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with Stefan Nestler

Alex Txikon will also head for K2 in winter

Alex Txikon in Bilbao

After all. The Spaniard Alex Txikon will tackle K2 in the upcoming winter. The 35-year-old announced this at a press conference in Bilbao today. He will travel to Pakistan on 2 January with his compatriot Felix Criado, with the goal of scaling the second highest mountain on earth for the first time in the cold season. It had already become known that the Pakistani government had granted Txikon a climbing permit for K2. However, the Basque had left it open to this day whether he would actually use the permit.

Five Sherpas for possible summit push

A team of eight Sherpas will support the two Spaniards. According to Txikon, five of the Sherpas will probable take part in a possible summit attempt: Nuri Sherpa, Chhepal Sherpa, Geljen Sherpa, Hallung Sherpa and Pasang Sherpa. “I think it’s an accessible challenge. It’s possible that we’ll reach Camp 4 (at almost 8,000 m),” said Alex. “And from there we’ll see how the circumstances are to attack the summit.” In the past two winters Txikon had tried in vain to scale Mount Everest without bottled oxygen. He had ruled out a third attempt in 2019 after learning of a planned commercial winter expedition to Everest.

“Fear keeps you alert and active”

View to K2 from the base camp

In summer 2013, Txikon and Criado had already tried together in a team to climb K2, but had failed due to bad weather. At the end of February 2016, Txikon along with the Italian Simone Moro and the Pakistani Muhammad Ali “Sadpara” succeeded the prestigious first winter ascent of Nanga Parbat. This made K2 the only remaining of the 14 eight-thousanders the summit of which – 8,611 meters above sea level – nobody has reached in winter so far. Alex expressed respect for the task: “The fear is there, but it’s not bad. It keeps you alert and active.”

Igloos instead of tents

Like the Inuit in the Arctic, Txikon and Co. want to build igloos in base camp to protect themselves more effectively against the freezing cold and the expected winter storms than with tents. “We will try to find transparent ice in the seracs, so that light can penetrate (into the igloos),” Alex said. At base camp, the Spaniards will meet an expedition team from Russia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan that had already announced their winter attempt on K2. The mountaineers led by Kazakh Vassiliy Pivtsov want to climb the classic route of the first ascenders, via the Abruzzi Spur. As things stand at present, the Spaniards will probably also choose this route – although Txikon in Bilbao admitted that he was still in doubt whether this would be really the most promising route in winter.

Abruzzi route or via the East Face?

K2 East Face

Alex brought the K2 East Face into conversation as a possible alternative. During the failed Polish winter expedition in 2018, Denis Urubko had suggested an ascent over the still unclimbed wall, saying that climbers would be protected there from the prevailing west winds on K2. “In summer there is a great risk from avalanches. However, in winter, minimal snow cover makes very good conditions for the climb,” Urubko argued. In summer 1987, a US expedition explored the East Face to climb it in Alpine style. “It became clear that our proposed route on the east face was suicidal,” wrote Greg Child at the time.


29. November 2018 | 23:20