Gasherbrum II in winter: Moro, Urubko and Richards poised for summit push
Simone Moro, Denis Urubko and Cory Richards plan to set off from their Camp 3 at 6900m tonight for their first attempt at reaching the summit of Gasherbrum II (Karakorum, Pakistan).
The weather over Gasherbrum II is stable today. And just as planned Simone Moro, Denis Urubko and Cory Richards are poised at the starting blocks, ready for the final push towards the summit. Towards the first winter ascent of the 13th highest mountain in the world. The three alpinists are currently at 6900m in Camp 3, which they reached and established at circa 14:00 local time today. So, it seems, they have the time they need to "rest"... since they plan to set off for the 8035m high summit at 3:00 am local time tonight.
The three will have to overcome just over 1235m vertical meters. No mean task. But this altitude gain is more or less what Moro and Urubko climbed during their final push on the first winter ascent of Makalu (on 9 February 2009). What is comforting is that during Moro's last satellite call with his wife Barbara he confirmed that all three were in good shape. Furthermore, tomorrow's weather forecast (made by his trusted meteorologist Karl Gabl) has predicted a rise in temperatures of 4°C compared to today, with winds pitching in at about 55 km/h.
What is certain is that it won't be easy... they know this full well, also because during the last couple of nights at Camp 2 at 6500m the temperatures dropped down to 46°C. Add to this the fact that a 55km/h wind is a more than impressive opponent. To get an idea of what this feels like, imagine being on a scooter at that speed... what is missing though from this comparison is the altitude and the freezing cold.
Having said this, things have gone extremely well so far. Especially if one bears in mind that thee helicopter dropped them off in Base Camp a mere 22 days ago. And after having established BC, equipped a route through the glacier full of crevasses and seracs, installed Camps 1 and 2, last Sunday they embarked on this first summit push, in less than ideal weather. On Sunday they covered the distance between BC at 5100m and Camp 1 at 5900m. Yesterday they reached Camp 2 at 6500m. And today they established Camp 3 at 6900m, ready for the first real chance of summit success this evening. And fully aware that in an ascent like this, nothing can ever be taken for granted!
A few days ago Moro described this final stretch (of which 400m have already been climbed today) as follows: "From C2 you continue up a 45° shoulder and then via a long traverse (35°) beneath the summit pyramid to reach the summit ridge at 7850m. From here, between one gust of wind and the next, all that is left to do is fight and climb to the summit."