Moro, Urubko Summit Makalu in Winter

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Makalu from the northwest. The route climbs the shaded snow and ice slopes to the saddle in center (Makalu La, 7,400m), and then follows the sunlit slopes to the 8,463-meter summit. Courtesy of Simonemoro.blogspot.com.

Makalu from the northwest. The route climbs the shaded snow and ice slopes to the saddle in center (Makalu La, 7,400m), and then follows the sunlit slopes to the 8,463-meter summit. Courtesy of Simonemoro.blogspot.com.

Simone Moro (Italy) and Denis Urubko (Kazakhstan) have reached the top of Makalu, completing the first winter ascent of the world’s fifth-highest peak. The two men summited the 8,463-meter peak at 1:53 p.m. on February 9 after a three-day climb from advanced base camp, via the normal route along the western slopes and upper northwest face.

“It was incredibly hard—very cold and very windy,” Moro said in a telephone call to MountEverest.net. (Audio clips from the last few days are posted at MountEverest.net.) “The last three hours, it was really a full fight with the jet stream.”

After acclimatizing in the Khumbu region, Moro and Urubko nearly had to abort their Makalu attempt after porters failed to reach base camp with supplies. Eventually they were able to charter a helicopter to finish the job. They established advanced base at 5,800 meters on January 20. The duo acclimatized during several forays up the mountain, including one trip to just below Makalu La at 7,400 meters. During their final climb, they spent two nights en route, at about 6,800 meters and 7,700 meters. They left for the summit a little after 6 a.m. on February 9, less than three weeks after arriving at advanced base camp.

Simone Moro (left) and Denis Urubko during an acclimatization climb on Makalu in late January 2009. Courtesy of Simonemoro.blogspot.com.

Simone Moro (left) and Denis Urubko during an acclimatization climb on Makalu in late January 2009. Courtesy of Simonemoro.blogspot.com.

The two men still must descend safely, but with their successful climb Makalu has become the last of the Nepalese 8,000-meter peaks to be summited in winter. All five of the remaining 8,000-meter peaks without a winter ascent are in the Karakoram. A Polish-Canadian team is currently making a winter attempt on Broad Peak in Pakistan.

Moro and Urubko form an extraordinarily powerful team. Ending the longtime Polish monopoly on first winter ascents of 8,000-meter peaks, Moro, 41, summited Shisha Pangma (with a Polish teammate!) in early 2005 to complete that peak’s first climb in winter. Over the past two winters he has attempted Broad Peak with Pakistani climbers Shaheen Baig and Qudrat Ali, and in early March 2008, Moro and Baig reached around 7,800 meters on Broad Peak. Urubko, 35, has now climbed 13 of the world’s 14 8,000-meter peaks, all without supplementary oxygen, and has climbed new routes on Broad Peak and Manaslu in alpine style. Urubko and Sergey Samoilov reached 7,500 meters on Makalu last winter but retreated in hurricane winds.

Makalu has been attempted at least 10 times in winter. In 2006 the French climber Jean Christophe Lafaille disappeared during a summit push above his final camp at 7,600 meters.

Date of Ascent: February 9, 2009

Sources:MountEverest.net, Simonemoro.blogspot.com, American Alpine Journal

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