a base jumping course. Then the two things come together, the basejumping and the wingsuit. I say that I have speeded up a few steps – but I want to assure you that I have never skipped any step!
The unaware people in this base world… they are another thing, is just a new type of a suicide (because it is not possible to assimilate it to the world of BASE) ..there was one guy that had 5 jumps from the plane and no experience of mountain ,nor wing suit who decided to try, easy no? He will have seen it many times in the videos. I let you imagine the bitter end. Combining mountaineering and BASE has become something natural for me, but in a right way.
As for your professional job as Alpine Guide, I imagine it is your solid point for your financial support – and main source to have budget for other activities. Is it like that or are you also having satisfactions with some sponsors for the missions, you’ve made?
Yes, let’s say that at the moment the only economic support is the alpine guidejob, sometimes also I do some Highline shows with my girlfriend- she’s dancing on the aerial fabrics but nothing more, apart from Monvic who generously provides me with the clothes to climb and PhoenixFly who supplies me with wing suits at very low prices. As for now, nobody sponsored me and I did not look for them. If you have someone for shoes and clothes in goratex let me know, I do not need much more.
Recently you have made a trip to Turkey, on Facebook you have posted very beautiful images showing a country in great growth, talking about the presence of beautiful mountains and sites suitable for flights, base , climbing, highlining. Can you summarize brifly your experiences and numbers, how long were the approach, how many jumps, how many days? To get an idea of how intense was that whole experience.
This experience was a real exploration trip in the mountains of the far north-east of Turkey. Thanks to a local jumper. the government of the region has supported us with all possible means, pickups, bulldozers to clean the streets, ambulances to landings, boats for water rescue. The first week we were in Uzundere where we practically went around, we looked at a mountain we found a way to climb it (generally very easy because they built dirt roads everywhere to build electricity pylons) and jumped with or without wingsuit. I personally opened two new exits on the day of my birthday. Then we jumped ruined castles, antennas and lower walls. Everything we saw as safe we jumped it, what an experience!
The second week we were in the park of Kamalye, already known for the climb (little), bike, and the base, here people knew English and were not as conservative as in the first village we visited. 15 busted jumpers were welcomed with open arms with the greetings of the authorities and the beginning of the jumps with the wingsuit over the village. Later we jumped from a stretched cable above the euphrates with a small chairlift created for the occasion. They sent us downtown with this seat and then jumped! wooooow.
Numbers I do not know, we did at least 3 jumps on average days. Many kilometers, also because the two localities were 600 km from each other. So much kebab was especially full of Turks! (laughs)…
The debate about the extreme danger of the wingsuit used in BASE, even more in Alpine contexts, is quite lively, you have personally experienced in an article on the motivations of some time ago, with comments on social media showing a brutal cynicism for those who practice a discipline so extreme (and I add, often dictated by ignorance in the narrowest sense of the word). I ask you brutally: do you look for increasingly difficult proximity lines, more complex exits, launch after launch? Or do you impose a kind of control over your limits? How do you prepare a launch from a new exit, alone or with the companions change things?
It is a new sport that has yet to know its limits, people speak because they do not know well what they are talking about, as always. How often we “alpinists” or “climbers” have heard that we are unconscious.
The truth is that there is a world behind that few know, and often is misrepresented by criminal journalists or suicide madmen who want to throw at all costs because it is cool. But nobody talks about 60-year-olds who have made the history of this sport with an impressive amount of jumps (we are talking about 3-4000 jumps only of basejump).
However returning to us, in general I always look for a good reason to jump, this can be a difficult exit or a line of aesthetic proximity but can also be jumps with friends and follow each other, or do somersaults just for the sake of seeing the your friend make them next to you. Lately I try instead to find a beautiful mountain to climb and jump, no need to have a difficult jump.
A new exit…I prepare it very carefully, we have a lot of data available on our flights thanks to special gps and flight schedules and with lasers to measure the new exits and know if they are feasible, I study and review the data until I am sure that be feasible with an adequate safety margin, look good atmospheric conditions and good thermals and then go!
How did you prepare the triptych on the Cime di Lavaredo? I read on planetmountain that you heard Thomas Huber, who in 2008 drew a first idea of concatenation with a base jump..da what did you have in mind this project?
This project was born a few years ago when for the first time I jumped the big top. The chaining was a natural idea that jumped into my mind. I just had to wait for the right time, when I had already a bit of training with this style behind me. Last year for example I climbed the socondo edge in Tofana and at the top I jumped with the suit, in total from machine to car I took 2 hours and 15 minutes if I’m not mistaken, I realized that I could also try on the three peaks .
I spoke with Huber asking him about the jump from the west of Lavaredo but then I decided to change the program and it’s over that I opened a new exit on the west.
The logistics of this nice trip was not easy because having only two parachutes I had to fold one, also one of the main problems was that I had to find the point from where to jump on the small and west.
Arrived at the start of the path to the small top of Lavaredo I left a parachute and I climbed with the other, I climbed the normal which is a way of IV, I dropped and found the exit I jumped. I folded the parachute near the church and I headed on the two north, left a parachute at the base of the edge Dibona I headed to the edge Demuth, climbed this halfway I found a perfect exit and I jumped, you can not jump from no part higher than the yellow cliffs because then the wall is supported. Finally I went back to the Dibona corner and with the suit and the other parachute I climbed the corner, among other things, as a bad cloud was coming I ran like crazy going up in less than an hour. At the top I wore the suit and off to the last jump with landing on soft grass.
An almost mystical experience but lived smoothly, reviewing the videos I discovered that I often sang songs while climbing 🙂
Thanking you for your time, the final question is: where are you going? I do not care much about knowing the next project, but understanding from you if you have identified a path or some medium /long term goal.
The ultimate goal is always as they say in English “having a good time” but certainly the climb and fly will have a central place, I think it is the purest form to climb a mountain. Attached with a parachute in the back, without using stopping nails and ropes, fast both in the ascent and in the descent. You do not need to leave traces on the mountain, as if to say “I have passed by here” by planting a nail. It leaves everything intact. Pure.