With the winter climbing season now set to begin in the Himalaya, teams have begun to gather across the region ahead of the start of their expeditions. Winter is a quiet month in the big mountains, as only the most dedicated and hardiest of climbers are willing to endure the extreme cold, high winds and deep snow. This year, three separate teams have set their sights on a single peak however, making it the center of attention in the mountaineering world for the next several months, as each of them looks to be the first to climb Nanga Parbat during the coldest season of all.
Located in Pakistan, at the western end of the Himalaya, Nanga Parbat is the 9th highest mountain in the world at 8126 meters (26,660 ft) in height. It is a notoriously difficult climb at all times of the year, but especially so in the winter. As such, it remains just one of two 8000-meter peaks that have yet to be summited during that season, the other being the incomparable K2.
The three teams that will attempt the first ascent of the peak are all filled with very experienced climbers. A Polish squad calling themselves the Justice For All team is already in Base Camp and acclimatizing on the mountain. That unit consists of six men who have plenty of winter climbing experience under their belt, not to mention that past Polish teams have been instrumental in making first winter ascents in the Himalaya. Joining them on the mountain will be the team of Simone Moro, Emilio Previtali and David Göttler. Moro was amongst the men that completed the first winter climb of Gasherbrum II back in 2011. Finally, German Ralf Dujmovits will make a bold solo attempt on Nanga Parbat, only receiving assistance up to 5000 meters before going it alone. Dujmovits is the first from his country to climb all 14 of the 8000 meter peaks and has 32 expeditions to the Himalaya to his credit. Still, a solo summit of Nanga Parbat during the winter would be a seriously impressive feat.
The Polish team is the only group that is currently on the mountain. They set up Base Camp a few days back and have already shuttled some of their gear and supplies up to Advanced Base Camp higher up the slope. They waited until the official start of winter on December 21 before going any higher. Dujmovits has just arrived in country and remains in Islambad as he sorts out his gear. He should begin the journey to BC this week. Moro’s team is expected in Pakistan shortly after Christmas.
Once in place, the climbers will in theory have the rest of the winter to complete the climb. In reality, it’ll be a war of attrition between them and the weather, as they wait to see how long their supplies will last before they get a shot at the summit. During the winter, the weather completely dictates the schedule and the teams will be forced to take whatever the mountain gives them. If the weather cooperates, there is a chance that we’ll get the first winter ascent of Nanga Parbat in early 2014.