Winter Everest: First Summit-Push Debrief, Team Waiting for another Weather Window

First summit push of this winter on Everest started fairly well. Despite extreme cold at night and a few damaged sections of fixed route, the ascent to C2 [followed by a day’s rest] and C3 climb went pretty smoothly. All hell broke loose from there on, though. Back in Base Camp after “hard days; very very intense, with very high commitment,” Alex Txikon says that they will wait for another summit-bid opportunity.

February 13th
Alex Txikon, Chhepal and Nurbu Sherpa spent a warm February 12th evening in C3. A thousand meters below, the other three Sherpa, Nuri, Furba and Pemba, had a rest day in C2. After discussing weather forecast with Base Camp team, it was planned that both groups would ascend to C4 next day.
Group B started the ascent from C2 at around 2am, however Txikon and fellows could leave C3 only after 6am - three hours behind the schedule - because of strong wind. Both teams unified just above the latter camp.

As per weather forecast, wind was expected to subside during the day. However, conditions worsened instead of showing a sign of improvement. Nonetheless, sun rays finally reached them at around 11am, as climbers were crossing Yellow Band.

“Things get a lot complicated at about 7650 meters, Chhepal comes and tells me to go down; The wind hits us more intensely, suddenly we got together and I tell everyone to trust me; The weather will change, and the wind will subside. Now it hits us from the west and is planned north, northeast.” Alex Txikon suggested the Sherpa to use bottled oxygen, which they were carrying for their ascent above C4.

The team finally made it to C4. The condition, however, remained equally bad.

C4
All six climbers were on South Col. Wind however remained violent and they found it extremely difficult to erect even a single tent. “None of us had sleeping bags, so extra gas! It will make us spend, less badly, the hours prior to the summit attack.”

Alex Txikon says that a rod of one of the tents broke down, and when he went to fetch a replacement from nearby leftover material [from Spring season], he discovered remains of two climber. The sight obviously further hit his moral strength.

After consultation with BC, which confirmed change in weather forecast, Alex Txikon made the decision to retreat. They rappelled to spend another sleepless night in C3. “We melted some snow, just two sips each and we put everything inside the sleeping bag. Second night without sleep: I can’t explain the pain and the cold. Chills that accompany me all night and this pain in my feet hasn’t let me rest for a minute.”

The retreat from C3 to BC was even more eventful. Alex Txikon survived a 100m fall just below C3, whereas Chhepal was hit by falling rocks. He suffered a head injury and needed to be evacuated from BC. The team has thus been reduced to five members.

“I feel very strong to try again. We’ll see what happens in next days,” Alex Txikon concludes.
Photos: Alex Txikon

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