Thursday, January 30, 2014

Winter 2014 | The 'Patience Time' on Nanga Parbat

Emilio Previtali tweeted at around sunset this evening: “Tomasz (Mackiewicz) here in BC right now, in our tent. Pawel (is) already in Polish BC. All the mountaineers are safe in BC now.” Considering the forecast of adverse conditions, Schell route climbers were expected to return to Base Camp by Wednesday evening, but on one stage Poles were thinking otherwise. On Diamir side, Daniele Nardi has started working on acclimatization. Meanwhile the progress continues on Noshaq.

Simone and David
Continuing from C2 (6100m), Simone Moro and David Gottler established C3 at around 6700~6800m on January 28th. The route was in tough condition due to hard ice, as the duo fixed around 400m ropes in difficult sections. After an extremely cold night in Camp 3, they continued the upward journey next day, and reached at altitude of around 7000m. They turned back from there, due to forecast of bad weather. By the evening, Simone and David were in Base Camp (at 3600m), “we went down like a skyrocket”.

Simone and David couldn’t have a look at Diamir side, as they followed the Schell route variant which traverses to opposite face well above 7000m.

Spending a cold night in C3; Photo: David Gottler

The Polish Team
The Polish Team’s progress above C2 wasn't rapid. On 28th, Tomek, who had minor health issues at the start of climb, went up with Pawel and Michal. They established C2-A at 6200m. Tomek and Pawel spent the night there. Michal descended to C2 and continued down to BC on January 29th. Meanwhile Jacek Teler also went up to C2.

Jacek Teler enjoying a Coke, after returning to BC; Photo: Emilio Previtali

However, the situation became a little stressing when Polish website published an interview of Tomek (who was in C2-A, then).

"- We are in camp at 6200m asl. We set it on the little shelf by rocks.
- The plan is that Pawel Dunaj wants to push up to 7000. There on, climb to the other side of ridge and see how the mountain on Diamir side is."

When asked about the upcoming bad weather (wind in excess of 100 km/h, And heavy snowfall) Tomasz Mackiewicz explains that

"- According to the forecasts, the big deterioration will take place on Sunday, Feb 2nd.
- By that time we would be at 7000 and would have excavated a decent cave."

Then what?

"- We are planning to wait out in the bad weather.
- And then, if everything is in order, try to hit the top. We'll see how the situation develops."

The Polish climbers apparently wanted to earn a summit-push chance, at the cost of spending several bad weather days in snow cave, at around 7000m. But the conditions didn't let Tomek and Pawel go up, today. Pawel was first to change the decision and start the descent. Tomek also followed him, soon.

Simone Moro; Photo: David

Daniele Nardi
Daniele reached the Base Camp on 28th, after a difficult final day trek through fresh snow. After setting up the tent, he started the acclimatization by skiing towards a ridge that leads to Ganalo Peak (6608m). Due to recent snow, Nanga Parbat is in dangerous condition and is continuously releasing snow and ice avalanches. “I'll have to wait and be patient. Nevertheless I feel in great shape and full of enthusiasm ... However without excitement, anything great has never been accomplished!” wrote the solo climber.

The latest update from Polish/Russian Noshaq team dates back to January 27th, when they were in C2 (5500m), hoping to reach C3 next day.

Chashkin(s) Attempt
Pakistani Team led by Qudrat Ali couldn’t launch the Chashkin peaks climb due to continuous snow. They spent three to four days at Base Camp, without any respite in heavy snow - eventually deciding to return home.

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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Winter 2014 | The all Important Acclimatization Climb

Simone Moro, David Gottler, Pawel Dunaj and another Polish climber (most likely Michal Obrycki) are in C2 at 6100m, right now. Tomek Mackiewicz is still in one of the lower Camps. The weather has been quite promising so far, but is forecasted to start deteriorating by Wednesday. These days are critical as the progress now will dominate the summit strategy of both teams.

Daniele Nardi is approaching the infamous Diamir BC, under the cover of police rifles, with mixed sentiments. “There is a lot of tension in the air and is understandable. Despite this I'm much focused and I feel in great shape”, wrote the Italian solo climber.

Sunset from Nanga Parbat C2 (6100m); Photo: Simone Moro

The North Face Team
Italian Simone Moro and German David Gottler have blended perfectly to formulate the toughest team of the season. Simone is experienced, David is young and both of them are strong. They work on a ‘light and fast’ strategy. “Composition is small, but they are very fast. (They) don’t walk together side by side … they just swing.” Tomek Mackiewicz said in an interview few days back.

