Thursday, January 5, 2012

Winter Climb Update: Waiting For A Weather Window On Denali

There continues to be a lot of activity on the major winter climbs that are now taking place in Alaska and Pakistan. As is typical this time of year, the climbers are hoping to take advantage of any break in the weather that they get, but they also know that they have to continue their work, despite the conditions.

On Denali, it seems that Lonnie Dupre is now waiting for a weather window to make an attempt at the summit. He has now climbed as high as 5242 meters (17,200 ft) as part of his acclimatization process and to shuttle gear to High Camp. He has since returned to Low Camp at 4328 meters (14,200 ft), where he is keeping a close eye on the weather and hoping for a window that will allow him to go to the summit.

Yesterday, he awoke in his snow cave and was getting dressed for the climb, when the winds suddenly grew in intensity, so rather than risk it, Lonnie elected to stay put, rest up, and wait for another opportunity. Essentially the stage has been set for him to make his summit bid, all he needs now is a weather window long enough to give him access to the top. His home team says that they are anticipating such a window in the next few days. When it comes, we could see the first ever solo summit of the mountain in January.

Meanwhile, over on K2, the Russians have continued their work fixing the lines up the mountain, and have completed their work up to 6050 meters (19,750 ft). That is the altitude at which they've established their Camp 1, and a trio of climbers (Iljas Tukhvatullin, Andrew Mariev and Vadim Popovich) have shuttled the first round of gear up to that point today. They'll place a tent at C1 and spend the night there, before descending back down the mountain tomorrow, when another three climbers will rotate up the face and continue fixing ropes above that point.

The weather forecast on K2 isn't very enticing. Yesterday they toiled away in -51ºC/-60ºF temperatures and those are expected to go lower in the days ahead. The high winds at altitude are expected to drop some over the next few days though, which should make the working conditions a bit better, despite the colder temperatures. Such is winter on the world's second tallest peak.