Winter Himalayan Update: From Classic Base Camps to Village Outskirts

Himalayan winter teams chose dramatically different holiday strategies: While Cho Oyu South Face climbers spent Christmas in their windy base camp tents, the alpine-style duo of Herve Barmasse and David Goettler celebrated atop a 6,000m summit.

Others opted for more comfortable options, thanks mainly to helicopters and better logistics, which let climbers acclimatize far away from their targeted peaks. As Jost Kobusch did last year, some may replace cold-camping entirely with lodges in nearby villages.

Manaslu: a suburban Base Camp

Txikon's base camp.

Txikon’s base camp on the outskirts of Samagaon. Photo: Alex Txikon

 

Among these, Alex Txikon has just reached what will be his Base Camp for winter Manaslu. He has settled in at “3,700m in order to keep sheltered from big snowfalls and avalanches,” according to his home team. This puts him on the outskirts of  Samagaon village (located at roughly 3,550m). Samagaon includes several lodges, and Txikon could either stay in one of them in case of storms. Manaslu’s usual Base Camp lies on a huge plain at the base of the mountain at 4,900m.

Txikon will climb with a six-member Sherpa team, including past partners Chhepal Sherpa and Pasang Sherpa. Simone Moro spent last week in the Everest region and will join Txikon in a few days. Txikon’s team has mentioned no other Western climbers on the expedition.

Island (Peak) For Christmas

David Goettler and Herve Barmasse were also in the Khumbu. Here, they spent a windy Christmas Eve climbing 6,160m Island Peak (Imja Tse). Island Peak is a popular trekking peak in milder seasons. Now they are ready for their final alpine-style objective, which they have not yet revealed.

David Goettler and Herve Barmasse in a tent on the way to the summit of Island Peak. Photo: David Goettler/Instagram

Old-fashioned Base Camp Christmas Eve

The Cho Oyu team, on the other hand, spent a rather classical Himalayan winter Christmas in Base Camp, at the foot of the mountain’s south-southwest ridge. They have celebrated with decorations, games, treats — and with a good part of the rope fixing already done.

On their latest foray up the mountain, the Sherpas fixed ropes up to Camp 3 (7,200m, on a huge plateau before the final summit area). Kristin Harila and Adriana Brownlee, meanwhile, reached Camp 2 at 6,700m.

“We hoped to sleep in C3, but the high wind forced us to go back down to Base Camp,” Harila wrote. Check Gelje Sherpa’s video from Camp 3:

Summit push next time?

Added Harila: “We are well acclimatized, so now we just need the wind to drop for at least three days,” meaning that they consider themselves ready for a summit push.

Harila climped to a rpe on a snow ramp, the valley in background.

Kristin Harila on her way to Camp 2 on Cho Oyu’s south side. Photo: Adriana Brownlee

 

The rest of the route will not be easy, since there is still a long way to go, including the upper, unclimbed sections. According to Harila, the Nepalis will pitch two more camps (Camps 4 and 5).

With short days ahead, the entire team will have to spend a significant time at altitude. It is not confirmed if Brownlee and Harila will continue with their original plan to climb without supplementary oxygen.

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides is a college-graduated journalist specializing in high-altitude mountaineer and expedition news. She has been writing about climbing and mountaineering, adventure and outdoor sports for 20+ years.

Prior to that, Angela Benavides spent time at/worked at a number of local and international media. She is also experienced in outdoor-sport consultancy for sponsoring corporations, press manager and communication executive, and a published author.