Karakorum Update: the Women of Winter

8000ers Winter 8000ers
Denis Urubko in Islamabad, surrounded by winter Broad Peak mates Don Bowie, and Lotta Hintsa. Photo: Denis Urubko

Denis Urubko, Don Bowie and Lotta Hintsa are already in Pakistan to attempt winter Broad Peak in (meteorological) winter. The trio met last Thursday in Islamabad and set off for Skardu the following day.

Meanwhile, in Bolzano, Italy, Simone Moro and Tamara Lunger remain in their hypobaric chamber at the Eurac research institute, training on a treadmill. They hope to acclimatize to altitude before even reaching Pakistan in about two weeks. Their goal is the first winter 8,000m traverse: Going light, fast and without O2, they’ll climb Gasherbrum I and, if possible, continue to Gasherbrum II along the route previously climbed once before, in summer, by Reinhold Messner and Hans Kammerlander.

Meanwhile, the high expectations for a first winter ascent of K2 may end with the mountain remaining untouched this season. Mingma G has postponed his expedition until at least January 2020 because of lack of funding. The team also includes Jon Snorri of Iceland, Gao Li from China, Sirbaz Khan from Pakistan and Tamting and Kilu Pemba from Nepal.

Setting aside this K2 paradox — too much attention has deterred some teams from trying — the Karakorum winter season does include one encouraging first: both teams going for winter 8,000’ers include a woman member.

If successful, this would mark the third female winter 8,000m climb, after Marianne Chapuisat on Cho Oyu in 1993 and Elisabeth Revol on Nanga Parbat in 2018. On the way down, Revol had to be rescued by Adam Bielecki and Denis Urubko. Sadly, her summit mate Tomasz Mackiewicz perished.

Tamara Lunger, voluntary guinea pig in Bolzano’s Eurac Research institute. Photo: Matteo Pvana/The Vertical Eye

Tamara Lunger, 33, learned to ski almost before she could walk. Daughter of Italian national ski team member Hansjörg Lunger, she first became a ski mountaineering racer herself. Then at 23, she turned to high altitude climbing and summited Lhotse.

Since 2015, she has teamed up with Simone Moro on Himalayan winter expeditions, attempting Manaslu in February 2015 and Nanga Parbat the following winter. On Nanga, Moro successfully summited while Lunger stopped just 70 vertical metres short. Last winter, the couple traveled across Siberia to climb a modest but frigid 3,000m peak in the Chersky Mountains, considered one of the coldest places on Earth.

Lotta Hintsa, 30, of Finland keeps a relatively low profile on social media as a climber, so it takes time to realize that this woman who climbed on Gasherbrum II this summer, with no supplementary O2, keeping pace with climbing mate and trainer Don Bowie, is also the same Lotta Hintsa who is a model, TV celebrity and Miss Finland 2013. Before this summer, she had no experience on 8,000’ers, although she had climbed Kilimanjaro and Aconcagua.

Lotta Hintsa, hamming it up for a sponsor. Photo: Lotta Hintsa

Romanian Alex Gavan, who shared Base Camp with them at that time, recently told ExplorersWeb that Hintsa struck him as one of the most disciplined and better-trained climbers that he met in the Karakorum that season. “When she told us the marine-like training routines she had gone through to prepare for Gasherbrum, we would look at Bowie in disbelief like, ‘Hey dude, did you really made her do that!?’ ” Gavan recalled.

Gasherbrum escaped Bowie and Hintsa because of dangerous conditions, although Urubko triumphed on a risky solo attempt. Now, the three of them are joining forces on Broad Peak, a first if you subscribe to Urubko’s definition of “real winter” as ending on February 28. According to Barrabes.com, Hintsa is in charge of Base Camp logistics rather than climbing. However, once there, who knows? Hintsa reportedly also has plans for Everest in spring 2020.

Related story:

So – Who is really going for winter K2 this season?

About the Author

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides

Senior journalist, published author and communication consultant. Specialized on high-altitude mountaineering, with an interest for everything around the mountains: from economics to geopolitics. After five years exploring distant professional ranges, I returned to ExWeb BC in 2018. Feeling right at home since then!

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8 Comments on "Karakorum Update: the Women of Winter"

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This would not be the first female 8000 m climb, as this was done on Nanga Parbat in 2018 (involving a famous rescue).


Genuinely curious… Should it count as a first or even an ascent if the climber has to be rescued on the descent? Seems like an incomplete climb, but I’m not sure of the standard. Thanks for the updates! Love following along.


By that standard Maurice Herzog and Louis Lachenal would not have been the first people to climb Annapurna (or the first people to climb any 8,000m peak for that matter – it would mean Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay were the first to achieve that feat) 😉

gian piero

the first winter female ascent on the 8000 m. peaks was made by Marianne Chapuisat in 1993 on Cho Oyu

Not an Everest Climber
Not an Everest Climber

At first I thought that was Kinga Baranowska!

karakorum Expeditions

Tamara is a super strong female mountaineer, her climb to the top of K2 without using Bottle oxygen in 2014 was indeed remarkable. Lisa is Charm,good luck to the ladies in the karakorum we welcome you all for greater adventure year 2020 !