The duo left BC (3600m) on Sunday afternoon, reaching C1 (5100m) in about 5 hours. This morning, they cruised up to C2 (6100m). Skies are clear, there is no wind, the temperatures are extremely low and there is fresh snow in upper sections. Tomorrow, Simone and David will try to establish C3 (somewhere around 6800m~7000m) and spend one night there for acclimatization. Due to forecasted bad weather, they may not be able to proceed to Diamir side of Schell route.

Simone Moro and David Gottler on Nanga Parbat; Source: The North Face Expedition

Justice for All
It has been 45 days since the arrival of Polish at Base Camp. Their visas were deemed to expire in three weeks but the team has already requested an extension. In previous weather window, they excavated a snow cave at 6100m, which serves the purpose of C2. Almost the entire route fixing till C2 was led by Poles.

To utilize the current weather window, three Poles, including Pawel Dunaj and Tomek Mackiewicz, climbed directly from BC to C1 on 26th. Tomek stayed in C1 today as he wasn’t feeling well, whereas the other two ascended to C2. Tomek is expected to join them tomorrow.

C2 Cave of Polish Team; Photo: JFA Expedition

Daniele Nardi
The Italian climber Daniele Nardi wants to attempt Mummery ridge in alpine style, alone. He is currently trekking in Diamir valley and will reach the Base Camp, tomorrow. Following the horrific incident of June 2013, the environment of Diamir valley is still dominated by fear and anxiety. Daniele is being escorted to BC under police cover.

Ralf Dujmovits was the first foreigner to visit Diamir BC since Taliban massacre. He wanted to let the people know that the valley is still reachable and presumably safe for climbing teams. However, the German climber noticed something different during the expedition.

On one hand you have the problem with the Taliban in the far periphery of Nanga Parbat. But I think the greater problem results from the sociocultural situation right in the Diamir Valley above Chilas. The people living in this area are very conservative and fundamentalist. There are still many feuds. If someday grandfathers had a dispute, their grandchildren will carry it on.

The people can barely be described as open to strangers. It’s not quite like feeling welcome. I am no longer one hundred percent sure that the assassination in the basecamp was really committed by the alleged Taliban. I am saying this quite frankly, I have strayed far from my original conviction.” - Ralf told Stefan Nestler in an interview after returning to Germany.

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Friday, January 24, 2014

Winter 2014 | Tracing the Footprints of Andrzej Zawada

Noshaq Winter Expedition 2014

This winter, on what they call as 41st anniversary of first winter ascent of (mount) Noshaq, a four-member team is attempting to repeat the feat of Andrzej Zawada and Tadeusz Piotrowski. They intend to climb the 7492m Noshaq peak located at Pakistan-Afghanistan border, which is highest mountain of Afghanistan and second highest in Hindu Kush range (after Tirich Mir). The expedition consists of Polish Aleksandra (Ola) Dzik, Robert Róg, Hubert Szczepan Krzemiński and the Russian Oleg Obrizan.

The man (or the mind) behind winter Himalaism - Andrzej Zawada; Source

The Polish members of the team flew to Dushanbe (Tajikistan) on January 10th, where they met their Russian colleague. Their entrance to Afghanistan was delayed a little because of some change in visa issuance process. Eventually, the matter was sorted out and the climbers crossed the border on Jan 15th. After spending a day in Ishkashim (in Badakhshan province of Afghanistan), they left for Base Camp on 17th. 

The team reached Base Camp at 4200m in Qazi-deh valley on Jan 20th, and immediately started working on the mountain. They have already established C1 at 4900m. Ola Dzik has reported from the Base Camp that weather looks promising, while the ridge above C1 is also in good condition.

Ola Dzik - leader of the expedition; Source

Poles and Noshaq

First Ascent 
The Poles have a special relationship with Noshaq. In summer 1960, the Academic Alpine Club of Kyoto (Japan) sent a team of six climbers (who were also biologists, geologists and science students) to Afghanistan with the objective of scientific research in Wakhan corridor and the first ascent of Noshaq (7492m). They left Kabul on July 1st and reached the Base Camp in Qazi-deh valley on 16th. But the Japanese were taken by surprise when a European expedition also arrived there at the start of August. It was a Polish team led by Boleslaw Chwascinski, who intended to climb the same mountain.

The two expedition leaders discussed the possibility of a joint summit attempt; but when Japanese went up from C4 (6300m) on August 17th, none of the Polish climbers was ready for summit-bid. Toshiaki Sakai and Goro Iwat-subo reached the top at around 6:00PM that day, becoming the first men to arrive at the summit of Noshaq. Polish expedition continued the climb and summited on 27th, 10 days after first ascent. Both teams climbed south col and south ridge.

