A team of five climbers from Spain and Germany are currently embarking on a feat that has not been accomplished since 1997; summitting Mount Everest during the winter. The traditional season when athletes flock to Nepal to attempt the journey is in April or May when the cold and wind subside but the summer monsoons have not yet started. What’s more, the team is aiming to complete the climb without the help of supplemental oxygen, something that has only been achieved once by Ang Rita Sherpa in 1987.
At 29,000 feet tall, Mount Everest is hard enough to climb physically in the peak season, with only around 600 out of 1,000 people successfully reaching the summit. Especially in recent years, crowds flocking to the trail have increased fatalities due to many climbers waiting in line to reach the top, increasing their exposure to poor weather, risk of falls, and altitude sicknesses like high altitude pulmonary or cerebral edema. In 2019, this resulted in eleven deaths on the mountain and most of the bodies remain there today along with 200 others since it is so challenging to recover them.
Because the climbers are working through the off-season in January and February, they won’t have any traffic or crowds to deal with, but the environmental risks are much higher during this time, accounting for the fact that a winter summit has not been successful in 27 years, despite multiple attempts, most recently in 2018 by a well known Spanish climber, Alex Txikon, who is part of the current group. Txikon’s 2018 attempt failed due to high winds forcing him to descend before reaching the peak, but he has high hopes that this year will favor better.
Most of the group arrived in Nepal in January and have been acclimatizing since then and preparing for their main climb. Alex Txikon joined them to begin the journey on Jan 31 after successfully completing the mountains in Antarctica and Ama Dablam. Unfortunately, one member of the group, Jonatan Garca, fell down a 12m crack on Feb. 3 and suffered fractured ribs so he was forced to abandon the mission. The rest of the climbers are continuing on with a team of local Sherpa guides and are hoping they will still be able to reach the top. Txikon is posting updates on his Twitter whenever he can so that the world can follow the group’s progress.