11/25/14 - Only two 8,000-meter peaks have never been climbed in winter, and both are expected to see attempts this season. In Alaska, meanwhile, two soloists will attempt midwinter ascents of North America’s highest peak.
The international team of Adam Bielecki (Poland), Dennis Urubko (Russia/Kazakhstan), and Alex Txikon (Spain), along with support from other teammates, plans to attempt K2 by a partial new route. The three men climbed together on the north side of Kangchenjunga in Nepal last spring, and Urubko summited. Now they have designs on a route up K2 approached from the Chinese side, climbing the left side of the north face to reach the northeast ridge (first climbed by an American team from the Pakistani side in 1978). The winter climbers chose this route in part to stay in the lee of prevailing winter winds as long as possible.
K2, the world’s second-highest mountain, has seen three winter attempts, in 1987-88, 2002-03, and 2011-12. In 2003, as part of an international team, Urubko reached the highest point yet on K2 in winter, around 7,700 meters on the north ridge. That attempt was abandoned when Urubko’s partner, Marcin Kaczkan, contracted cerebral edema and had to be rescued from the high camp.
Several teams will be attempting Nanga Parbat, the 8,000’er that has seen the most winter action in recent years. Polish climber Tomek Mackiewicz, who has attempted the first winter ascent of Nanga Parbat over the past four years, will try again, this time solo, via the 1978 Messner Route on the Rupal side of the mountain. Mackiewicz has reached a highpoint of 7,400 meters in past attempts. Italian Daniel Nardi and Frenchwoman Elisabeth Revol also are returning to Nanga Parbat to attempt the Mummery Rib, which they previously tried in the winter of 2012–13, reaching 6,400 meters. A strong Russian team also reportedly plans to attempt the 8,126-meter peak.
Meanwhile, North America’s highest summit will see two midwinter solo attempts. Lonnie Dupre from Minnesota will make his fourth attempt at a solo climb of the West Buttress of Denali in January. Dupre has twice reached the 17,200-foot high camp on Denali in winter, but was foiled by bad weather each time. The well-known British big-wall climber Andy Kirkpatrick will make his own solo bid for the West Buttress starting in early February.
Denali was first soloed in winter by Naomi Uemura, who died during his descent of the West Buttress in 1984. Vern Tejas did the first successful solo round-trip on the West Buttress in March 1988.
Sources: Denis Urubko, Altitudepakistan.blogspot.com, Oneworldendeavors.com, Andy Kirkpatrick