On February 2, 2011 (Groundhog Day in the states) Simone Moro, of Italy, Denis Urubko of Kazakhstan and Cory Richards of Canada have completed the first winter ascent of 8,000er in the Korakoram Range in Pakistan. According to Alpinist Newswire and several other sources, they made the climb to Gasherbrum II (26,361 ft./8,035 m.) in a three-day push from basecamp.
Until now, all the 8,000ers that have been sended in winter were accomplished by Polish expeditions. No one had been able to reach the top of any of Pakistan’s Karakoram 8,000ers in winter. The fortune of the Moro-Urubko-Richards team no doubt gained a lot from Moro’s previous experience when climbing on the Pole’s other successful expeditions, including up Shishapangma (26,289 ft./8,013 m.) in 2005.
The Poles, lead by Artur Hajzer, continue to work their way up Broad Peak even now. According to Himalman Ie, the route is still advancing and one alpinist needs medical attention due to lung issues. Despite slow progress, I am optimistic about the Polish Broad Peak expedition.
A third stab at a Karakoram 8,000er winter ascent is also underway on Gasherbrum I (26,509 ft./8,080 m.) lead by Canadian alpinist Louis Rousseau. Rouseau’s group appears to be facing the most adversity going into his climb. Their team is smaller than planned, which could have been a financial set back as well. Nonetheless, they are in the Karakoram and moving forward. This attempt, if successful, might have the makings for the story we retell again and again.
In general, these attempts and ascents are signs that the Himalayas are in the second or third phase of mountaineering. The first phase is always about first ascents of the peak, usually by the easiest and most direct route. The second phase is usually climbing the mountian by more challenging routes and claiming an early ascent (like the second, third or fourth ascent of the peak). The third phase involves stunt climbs (please forgive the term), where the climbers will send the mountian in a particular style, in winter, including a ski descent or base jump, for example. I have just begun thinking about the evolution and trends in the natural flow of exploring so I might amend this in the future.