Nepalese team succeeds in its first winter ascent of K2 | Mountaineering

A team of Sherpas accomplished one of the most coveted achievements in mountaineering: the first winter ascent of K2, the second highest mountain in the world, and the only one of the 14 peaks in the world over 8,000 meters above sea level. altitude never to have been climbed during the winter season. .

Ten Sherpas, including Nirmal Purja, a former Gurkha and member of the British special forces who had already climbed the 14 peaks over 8,000 meters in just over six months, reached the summit of K2 in Pakistan on Saturday. They left their high camp at 1am for their attempt to summit via the Abruzzo spur in temperatures as cold as -40C but with weak wind and bright sunshine.

K2 was climbed for the first time 66 years ago by Achille Compagnoni and Lino Lacedelli; there had been six previous attempts in the winter on the mountain, none of them had been successful.

In the world of high altitude climbing, so long dominated by Western mountaineers and expeditions who relied on the Sherpas to help them, the ascent – and by such a large team – marks an extraordinary feat for the Nepalese mountaineering.

The team finally reached the summit at 5 p.m. local time, waiting for them all to be assembled before singing the Nepalese national anthem and descending.

K2 was the last 8,000m peak awaiting a winter ascent after climbing Nanga Parbat in 2016. Winter climbs to the world’s highest mountains are extremely rare at best, and the technical and meteorological challenges of K2 beat the determined attempts of some of the strongest Himalayan climbers.

In a summit statement, Purja said: “What a trip. I am honored to say that as a team we have climbed the magnificent K2 in extreme winter conditions.

“We decided to make the impossible possible and we are honored to share this moment, not only with the Nepalese climbing community, but with communities around the world.

“Mother Nature always has bigger things to say and standing at the top, witnessing the strength of her extremities, we are proud to have been part of the history of humanity and to show that collaboration, the work of teamwork and a positive mental attitude can push the limits of what we think is possible.

A winter climb of K2 of 8,611 meters had been viewed by many as an impossible task due to the inclement weather conditions. Attempts on K2 are normally made in July or August, during the hottest periods – and only 280 people peaked compared to 3,681 who peaked Everest. Climbers have been interested in climbing K2 in winter since the mid-1980s, shortly after Everest’s first winter ascent.

Ahead of the successful ascent on Saturday, Mingma Gyalje Sherpa, one of the summit team members, stressed the importance for the Sherpa community to achieve the first winter ascent. “For all the other 8,000 luminaries in winter, no Sherpas were with them, so this is an opportunity for the Sherpas to demonstrate their strength,” he said.

“In addition to mountaineers, all climbers get help from Sherpa to make their dreams of 8,000-meter peaks come true. I have helped several foreign mountaineers to reach the summit of different 8,000 mountaineers. I was a little surprised not to see any Sherpa on the first winter ascent. This ascent is therefore aimed at the entire Sherpa community so well known thanks to our friends and customers from different foreign countries.

The team took advantage of a brief weather window on the mountain, infamous for the high winds that hit it, especially during the winter months, to climb to a high camp at 7,350 meters from where they launched their summit attempt.

The climb was quickly hailed as a historic achievement. “It’s done,” tweeted the Karakoram Club, an online community celebrating the Himalayan region where K2 is located. “The history books have been rewritten.

Mountaineer Steve Razzetti tweeted: “The history of mountaineering is being written as I publish this. The Sherpa climbing team is over the bottleneck and heading to the summit in perfect winter conditions.

Alan Arnette, who has long chronicled the Himalayan climbs, puts the climb in historical perspective in the American climbing magazine Rock and ice.

“That this last holy grail of mountaineering returns to a team of Sherpas and Nepalese is a clear sign that the scales of high altitude mountaineering are changing.

“Since Maurice Herzog and Louis Lachenal made the first ascent of Annapurna in 1950, becoming the first humans to ride the summit of an 8,000-meter peak, the ascent of the 14 highest mountains in the world has been a imperialist and colonialist enterprise.

“The Sherpas have been the backbone of this business – transporting supplies, running the camp, fixing ropes – but have reaped neither the glory nor the benefits. “

As news of the summit’s success emerged, it was also reported that a Spanish climber had died on the mountain.