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Himalaya

Feb 14, 2017

Alex Txikon Comes Up Short on Everest Summit Attempt

Since late December 2016, Basque climber Alex Txikon has been in Nepal attempting to become the first person to climb Everest without supplemental oxygen entirely in the winter season.

WRITTEN BY

Michael Levy

Despite reaching an altitude of approximately 7,950 meters on his first summit push, poor conditions forced Txikon and his team to retreat.

UPDATE: Take two! After high winds repelled Txikon and company’s first summit attempt, the team traveled to Kathmandu to recover and regroup. Now word has come that they are heading back to Everest for another shot.  On February 16, Txikon reported on Facebook, “Next week we will return to Base Camp, stronger than ever, and with all the experience [acquired] in all these weeks. If you follow your dreams, everything is possible.”

The expedition has taken a toll on Txikon. He noted on Facebook that, since his arrival in Nepal in late December 2016, he has lost 12 kilograms. But he and his climbing partners are still motivated. As he told The Outdoor Journal last month: “We’ll try to do our best as a team, as a group of people. Always trying to smile and stay positive.” Check back here to find out how they fare on the second attempt!

Alex Txikon has abandoned his first—and potentially only—summit bid on Everest for the 2017 winter season.  A small weather window opened earlier this week, allowing him to mount an attempt.

In a Facebook post, Txikon said, “After reaching [Camp 4], the wind hasn’t given a truce and we have just gone down to the [Camp 3] until the storm subsides. Soon, more news.” Camp 4 is located at approximately 7,950 meters.

Warm in his sleeping bag in Camp 3 (approximately 7,050 meters), Txikon offered further reflections on the failed summit bid in another Facebook post: “It has been a hard day fighting against the wind with all our willpower. At times, it has become a tougher battle than the summit attack of last winter [on] Nanga Parbat. […] For the moment, as I have mentioned earlier, we have descended to [Camp 3] (low) and we have not given up for anything in the world. The only thing we have done is to respect the nature that today was not waiting for us up there. At this hour I do not know what we are going to do tomorrow because I really do not know if we will be able to sleep now… but, as always, I will keep you informed of everything. Thank you very much for being up to the challenge.’

Txikon is trying to become the first person to climb Everest wholly in winter without the aid of supplemental oxygen. While Everest was summited without bottled oxygen by Ang Rita Sherpa on December 22, 1987, it has never been climbed without oxygen entirely in calendar winter (December 21 – March 21).

Still unknown is whether or not Txikon and company will have enough time, luck, reserves of energy and drive left to mount another attempt. When The Outdoor Journal spoke with Txikon several weeks ago, the Spaniard said that the expedition’s permit was valid until approximately March 10. If another stretch of clear weather presents itself, another summit bid could occur.

But time is running out. And with a pursuit as unpredictable as high-altitude winter climbing, second chances are far from a given. Compared with the thousands of individuals who have summited at least one of the 14 peaks in the world over 8,000 meters, only 27 people have “stood on the summit of an 8,000-meter peak in winter,” according to Marcello Rossi’s profile on Simone Moro at Climbing.com. Rossi also notes that the success rate for winter expeditions to 8,000-meter peaks is a paltry 15%.

Feature Image © Alex Txikon

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Athletes & Explorers

Oct 15, 2018

9 Climbers Die at Gurja Base Camp: What We Know So Far

Even if many questions remain unanswered, a tragedy that seemed bizarre at first has slowly come to reveal itself, as a five member South Korean expedition and four Nepali guides die during a violent snowstorm.

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WRITTEN BY

Sean Verity

Since this article was published, The Outdoor Journal has published an update to this story, entitled: Update: 9 Climbers Die at Gurja Base Camp. What Really Happened? The Experts Opinion.