Noshaq; Source

Second Polish Ascent
However, the story doesn't end here. In 1960s, when the political and financial circumstances didn’t let the Polish climbers to go to Karakoram or Himalayas, they continued venturing in Hindu Kush and made several first ascents of lower peaks. In 1966, second Polish team ascended Noshaq via west ridge (first climbed by Austrians in 1963). It was fourth overall ascent of the mountain.

The Ladies Ascent
In 1972, an expedition led by Janusz Kurczab arrived at Base Camp to achieve the ladies ascent of the mountain. The legendary Wanda Rutkiewicz was also part of the team. Expedition was extremely successful as Jan Holnicki-Szulc, Janusz Kurczab and Krzysztof Zdzitowiecki made the first ascent of the southwest face in alpine-style on August 22, whereas eight other members summited via normal route (west ridge) on 23rd and 25th. It was also a Polish female altitude record, at that time.

Wanda Rutkiewicz; Image: Wikipedia

First Winter Ascent
But the most fascinating connection between Polish climbing and Noshaq was established in early 1973. Winter Himalayan climbing, that later become a Polish national characteristic, started from this mountain when Tadeusz Piotrowski and Andrzej Zawada reached its summit on February 13th. It was first winter ascent of a 7000m peak, which opened the doors of winter climbing in Himalayas.

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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Winter 2014 | Bad Weather on Nanga Parbat

The good days are gone, as snow and fierce wind hold back the Schell route teams at Base Camp. The climbers are contented with the progress so far. Technically difficult and dangerous portion of the route (from C1 to C2) has been fixed, though they were unable to have a look at Diamir side section of the route. Daniele Nardi, the Italian climber who will make a solo attempt on Diamir face, has also started his journey towards Nanga Parbat.

The Route
Polish climber Tomek Mackiewicz, who climbed the Schell route till 7400m last winter, says that the route is ‘another planet’ if compared with previous year. “Much more difficult (conditions)!” There is a lot of black ice, which will require more efforts, technically and mentally. Going up and coming down in icy areas will be slow and treacherous, as climbers will have to pay extra attention.

Route fixing till 5800m was led by Polish team as Simone Moro and David Gottler arrived late. However, now both teams share the progress up the mountain. In latest climb, Simone and David reached 6400m. Access to Mazeno Pass (at around 6800m) should not be a great difficulty, now. The teams are also hoping for adequate conditions on Diamir face.

David, somewhere above C1; Photo: Emilio Previtali

Weather Forecast
The 9 days long weather window from January 11th to 20th allowed the teams to acclimatize well and make significant progress on the route. But the conditions may not improve for at least 4-5 days, now. Mountain-Forecast suggests clear weather and milder winds from Jan 27th to 29th, before another spell of snow and hurricane gusts.

Team ‘Justice for All’
The Polish team reached 6100m on the mountain. Michal Obrycki, Pawel Dunaj and Tomek Mackiewicz returned to BC on Jan 18th. Tomek had spent several days above 6000m setting up C2. Jacek Teler was the last one to come down.

Tomek in Emilio's tent; Photo: Emilio Previtali

The North Face
Simone Moro and David Gottler made two trips up the mountain during previous weather window. In first attempt, they extended the route fixing from 5900m to 6000m on January 15th, before returning to Base Camp. On 17th, the duo went up again and reached 6400m on Jan 20th before bad weather halted their advancement.

Diamir Side
Daniele Nardi was schedule to leave for Pakistan on January 20th. As per plan, he will reach Base Camp on 28th. Daniele will be climbing Mummery Ridge route in alpine style. Last year, he (along with Elisabeth Revol and Ali Muhammad) acclimatized on Ganalo Peak (6608m), before reaching 6400m on Mummery Rib.

Simone & David's C2; Photo: Simone Moro

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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Winter 2014 | Team from Shimshal Attempts Three Chashkin Peaks (ca. 6000m)

Located at an altitude of 3000m, Shimshal is one of those villages of Pakistan that can be considered as home of mountaineers. Rajab Shah, Mehrban Shah, Shaheen Baig, Ali Musa, Qudrat Ali, Pakistan’s first female altitude climber Samina Baig and many more - they all belong to this remote community of Hunza Nagar. A three-man team of Shimshal climbers left the village yesterday (Jan 20th), to climb three peaks of mount Chashkin (ca. 6000m). The team is led by renowned mountaineer Qudrat Ali, whereas Muhammad Abdul and Kaleem Ullah are other members.

“The target of this winter expedition is to attempt three 6000m peaks in alpine style, within one week’s time,” Majeed Karim (of Shimshal Mountaineering School) told Altitude Pakistan. “Two of the peaks, Chashkin I and Chashkin II are still unclimbed. Chashkin III was scaled by Qudrat Ali and Shaheen Baig in winter 1997.”

A summer photo of three peaks

One of the famous ascents of Chashkin III was by Samina Baig, who reached the summit in September 2010. Qudrat Ali summited again in 2010 with a Japanese expedition. The altitude of the peak was recorded as 5950m during the expedition. The precise heights of unclimbed peaks are not known yet, but Qurdrat Ali said that they’re taller than Chashkin III. (The maps also suggest the same.)

The climbers left the village with backpacks of approximately 40kgs each, carrying food for more than a week and climbing equipment; without porters or BC support. They will attempt Chashkin I first, before returning to BC and going up for peak II via a different route. The peaks are connected via a ridge of 1km+ length, 100m topographic prominence and unknown difficulty level, and hence they are not going to link the two summits. Chashkin III will be attempted, last. The temperatures during the expedition may drop well below -30°C. 

Qudrat Ali (42) is one of the experienced mountaineers of Pakistan. His first interaction with tourism dates back to 1989, when he was hired by a group of British High Commission tourists to ‘just show around’. Later in 1991, he accompanied Paul Hudson to a nearby peak and learned the basics of mountain climbing from him. The climbing record of Qudrat Ali includes four eight-thousander ascents (Broad Peak, 2xGII, GI and Nanga Parbat), two winter attempts on Broad Peak and several other expeditions (including K2 and Manaslu).

Qudrat Ali

Muhammad Abdul and young Kaleem Ullah are from Shimshal Mountaineering School (SMS). Abdul has worked as altitude porter for different 6000m and 7000m expeditions, whereas Kaleem has just completed the training programs at SMS.

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Winter Climbing | The Bitter Cold and Wind, History, The Calendar Winter and More (Part-2/2)

Traditionally, one exquisite aspect of mountaineering had been the absence of definite rules. It was all about ethics and self-regulation, without any supervisory restrictions. However, with the development of new skills and styles, it became almost a necessity to categorize different kind of climbs separately - like new routes, traverses, solo ascents, alpine style climbs etc. Reaching the summit in wintertime got the obvious name of 'winter ascent' but unlike other categories, the boundaries of winter ascents are not so definite.

What is winter?
What divides the autumn and winter? There is no categorical answer to this question, as start date of winter varies from culture to culture and region to region. Traditionally, Nepalese and Chinese governments issued winter climbing permits starting from December 1st. During the first winter expedition to Lhotse in 1974, the authorities had instructed Polish team to return by the end of December.

However, the modern rules follow the calendar season definition of winter, “a climb that takes place between December 21st and March 21st.” A perfectionist approach further restricts that from arrival at BC to departure, everything should happen between aforementioned dates. Modern climbers like Simone Moro have strictly followed this definition of winter climbing.

The BAD Chart
The question arises here that between Winter Permits and Calendar Winter, which one is a real representation of wintery conditions. For the answer, we shall refer back to Explorers’ Web’s “Winter climbing: The BAD chart” series. After assessment of different meteorological parameters and combining their affect, the article concludes that,

According to the chart the lines jam up and things starts to get really bad during December, worsen slightly in January and stay bad during February. November is drier and warmer than the winter period and March is warmer and less windy.

The two most important factors for bad winter weather are cold temperatures and high winds. The extreme winds start already in October and run through February. Temperatures drop constantly during the autumn until Dec 21, when they reach bottom levels.

Temperatures stay low for just over two months until February 28; when Everest starts to warm up again. It is probably no coincidence that the weather charts show winter starting at the exact same date as the winter solstice (darkest day of the year), and the official beginning of winter according to the calendar.

December 1st was never considered the true start of winter climbing season. Brian Hall wrote in Alpine Journal 1985, “The season is officially from December 1 to January 31st, though the calendar winter season starts on 21 December - a date when the majority of successful expeditions have already reached the summit. The beginning of December has stable, clear weather, in fact more of an extension of the post-monsoon period, though the winds are higher and the temperatures colder. Also, the Nepalese government allows winter expeditions to reach Base Camp and even establish a Camp I (though not man it) before December 1st. Thus the winter season is not as unattractive as it at first appears.

