"Lethal weather" forces Spanish mountaineer Alex Txikon to call off Everest climb in winter without tanked oxygen as Russian-Polish climber Denis Urubko abandons lone attempt to summit Pakistan's K2.
A Spanish climber on Tuesday abandoned his bid to make the first winter ascent of Mount Everest in 25 years after "lethal weather" forced him to retreat.
In a similar development, a Russian-Polish climber called off his attempt to summit K2 – the world's second highest peak in Pakistan – alone during winter.
It is the second time in as many years that Spanish mountaineer Alex Txikon, 36, has been forced to call off his attempt to scale the world's highest peak in winter without the use of tanked oxygen.
The last successful winter summit was in 1993 by a Japanese team. But only one climber has previously reached the peak in winter without using supplemental oxygen: a Nepali mountaineer in December 1987.
"Alex has ended his expedition. He reached up to Camp Four but the weather did not favour him," said Mingma Sherpa of Seven Summit Treks, which managed the logistics of Txikon's Everest bid.
2 years ago we did the first winter summit of Nanga Parbat. As then, Ali Sadpara and I are together today. This time, winter has not given us the opportunity, but I´m sure the future will bring us together in a new adventure. #TxikonGoesToTheEverest #winter #expedition pic.twitter.com/jZ6dnrrOrT— Alex Txikon (@AlexTxikon) February 26, 2018
Txikon and his team reached 7,950 metres at the weekend, roughly 900 metres below the summit.
Weather forecasts had indicated that strong winds would calm early on Sunday, allowing them to press on to the summit.
But winds up to 100 kph forced the team, which included experienced Pakistani climber Muhammad Ali Sadpara, to return to base camp.
"We are back at base camp from C4 (Camp Four). Very strong winds and lethal weather made it almost impossible to go for the summit," Sadpara posted on Facebook.
The temperatures near the summit of Everest in winter regularly plunge below minus 40 degree Celsius while the wind chill makes it feel even colder.
In 2016 Txikon and Sadpara became the first climbers to summit Pakistan's Nanga Parbat (8,125 metres) – nicknamed the "Killer Mountain" – in winter, a feat they achieved without using additional oxygen.
Hundreds of climbers flock to Everest each year hoping to reach the top of the world. But most attempt it during a narrow window of calm weather between late April and May.
K2 attempt abandoned
Meanwhile Russian-Polish climber Denis Urubko called off his attempt to summit K2 alone during winter, a post on his former teammates' Facebook page said on Monday, after a weekend drama saw him begin what another climber had called a suicide mission.
Urubko, 44, was part of a team of Polish mountaineers attempting to be the first to scale the world's second-highest peak in winter.
But he broke away from the group on Saturday after a series of disagreements, sparking fears for his safety on one of the world's most dangerous climbs.
On Monday he ended his attempt, capping a dramatic three days on the mountain, a statement on the Polish expedition's Facebook page said.
"Denis Urubko, according to his convictions regarding the end of the winter season, decided to leave the Winter Expedition on K2," the statement said.
Urubko had become increasingly frustrated with his groups' pace after a series of delays, including the daring night-time rescue of French mountaineer Elisabeth Revol on another Pakistani mountain, Nanga Parbat, in January.
Urubko had volunteered to go to Nanga Parbat as part of that rescue team.
But K2 expert Rehmat Ullah Baig said the mission forced the Poles to readjust their initial plans and choose a new route, a move that Urubko was said to be unhappy with.
He left his team members behind on Saturday after arguing that waiting until March would make a summit more difficult.
The competition between #Polish and #Russian climbers over hosting country flag on #K2 in winter emerged clearly, #Soviet blood Denis Urubko without informing management of the expedition, set off from base camp to attempt summit K2 himself before end of February #K2dlaPolakow pic.twitter.com/LJo15kKMQb— jamil Nagri (@jamilnagri) February 24, 2018
Fellow mountaineers had expressed concern at any solo attempt while also acknowledging Urubko's extraordinary abilities.
"He is the most outstanding Himalayan climber of today. You can rank him among the top five active legends of mountaineering," said Pakistan's most accomplished climber Nazir Sabir, who has summited both K2 and Everest.
Others said the lone attempt was the height of recklessness.
"A solo attempt of K2 in winter is completely suicidal," said Pakistani climber Mirza Ali.
Everest has been summited by thousands of climbers young and old but K2 is a much lonelier place. Around 300 have made it to the top since the first ascent 60 years ago. Many climbers have died on the descent.
Northern Pakistan is home to some of the world's tallest mountains, including K2 in the territory of Gilgit-Baltistan.