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Starting in December, a Polish expedition will launch the country’s fifth attempt to climb 26,657-foot Nanga Parbat in winter. The team will be led by 56-year-old Krzysztof Wielicki, who was first to climb an 8,000-meter peak in winter (Everest, 1980) and also made the first winter ascents of Kangchenjunga and Lhotse (solo). Team members will spend the fall acclimatizing on Ama Dablam in Nepal and will travel to Pakistan in early December. They have not settled on a route.
Eight of the 14 8,000-meter peaks have been climbed during the calendar winter, and all eight first winter ascents were by Polish expeditions. Until recently, however, efforts to climb the remaining Himalayan giants in winter had stalled; the seventh 8,000’er to get a first winter ascent was Lhotse, way back in 1988.
In 2002, Wielicki delivered a manifesto to the Polish Mountaineering Association calling for a return to the Himalaya in winter: “According to the old rule, you should do what you do best,” he declared. “We were successful in high mountain winter explorations. Six unconquered peaks are waiting for us, but volunteers are nowhere to be seen…. We have done one half of the job. Now it’s your turn to finish it: you the young, angry, and ambitious. We are giving you eight years, the same time as we needed. It’s fair enough, isn’t it? If you could pull it off, wouldn’t it be great? Can you imagine that? All 8,000-metre peaks conquered for the first time in winter, all by Poles.”
In January 2005, the eighth 8,000-meter peak was climbed in calendar winter when Polish climber Piotr Morawski and Italian Simone Moro reached the top of Shishapangma, as part of an expedition led by Jan Szulc of Poland. Szulc will be deputy leader of the 2006-07 expedition to Nanga Parbat.