Weekend Warm-Up: First Winter Ascent of Gasherbrum II

Normal people, smart people, wouldn’t even go outside in weather like this — Cory Richards

Simone Moro gave up on Manaslu last week, and other 8,000’er hopefuls continue to struggle with deep snow and high winds, but climbing in the winter Himalaya has not always been impossible. Back in 2011, Moro, Denis Urubko and Cory Richards made the first winter ascent of Gasherbrum II (8,035m).

With a 36-hour weather window promised by legendary meteorologist Karl Gabl, the trio set off in a storm. They battled through poor conditions until the clouds parted and they climbed precariously to the summit.

But as Richard’s prophetically notes, “Getting up is only half way.” They descended into worsening weather, and 14 hours after leaving their high camp, they arrived back at their tent with “burnt lungs and cold feet”. They had hoped to return to Base Camp the next day, but had to make do with a night in Camp 1 instead. The following day featured the worst weather of the entire expedition, and even this vastly experienced team were lucky to make it down alive.

There can’t be many more arduous and dangerous expeditions than a winter 8000’er. Perhaps a full North Pole trip in the Dark Season? Regardless, this short eight-minute film gives a taste of what it’s like to take on this most difficult of mountaineering objective.