The Himalayan Times were the first to report that “at least nine climbers including five Korean nationals were killed when a massive landslide buried the base camp of Mt Gurja (7,193 metres) on the lap of the south face of Mt Dhaulagiri in western Nepal”. This was according to the expedition organiser, Wangchu Sherpa, Managing Director at Trekking Camp Nepal.

“Endless glaciers under my feet make my heart throb, I feel like I should discover every corner of the Himalayas.” Kim Chang-ho.

It was the deadliest accident within Nepal’s climbing community since 2015, and those that passed away included decorated Korean team leader Kim Chang-ho. Kim had previously topped the world’s 14 highest peaks, in record time, and was of the few that had done so without the aid of oxygen. The rest of Kim’s team, from the Korean way Gurja Himal Expedition 2018, included Lee Jaehun, Rim Il-jin, Yoo Youngjik, and Jeong Joon-mo. The Nepali support team who also lost their lives were named as Chhiring Bhote of Hatiya-2 , Dena Angjuk Bhote of Hatiya-6, Phurpu Bhote of Hatiya-6 all in Shankhuwasabha district, and Natra Bhadur Chantel of Dhaulagiri Rural Municipality-1 in Myagdi district.

The Dhaulagiri Range, home to Gurja Photo: MITESHSTHA

SNOWSTORM, AVALANCHE OR LANDSLIDE

The climbers were waiting out the weather as they planned on a summit attempt, the nearby 24,000 foot Gurja. Only 30 people have successfully reached this peak, in stark contrast to the 8000 people who have made the summit of Everest. The goal of this particular expedition was to establish a new route to the summit, and name it Korean Way: One Korea – Unification of North and South Korea. However, in the early hours of Friday 12th October, a violent snowstorm hit the camp and the BBC reported on a freak accident that scattered the bodies as far as 500m, but contrary to the Himalayan Times did not report a landslide or avalanche.

“Base camp looks like a bomb went off”

The Kathmandu Post reported that upon arriving at the camp, Nepali climbing guide Lakma Sherpa said “When a team of locals reached the site, it was clear immediately that the camp was hit by snowstorm” and that “officials suspect that a massive avalanche on the mountain may have triggered the snowstorm.”

Meanwhile, Shailesh Thapa Kshetri, a police spokesman in Nepal, told the New York Times that it was unlikely that an avalanche had struck the team, because the bodies were not buried.


The reality of what had happened in base camp on Friday night is clearly open for debate. However, all eyewitnesses were agreed upon a scene of total destruction. Helicopter pilot Siddartha Gurung told AFP: “Everything is gone, all the tents are blown apart”. Dan Richards of Global Rescue, a US-based emergency assistance group assisting in the retrieval effort that “Base camp looks like a bomb went off” and “at this point we don’t understand how this happened. You don’t usually get those sorts of extreme winds at that altitude and base camps are normally chosen because they are safe places”. Suraj Paudyal, a member of the rescue team hypothothsised when talking to CNN “It seems that a serac (a piece of glacial ice broke) and barreled down the couloir (a gully on a mountainside) from the top ridge of the mountain and the gust created the turbulence washing the climbers and staff from their tented camp at the base camp”.

There are clearly more questions than answers remaining, but perhaps those questions will begin to be answered over the next few days as investigations continue.

RECOVERY EFFORTS

On Saturday, a helicopter was dispatched to the site and the bodies of the victims could be seen. However, due to high winds, and not having a safe place to land, the helicopter was forced to return to base. Locals reached the basecamp on Saturday evening, but were again beaten back by the weather, before the helicopter again returned in the early hours of Sunday morning, and all nine bodies were recovered within a couple of hours.

Eight of the bodies have now been airlifted back to Kathmandu, whilst the body of local Netra Bahadur Chhantyal was handed over to his kin upon retrieval.

Having become the first Korean to summit Everest, Kim was once quoted as saying “Endless glaciers under my feet make my heart throb, I feel like I should discover every corner of the Himalayas.”

Cover photo: The Dhaulagiri Range, home to Gurja by Prajwal Mohan

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