Hence, today those expeditions with summit reached before Dec 21st are marked as late autumn climbs and doesn't appear in winter lists. It’s agreed that winter climbing should adhere to calendar winter time-frame. Climbing should start no earlier than Dec 21st and should end before March 21st.

The Winter First Ascents of 1980s
The idea of calendar winter expeditions (no climbing before Dec 21st) evolved quite recently, and it does not change the status of various ascents of 1980s. However, expeditions starting in autumn and summit being reached before the start of calendar winter are still categorized as Late Autumn climbs. A winter summit is where the entire summit climb took place after Dec 21st.

Nonetheless, the mountaineering community unanimously awards the first winter ascent of Lhotse to Krzyztof Wielicki, and that of Manaslu to Maciej Berbeka and Ryszard Gajewski. Hence only Nanga Parbat and K2 stand unclimbed in winter, now.

However, the stats do say that Kangchenjunga, Dhaulagiri, Manaslu and Lhotse ascents were not full calendar winter climbs (i.e teams started climbing the mountain before Dec 21st).

Recent Years
On December 11, 2004, Frenchman Jean-Christophe Lafaille reached the summit of then winter-unclimbed Shishapangma and claimed it to be the first-winter-ascent of the mountain (start date of expedition was November 14, 2004). Lafaille's claim was entirely rejected by mountaineering community.

Later that season, Simone Moro and Piotr Morawski achieved the first ascent of Shishapangma in true winter conditions. It was the re-birth of successful winter altitude climbing. Since then, four more 8000m peaks have been climbed in winter, all following the calendar winter rules.

First winter ascent of all eight-thousanders, except Everest, has been achieved without using supplemental oxygen. The no O2 on taller 8000m peaks was a new thing when Polish team attempted Everest in January/February 1980. The mountain is still to be climbed without oxygen.

Sometimes, Ang Rita’s no O2 summit of Everest on December 22, 1987 is wrongly quoted as a winter summit. The expedition started in October and entire climb till C4 took place before the start of calendar winter.
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Saturday, January 18, 2014

Winter Climbing | The Bitter Cold and Wind, History, The Calendar Winter and More (Part-1/2)

Climbing an 8000m peak is a challenging endeavor. Combine this with winter and it becomes a game of endurance and courage undertaken by individuals who assent pain and sufferings beyond human limits. Antisthenes, a pupil of Socrates, once said that in a certain faraway land the cold is so intense that words freeze as soon as they are uttered, and after some time then thaw and become audible, so that words spoken in winter go unheard until the next summer. Was the Greek philosopher about talking the summit of an 8000m peak where chill averages below -70°C in winter?

Winter climbing: Why?
While the Himalayan mountain ranges have been there since millions years, the recent exploration and mapping of the region started no earlier than nineteenth century. Once maps and altitudes of significant peaks were established, the desire to climb such great heights wasn't an unusual thing. Years of experience and improvement in technique and technology turned 1950's into the decade of first-ascents of so called eight-thousanders.

A dozen of nations rejoiced the honor of first summits. However, Poland - the home of Tatra Mountains and a nation with a climbing history - were completely missing from the scene. It was the time when Poland was still recovering from the wounds of World War II, and was not in a position to arrange expeditions to Himalayas. So, they practised in their own courtyard, Tatras. To beef up the challenge, they started to climb in unusual circumstances - in winters.

By 1970s, the darkness on Polish mountaineering started to shed. They were eventually venturing on high peaks of Hindu Kush, Himalayas and Karakoram. They were ready to practice the art of winter climbing in Himalayas.

Winter Climbing: When?
Being at the summit of an 8000m peak in winter was merely an inane fantasy before the Polish practitioners started rocking the scene in 1980s. But beyond the challenge of climbing the mountain itself, the Poles had to overcome various other obstacles like the limited materialistic resources; very basic mountaineering gear and above all no one really believed that they could do it. On political front, it took them years to obtain climbing permits.

First winter ascent of Noshaq (7492 m) in Afghanistan’s Hindu Kush range in 1973 proved to be the dawn of a new era in altitude climbing. It was the first instance of a human being scaling a peak above 7000m in winter (Tadeusz Piotrowski and Andrzej Zawada reached the top). It was a Polish national expedition, led by father of winter Himalaism, Andrzej Zawada.

