Snowmageddon: Time Running Out for Winter Teams

With just three weeks to go before the end of meteorological winter, bad weather continues to stymie the progress of all climbing teams.

Jost Kobusch on Everest and the Grace Tseng/Dolma team on K2 have barely reached Camp 2. Those on Cho Oyu and Manaslu, not even that far. In this final stage of the season, we will see either last-minute rushes, if the weather improves, or frustrated climbers watching the wind blow away their last chances.

K2: summit next?

The Taiwan-Nepal team successfully established Camp 2 at 6,760m on K2. “The initial plan was to complete C3 (7,350m) but the strong winds stopped their progress,” local outfitter Summit Karakoram reported today. “Four members safely reached Base Camp last night and rest are joining them down there today.”

Sherpas carry gear toward Camp 2 on K2. Photo: Summit Karakoram


Camp 2 is modest but it will have to suffice. The team is running out of time. Climbing leader Nima Gyalzen plans to push for the summit right away during the next weather window. “It will take at least five to six days of completely favorable weather,” Gyazen said.

It will also take a huge effort for the Sherpas to carry gear, ropes, and a lot of oxygen. With so little opportunity for acclimatization, they will need O2 from a relatively low altitude, possibly between Camps 2 and 3. They will have to set Camps 3 and 4 as they go.

Cho Oyu: BC in the storm

Yaks head from Thame to Pioneer Adventure’s Base Camp on Cho Oyu. Photo shared by Chhewang Sherpa


On Cho Oyu, both Nepali teams have reached Base Camp, despite severe conditions. Lakpa Dendi got there yesterday in a heavy snowstorm that stranded part of the team in Gokyo. Last night, the wind hit 70-80kph, but it has decreased today.

“There are times where you feel like giving up, but you must push through to get to the other side of your dreams,” Lakpa Dendi wrote.

Gelje Sherpa’s windswept Base Camp, with Cho Oyu behind. Photo: Lakpa Dendi Sherpa


Pioneer Adventure has also reportedly set up their Base Camp after approaching from Thame. Chhewang Sherpa shared some pictures and videos, as well as a topo of the route, based on research that Pemba Sherpa did four years ago.

Chhewang explained that opening a new route had been in their minds for a while, but the pandemic forced them to delay it. Here is the planned route, with BC and higher camps marked.

The planned South Face route on Cho Oyu. Photo: Pemba Sherpa

Manaslu: snow, snow, and more snow

Little has changed on Manaslu. The latest snowfall has covered the mountain again. Although the climbers enjoyed a sunny Sunday, they hesitate to move to Camp 1 amid such unstable snow. Forecasts announce still more snow beginning tomorrow evening.

Manaslu Base Camp after the latest snowstorm: protected from the wind but vulnerable to drift. Photo: Oswald Rodrigo Pereira

The end of winter approaches

One wonders how far anyone will get. “Nothing is impossible,” Alex Txikon rightly said. Still, it is increasingly unlikely that anyone will summit an 8,000m peak this season.

As we pointed out recently, while calendar winter lasts until March 21, the winter climbing season, and the permits for it, end on February 28 — the official end of winter for most alpinists.  It would be possible but expensive to extend an expedition beyond that. It would also be controversial as a winter ascent since many consider March not real winter.

As locals, the Nepalis on Cho Oyu might be able to remain longer without paying added fees. However, most of them are professional guides with a full slate of spring commitments.