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Another K2 Summit Bid as Reinhold Messner Weighs In

The first winter ascent was on Jan. 16 by a team of 10 Nepalese mountaineers

On Jan. 16, 10 Nepalese mountaineers reached the summit of K2 for the first winter ascent. Those climbers who will go down in history for reaching the summit, are Nirmal Purja, Gelje Sherpa, Mingma David Sherpa, Mingma Gyalje Sherpa, Sona Sherpa, Mingma Tenzi Sherpa, Pem Chhiri Sherpa, Dawa Temba Sherpa, Kili Pemba Sherpa and Dawa Tenjing Sherpa.

Nirmal Purja was the only team member who climbed K2 without the use of supplementary oxygen. On his website here, Purja said it was his “self-confidence, knowing my body’s strength, capability and my experience from climbing the 14×8,000’ers enabled me to keep up with the rest of the team members and yet lead.”

Now there are a number of other teams heading for the summit once again. Of all the climbers on their way to the top, Pasang Norbu Sherpa is the highest above 7,350 metres as he hopes to go from the base camp to summit in less than 24 hours.

K2 is 8,611 metres high, which puts it about 200 metres less than Everest, but it’s considered a far more technical and dangerous. Of the 14 8,000-metre peaks, it was the last to be climbed in winter with or without supplemental oxygen.

We asked Himalayan expert and award-winning Canadian author, Bernadette McDonald about the significance of the first winter ascent. She told us, I think it’s very significant. Sherpas, in particular, have been the backbone of Himalayan climbing for so long, and they are rarely acknowledged like the western climbers who hire them. Nirmal Purja is a little different – more of a professional climber with a media and sponsor team to support his aspirations. But the cooperation that all three teams managed, once they got to the mountain and realized the enormity of the challenge is truly inspirational. In a way, this ascent harkens back to the historical ‘national’ expeditions, so it might feel a bit old-fashioned. But as Minga G. said, “It is not about claiming our independent identity; it is about giving justice to our future generations.

His statement reminds me of Andrzej Zawada’s aspirations for young Polish climbers back in the 1970s, when they first started going to the high mountains in winter. Zawada and his Polish ice warriors wrote a new chapter in the history of Himalayan climbing back then, and this Nepali team has written another great chapter. And I’m certain that the younger generation of Nepali climbers will be inspired to do more independent climbing as a result of this climb.

Norbu Sherpa is climbing into the history books and if he reaches the summit, it will be an amazing achievement.

You can follow the climbers’ trackers: Colin O’Brady, JP Mohr, John Snorri, Atanas Skatov.

Legendary Himalayan climber Reinhold Messner recently talked to the hosts of ActionTalk TV about the first winter ascent of K2. Listen to the conversation below.

Messner on K2