Adam Bielecki: Winter is the New Spring

Since shattering his heel during a moment’s inattention last autumn, Adam Bielecki has quietly focused on recovering. Rumors that he was in Pakistan began to swirl recently when his name showed up on the climbing permit of a large Polish team now on its way to Batura Shar.

“I considered joining that expedition, but it proved too soon for my leg,” Bielecki told ExplorersWeb. “I’m feeling better now, and the heel is responding well, so hopefully I’ll be able to climb later this winter closer to home, in the Tatras or the Alps.”

Bielecki declined to say whether he would be disappointed if winter K2 was finally climbed this season by a team relying on supplementary O2. But he did share his thoughts about the future of winter climbing. Bielecki sees the winter as the new spring, because of the effects of climate change.

“We must redefine our concept of the climbing seasons,” he said. “Let’s be realistic: it’s getting too hot in summer in the Karakorum, so winter expeditions might become the new norm. That’s what happened in the Alps: No one climbs the big routes on the Matterhorn or the Eiger in summer any more. It’s simply too dangerous. You want to go when it’s cold and the terrain is more stable.”

Last summer’s Karakorum experiences support Bielecki’s argument. Unstable snow conditions at the Bottleneck thwarted large numbers of climbers on K2. After temperatures decreased, a second wave of climbers eventually succeeded.

Meanwhile, the Gasherbrum Glacier devolved from a straightforward walk to Camp 1 to a dangerous traverse among crevasses and soft, slushy snow. Sergi Mingote had a close scrape when he fell into a crevasse. Two teams failed to summit because, one might say, the weather was simply too good. Several experts canvassed about climate change in a previous article agreed with Bielecki’s assessment.

Currently, outfitters are still running their guided Himalayan climbs at the same time as they always have. But over the next few years, they may be forced to follow the examples of Denis Urubko, Simone Moro and Alex Txikon and reschedule their season for December and January, when it’s colder but safer.