Following year, the Poles were back in Himalayas with a bigger challenge - to climb Lhotse in winter. It was the first winter expedition to an 8000m peak. The team managed to reach a record altitude of 8200m. Andrzej Zawada’s team proved that they can survive above 8000m in winter. The team also wished to attempt Everest, however, the Nepalese government denied to issue such a permit.

Eventually at the end of 1979, the Poles got the permission to climb Everest in winter, and they couldn't let this chance go away. On February 17th, 1980 at around 2:40 PM, Base Camp heard over radio, “WE ARE ON THE SUMMIT! … Conditions are very tough. If it were not Everest, we would have given up!” Jubilant Krzysztof Wielicki and Leszek Cichy had just made the history. So, today the mountaineering community talks about first ascent and first-winter-ascent of 8000m peaks.

Winter Climbing: The Challenges?
Before the start of winter 2004-05, Explorersweb examined several meteorological factors that make the winter climbing Everest (or any 8000m peak) such an immense challenge.

1. From October 20 until end of March, there is an almost constant Category 1 Hurricane (32m/s or 74 miles/hour) pounding the summit of Everest. During this period 3 out of 4 days experience above 32 ms/74 mph.

2. From Dec 21st until Feb 28 the temperature never rises above -33°C (-27°F) at the summit. A combination  of this with 75mph wind gives a less than 5 minute frostbite time.

3. During January the average wind chill drops to -70°C (-90°F). This makes Everest summit not only the tallest, but also among the coldest places on earth to humans - if not the coldest. Also, Average wind chill for Everest Base Camp is -30°C (-21°F) during winter. Its important to consider the way an expedition is conducted. The summit is reached quickly in a couple of days when the weather briefly holds. However the tedious process of establishing camps and carrying supplies can not wait for good weather.

But what about snow? The probability of snowfall can be estimated through humidity level. High humidity indicates high risk of snow.

4. The summit of Everest is predominantly dry. October and November are very dry, followed by a slight monthly increase in snowfall over the winter months. The humidity level is one of the few (only) positive factors for a Himalayan winter expedition.

So basically, it’s the lethal combination of tremendously strong and extremely consistent wind that sweeps the summits of 8000m peaks, the awfully cold temperatures and the wind chill that makes climbing extremely difficult.

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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Winter 2014 | Nanga Parbat Teams Progressing on Schell Route

With initial round of acclimatization already completed, the action on Nanga Parbat is getting serious as climbing becomes further challenging. Meteorological conditions are favorable right now, and are forecasted not to deteriorate much for a few more days. All climbers are currently on the mountain, trying to establish the route and set up higher camps for summit push. Despite the sudden exit of Marek Klonowski, Poles are united and hopeful. Simone Moro and David Gottler are well synchronized as climbing partners; and the two teams enjoy a friendly and collaborative relationship.

Trying to fly a drone, that Marek gave to Simone Moro; Source

The New Formation of Justice for All Team
The Polish team consisted of six members (Michal Obrycki and Michal Dzikowski as supporting members) when they reached BC, but are only four now. Michal Dzikowski, who helped in hauling the loads up the mountain, has started the return journey. Unlike Marek’s unexpected exit, Dzikowski’s departure was already scheduled, “I have to leave too - my work holidays are nearly over and I have to be back in Ireland in the next week or so.

Michal Obrycki will remain with Tomek Mackiewicz, Pawel Dunaj and Jacek Teler.

Continuing the Climb
After few days of snow and clouds, January 11th was sunny and bright as fresh snow came down the mountain in the form of avalanches. Nonetheless, Tomek Mackiewicz left BC, right away. His plan was to fix route, establish C2 and intimate other members for further working. Due to radio set battery problem, he remained out of contact until yesterday.

It appears that Tomek couldn’t go beyond ABC on first day. He reached C1 On 12th and bivouacked at 5400m on 13th. Simone and David met him at around 5600m, this noon.

Michal Obrycki and Pawel Dunaj ascended to C1, yesterday and from SPOT data it appears that they are in C-1A right now. Jacek Teler will also be going up soon. “We will try to take maximum advantage of the next 2 days (weather?)”, he texted this evening.
Pawel and Michal in C1-A; Source

Moro and Gottler on a Mission
David and Simone were different yesterday; two real climbing companions”… “In their gestures, in the organization and preparation before departure not only you could see the individual experience, revealed by elementary actions performed thousands of times that reveal the beauty and naturalness of their being mountaineers. Gestures refined and repeated thousands of times in the time of their lives by mountaineer. Yesterday you could see the Simone and David thinking together. They coordinate. They look and understand each other with a glance, a gesture, without opening his mouth.” Emilio Previtali noticed as Simone Moro and David Gottler left the Base Camp.

