Thursday, January 11, 2018

Winter Climbs 2018: Into the Icefall on Everest, Poles in BC, and a Death on Lobuche

The winter climbing season is starting to pick up steam as the climbers continue to get settled on their respective mountains and prepare for the challenges ahead. But while two major expeditions start to take shape, we get the tragic news of a death on Lobuche East as well.

We'll start with an update from Alex Txikon on posted news on Facebook a few days back that he and his team have started their foray into the Khumbu Icefall on Everest. As many of you know, this is one of the most treacherous segments of the climb from the South Side, requiring patience, stamina, and a nerves of steel. In the video below, you'll see why this is such a dramatic section as we watch Alex work his way across open crevasses while dragging a large duffel bag and having a ladder strapped to his back. Those ladders are place over the crevasses in order to form makeshift bridges that the climbers will walk across on their way up to Camp 1. It is all a bit unsettling, but just another day at the office on Everest.

After working hard in the icefall on Tuesday, the team took yesterday off, and will resume their work today. Alex has vowed to not push it too hard in the early days of the expedition however, learning from last year that it is best to save your strength for the work yet to come.


Meanwhile, the Polish Ice Warriors team that has set its sights on K2 this winter has also shared an update with the news that they have now arrived in Base Camp. According to a blog post to the team's website, they reached BC at 5000 meters (16,404 ft) on Tuesday afternoon and have been getting settled there ever since. They hope to begin actual climbing operations within the next few days.


Already things have been more challenging than expected for the Poles. The 100 km (62 mile) trek to the base of the mountain was made more difficult by colder temperatures, heavy cloud cover, and some snow. But, now that they are in camp, things have improved some. Now, they will begin the work of establishing the route up to Camp 1, which will sit at 5900 meters (19,356 ft).

Tomek Mackiewicz and Elisabeth Revol continue their attempt at a winter summit of Nanga Parbat, but there has been little word on their progress since it was reported that they had acclimated above 6000 meters (19,685 ft) last week. A message posted from Tomek's home team indicates that there is limited connectivity in Base Camp, so it is difficult to share progress reports. But, the duo are reportedly waiting out heavy winds in BC before heading up once again.

Finally, sad news out of Nepal today where it has been revealed that Austrian climber Markus Schett has died on Lobuche East. Schett was there making a late autumn summit attempt on the mountain when he went missing back on December 19. He was last seen by his support team on that date, when he and his Sherpa guide launched a summit bid. The duo separated at some point higher on the peak, with the Austrian making an attempt to summit without his assigned guide, who ended up waiting for him to return for hours.

Schett's fate was unknown until another team spotted his body high on the slopes on December 29. Markus' family was later informed of his death and they asked to leave his body on the mountain, but that is now prohibited by law, so Nepali authorities are working out the logistics of trying to bring him down.

Our condolences go out to his friends and family.

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