First Winter Ascent of Gasherbrum II
2/2/11 - Simone Moro, Cory Richards, and Denis Urubko summited Gasherbrum II (8,035m/26,362') in Pakistan, the thirteenth-highest mountain in the world, reaching the top around 11:30 a.m. local time today. The three men safely returned to Camp 3, their high camp, despite a serious storm and will continue their descent to base camp tomorrow.
This is the first of the five 8,000-meter peaks in Pakistan to have a successful winter ascent, despite many attempts, especially in recent years. (The Karakoram in Pakistan is much farther north than Nepal, home of the remaining 8,000ers.) The Gasherbrum II ascent also marks the first time an American climber, Richards, has done the first winter ascent of an 8,000'er. Richards climbed his first 8,000-meter peak just last spring, summiting Lhotse.
The Italian climber Simone Moro now joins the greatest winter Himalayan climbers in history, Krzystof Wielicki and Jerzy Kukuczka from Poland, with three first winter ascents of 8,000'ers apiece, including Shishapangma, Makalu, and now Gasherbrum II. Moro and Denis Urubko from Kazakhstan partnered up for the first winter ascent of Makalu in Nepal, the world's fifth-highest peak, in 2009, on their second attempt. Urubko has climbed all 14 of the 8,000-meter peaks, completing a major new route on his final summit, Cho Oyu, just a few months after climbing Makalu.
Two other teams are also in the Karakoram this winter, hoping to make first winter ascents: a Canadian-Austrian-Basque team on Gasherbrum I, and a Polish team on Broad Peak.
See Richards' most recent video from the Gasherbrum expedition: