Winter Karakorum: Secrets and Rumours

Winter is coming; that, at least, we know for sure. As for the three expeditions expected to siege the Karakorum giants in about three weeks, news so far is -– well, not much, really. The scarcity of detailed reports has triggered a cascade of rumors and a few lucky deductions. At least, the buzz keeps the climbing community entertained until the real deal starts and the dispatches begin. Hopefully. After a thorough search of the grapevine, here is what we’ve learned.

Daniele Nardi left for Islamabad two days ago. “Here I go,” he posted on Facebook. “I can’t believe what I am doing.” What he cannot believe is unclear, but according to an interview given on a local radio program last weekend, for his upcoming (and fourth) attempt on winter Nanga Parbat, Nardi will head up the demanding Mummery spur, in “total alpine style”, meaning “no ropes, no O2 and minimum gear”. confirms that the Italian will team up with Briton Tom Ballard, plus Rahmat Ullah Baig and a second unnamed Pakistani climber. Strictly speaking, pure alpine style would involve a single push to the summit. If so, it is not yet known whether acclimatization will take place on a different route on Nanga Parbat or on a different mountain altogether.

Two weeks ago, Polish RMF FM asked Alex Txikon whether Paweł Dunaj and Marek Klonowski had joined his winter K2 expedition. “Yes, that is true,” Txikon said. “We had not said anything before because, while Pavel was confirmed, Marek’s participation depended on sponsorship and was still uncertain.” Both Poles were veterans from a remarkable winter attempt on Nanga Parbat’s Rupal Face back in 2014.

Txikon’s press team then contradicted the team leader himself. “About the Polish climbers, there’s nothing confirmed,” they told ExplorersWeb. All told, however, the team could include up to 10 climbers: Alex Txikon, Felix Criado, Ignacio Zuloaga, the two Poles, plus five Nepali who were with Txikon on Everest last winter.

Alex Txikon prior to departure for winter K2

Alex Txikon shows the label-festooned down suit he’ll use on winter K2

Meanwhile, Txikon’s press team has posted a video showing the Spanish climbers training for winter K2 at home in Basque country.

As for the Russian-Kazakh-Kyrgyz team, RussianClimb posted a curious note on  December 5, stating that Alex Txikon had chosen K2 because he did not want to climb the same route as an upcoming commercial winter expedition on Everest. This commercial expedition has subsequently been cancelled. Txikon told a journalist that he’ll share resources in BC with Artem Braun’s and Vassily Pivstsov’s team. Txikon confirmed the Abruzzi Spur as their first choice, but added more mystery to the topic when he said, “There’s this American route opened in 1978 that I am looking at very closely…” Read his interview here.

By the way, that American route — only the third successful K2 climb ever — refers to Jim Whittaker’s expedition up the northeast ridge, the East Face and then the Abruzzi Spur. Louis Reichardt and Jim Wickwire summited on September 6, 1978, followed a day later by John Roskelley and Rick Ridgeway. It poses a major challenge at any time of the year, and the story of the ascent is epic.

Previous Winter K2 coverage

Correction: 12/22 An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Txikon has chosen K2 instead of Everest because he hoped to cooperate with a commercial expedition, when in fact the opposite was the case.