After improvement in weather and delay for conditions to settle, the Italian-German duo left their Base Camp, yesterday. They spent the night in C1 (at 5100m) and went up, today. They met Tomek at around 5600m in the noon and later reached 5800m, the point till where the route was established by Polish team. Simone and David broke the trail for further 100m and deposited some equipment at 5900m. They are back in C1, now.

Simone Moro in C1, yesterday. Source: The North Face Expedition

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Saturday, January 11, 2014

Winter 2014 | Marek Klonowski Leaves Nanga Parbat

The bad weather spell on Nanga Parbat is over. “Today is the first good weather day. Wind on the ridge and spontaneous avalanches will clean our route”, Simone Moro wrote at 1000hrs local time on January 11th. But the important development over the past couple of days is the departure of Marek Klonowski from Nanga Parbat.

Polish ‘Justice of All’ Expedition
Marek Klonowski has abandoned his fourth winter Nanga Parbat attempt because of paternal reasons. It’s reported (by The North Face team and also confirmed by Jacek Teler) that Marek’s partner gave early birth to a baby and he immediately decided to return home. Family responsibilities overtake the dream of climbing Nanga Parbat.

The Polish Team will now consist of Tomek Mackiewicz, Jacek Teler and Paweł Dunaj joined by Michał Dzikowski and Michał Obrycki as support team. In previous years, Marek and Tomek attempted Nanga Parbat twice from Diamir side and once via Rupal Face.

Marek during winter Nanga Parbat 2010-11; Source

The North Face Team
Despite bad weather during past few days, Simone Moro and David Gottler went to ABC on Jan 10th to keep themselves in shape.

Weather remained snowy and cloudy on Nanga Parbat in past few days. It’s the time for the mountain to release fresh snow. The teams are, apparently, still at Base Camp, waiting for avalanche frequency to decrease and conditions to improve. Emilio Previtali says, “Amazing day, zero clouds, wind up, the channels are pouring the snow from yesterday.”

Nanga Parbat, today; Photo: Simone Moro

Justice for All” expedition consisted of Marek Klonowski and Tomek Mackiewicz (duo’s fourth consecutive winter Nanga Parbat expedition), Jacek Teler (his second attempt) and Pawel Dunaj. Poles are the uncrowned kings of winter altitude climbing, and the team feels proud of it. 80% of expedition funds have come of crowd-funding. The team is climbing Schell Route on Rupal face. Last year, Tomek Mackiewicz reached 7400m on this route. Marek has to abandon the expedition due to family reasons.

German Ralf Dujmovits was the first team to leave Nanga Parbat, this winter. The German climber decided to quit on January 3rd, due to high avalanche risk. As per him, the two ice towers immediately above 6000m on Messner route were in dangerous condition and prone to serac fall activity. Ralf’s entire route below ice towers, including C1 at 5500m, was exposed to avalanches caused by serac fall.

The man behind the rebirth of successful winter climbing, Simone Moro, was first non-Polish to achieve first winter ascent of an 8000m peak (Shishapangma in 2005). Later, from success on Makalu in 2009 and GII in 2011, to failed Nanga Parbat attempt in 2012, Kazakh (now Russian) Denis Urubko has been the regular partner of Moro, but the former was reluctant to come to Nanga Parbat because of security reasons.

However, Simone is joined by dynamic young man David Gottler - with 4 eight-thousanders and who was one of the few men who scaled Makalu last spring - and versatile adventurer Emilio Previtali. Although, Emilio’s primary job is documenting, reporting and sharing the story of winter Nanga Parbat but “I know of no climber who goes on a mountain with no desire to go on top.” - says the Italian. The North Face team is on Rupal side to climb Schell route.

Italian climber Daniele Nardi will reach Diamir BC on January 28th to attempt Mummery Rib, once again. Last year, he and French lady Elisabeth Revol climbed the route till 6400m.

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Thursday, January 9, 2014

Winter 2014 | Acclimatization and Fixing on Schell Route

After a week of climbing in improved weather, Nanga Parbat teams are back at Base Camp, now. They will rest and recover for next round during forecasted three days of bad weather. The North Face team has established C1 (5100m), while Polish climbers were reportedly slightly short of C2 on Schell Route. After discontinuing the expedition and recovering the gear from 4900m, Ralf Dujmovits and Darek Zaluski have left the region.

Simone Moro, Emilio and David
In first round of acclimatization, the North Face team has spent a night in C1 at 5100m (around 1500m above their Base Camp in Lattabo). After reaching the BC on December 31st, they kicked off the climbing on January 3rd, when David Gottler and Simone Moro went up to spend a night at 4100m and rise as high as 5000m.

On 5th, Simone returned to BC, while Emilio Previtali and David stayed in ABC. On January 6th, Emilio came down to BC, while David and Simone established the C1 proper at 5100m. They also spent a night there, before returning to BC.

Dinner at North Face tent; Source

The Dinner
The Polish team helped Simone, David and Emilio in setting up dome tent, as the latter arrived at BC on Dec 31st. But right after that, Poles went up the mountain and the two teams didn’t get a chance to sit together. However on Jan 7th, Poles were invited by German/Italians for the dinner. “Dinner with the Polish team yesterday in BC, talking about motorbikes, crazy travels, Nanga, vodka and drones,” wrote Emilio.

The relationship between the teams has been quite collaborative, so far. “… idea is to try to be of help in some way, at least at the base camp for the moment, since they [Poles] are ahead on the mountain, having arrived 20 days before us,” wrote Simone on Jan 5th.

David and Moro with Schell route in background; Photo: David

The Polish Team
According to Simone Moro, the Polish team has equipped route to an altitude of 5800m. C2 on Schell Route is traditionally established at 6100m.

Rupal Face BC this morning; Photo: Simone Moro

Ralf Dujmovits
Ralf’s decision to conclude winter Nanga Parbat attempt at an early stage may have appeared strange to few, but it proved to be absolutely correct when an ice avalanche struck the route, very next day. The avalanche came down when Ralf and Darek were descending after dismantling the tent at 4900m. “We were very lucky!” wrote the German climber.

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Friday, January 3, 2014

Winter 2014 | Ralf Dujmovits Quits, Poles on the Rise

The German mountaineer Ralf Dujmovits has decided to quit Nanga Parbat expedition, due to high avalanche risk. He says that the two ice towers immediately above 6000m are in dangerous condition and prone to serac fall activity. Ralf’s entire route below ice towers, including C1 at 5500m, are entirely exposed to avalanches caused by serac fall.

I had expected a certain level of risks climbing up the Diamir side in winter, especially on the Messner Route. But not these incalculable risks that I ‘m not willing to take. The serious accident on K 2 in 2008, when a part of the large serac above the bottleneck broke, was one of many examples of accidents by ice avalanches that could have been prevented.” He wrote in his conclusive report.

Circles showing suspected ice towers, whereas X is C1 (5500m); Source

Ralf Dujmovits spent several days on Aconcagua as acclimatization for Nanga Parbat. His plan was to launch a fast and light summit push on Diamir face immediately after reaching the BC, but Nanga Parbat winter isn’t known for such convenience. After reaching Base Camp on December 24th, he investigated the mountain face and witnessed that his preferred route, Kinshofer, is full of blue ice. Ralf decided to go for Messner route. On 30th, he and Darek Zaluski reached 5500m before turning back to BC due to bad weather.

On January 1st, weather cleared and they were able to see the whole Diamir side for the first time. But the good weather didn’t bring the happy news; rather the concerns about ice towers/seracs section became further worrisome. Apart from serac fall risk, Ralf has also been thinking about loss of acclimatization since nights spent on Aconcagua summits and no possible summit window till Jan 8th-9th. At the end, yesterday (Jan 2nd) he decided to abandon the climb, “after a careful weighing up of the risks – we had climbed up the glacier in deep snow for two hours again – I have decided to abandon the expedition.” He further adds that, “I’m leaving with nostalgia. It was a hard but also wild and beautiful adventure.”

This is 18th unsuccessful winter expedition to Nanga Parbat, overall.

Ralf's decision came after detailed consideration; Source

On Rupal Side
Meanwhile, with the improvement in weather, action resumes on Schell route. January 2nd was “nice cold day. We had -20 at 8:00 am and much more during the night. Nanga Parbat is so big above us.” Tweeted Simone Moro.

From GPS data, it appears that, the Polish team is currently on the rise.

Jacek Teler messaged yesterday, “New Year brought a weather-improvement; moving up on 3rd for 5-7 days, thinking of fixing to C3. Simone's Group still holds.” [Machine translated]

BC of  The North Face team; Source

Solo on Diamir: Edition-II
Daniele Nardi will be reaching Diamir BC during last week of January. He will acclimatize on nearby peaks, before alpine style attempt on Mummery Rib. Like 2013, Pakistani mountain guide Muhammad Ali will accompany him to BC.

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