Winter Climbers Prepare in Pakistan and Nepal

Kazuya Hiraide is busy with last-minute preparations in Hunza, which he considers his “second home”. He is adapting his stomach to the local Pakistani food and shopping for supplies and kitchen implements.

“This is a winter expedition and it is so cold that there will be no Base Camp staff,” Hiraide explained. “We will cook ourselves.” He and climbing partner Takuya Mitoro leave tomorrow for Karun Koh, to pioneer a line up its North Face.

When they arrived in Hunza, clouds covered Rakaposhi, where Hiraide opened a new route on the South Face two years ago. Still, Hiraide felt that he could see the mountain “in my heart”. The clouds tore open at sunset on the following day, and the Japanese climber took the photo below.


Also in Pakistan, sad news broke yesterday that military helicopter pilots Major Irfan Bercha and Major Raja Zeeshan Jahanzeb lost their lives in a crash. Details are scarce, since the pilots were on a mission in the disputed Siachen Glacier area, long claimed by both India and Pakistan. Apparently, the weather conditions were bad at the time. The helicopter crashed onto the glacier.

Both pilots were members of the so-called “Fearless Five”, the search-and-rescue squadron on K2 last winter. Climber and filmmaker Elia Saikaly came to know the pilots during the search missions on K2, as the helicopters looked for traces of missing climbers Ali Sadpara, John Snorri, and Juan Pablo Mohr. Irfan Bercha was also a passionate photographer and had become a friend of Saikaly’s.

“During the search and rescue operation on K2 last winter, the Pakistani pilots…flew higher than 7,000m, an incredibly dangerous endeavor,” Saikaly wrote. “These men risked their lives on that mission, as they do on all their missions.”

Elia Saikaly (left) and Major Irfan Bercha. Photo: Elia Saikaly/Instagram

Meanwhile in Nepal…

After missing his connecting flight and getting stuck in Istanbul for two days, Simone Moro finally arrived in Kathmandu. He is preparing for winter Manaslu but first he will climb Ama Dablam.

“The idea is to climb as much as possible, starting with Ama Dablam to acclimatize, and then go to Manaslu,” Moro wrote. The Italian climber has not been very explicit about his specific climbing plans for Manaslu. How will his expedition interact with others on the mountain, for example? Besides Alex Txikon’s team, a commercial expedition may be coming.

Simone Moro updates from the Istanbul airport yesterday. Photo: Simone Moro


Teams going to Nepal in 2022 should note that as of the New Year, Nepal’s Civil Aviation Administration will require that all climbers have an insurance policy covering at least $5,000 in case they contract COVID. The insurance must cover a 14-day quarantine in a hotel room and medical expenses in case of getting sick. Climbers must submit the policy to Nepali authorities one week before arrival.