Halloween is done. The first snow has already fallen. So now I’m thinking about winter, including skiing, snowshoeing, snowball fights and winter climbing. Oh… and seasonal lagers too.
It also means we can start watching for news of high altitude alpinists going after the virgin winter ascents in the Himalayan 8,000-meter peaks. Four remain, as the Poles have succeeded in tackling Everest (1st highest), Kanchenjunga (3rd), Lhotse (4th), Makalu (5th), Cho Oyo (6th), Dhaulagiri (7th), Manaslu (8th), Annapurna (10th), and Shishapangma (14th).
Gasherbrum II, the world’s 13th highest mountain, is the only winter ascent that wasn’t climbed by the Poles and was the first in the Karakorum Range of the Himalayas. It was topped out on Groundhog Day (February 2, 2011) by an international team, including Simone Moro of Italy, Denis Urubko of Kazakhstan and Cory Richards of Canada.
So that leaves us four to track:
2. K2 (28,250 ft./8,611 m.)
9. Nanga Parbat (26,660 ft./8,125 m.)
11. Gashberbrum I (26,470 ft./8,068 m.)
12. Broad Peak (26,401 ft./8,047 m.)
The challenge of an ascent in winter in the Karakoram means generally colder temperatures, more frequent storms, shorter days with less sunlight. The ice can be brittle. Snow slopes can load and unload regularly as is the cycle of avalanches — which happen with greater frequency in winter storms.
While you don’t need to climb in the winter of these high altitude peaks to be the biggest, baddest climber, it sure helps your reputation. While I wouldn’t try it — and I’m not recommending that you make an attempt — I am going to watch with admiration anybody the tries this winter.
DECEMBER 10, 2011: Here’s an update on the teams heading to make attempts on three of the remaining peaks. .