Winter 8000 by Bernadette McDonald
Winter 8000: Climbing the World's Highest Mountains in the Coldest Season by award-winning author Bernadette McDonald. The best-selling mountaineering book, the most complete analysis of winter climbing in the Himalayas, finalist of all the most important international mountain literature awards.
There is always something inexplicable about the inner motivations of mountaineers. Something that seems in some way connected with a magnificent, and terrible, obsession. Especially when it comes to winter mountaineering. And if the winters are spent at high altitude, on the 8000ers, then the unfathomable becomes so obvious, indeed so extreme, that it seems to have no rational explanation.
What is it that drives a human being to face all those risks and untold suffering? Why are these men and women quite literally conquered by those conditions, where life is not even contemplated? As mountaineers know all too well, there are no conclusive answers. And those who believe they know the truth often have no idea what they're talking about. They do know know how many different facets that world is comprised of. And they do not even suspect what those men and women feel as they face, and at times surpass, the boundaries of the impossible. Most just label the winter warriors as heroes (when they reach the summit) or as crazy fools or worse still (when they fail or, worse still, die).
Often, if not always, the life stories of these men and women paradoxically remain on the sidelines. Their motivations, passions, strengths and even weaknesses seem to count for nothing, are considered uninteresting. Yet it is precisely these stories that Bernadette McDonald explores in Winter 8000. It is precisely the incredible stories of this handful of mountaineers, who chose to tackle the world’s highest mountains in the harshest of seasons, that make this book not only important but also a compelling read. Because what McDonald recounts is an absolutely epic. It’s a great story, completely true which, like in an exciting novel, starts with the first winter ascent of an 8000er, majestic Mount Everest, to then examine the 13 other giants and finish with K2, the only other 8000er that still holds out and has not yet been climbed in winter.
The protagonists of this fantastic journey are the so-called "ice warriors". Those mountaineers who cannot do without that world where winds scream at 150 kilometers per hour and temperatures drop below 50°C. Starting with the great Poles who "invented" this game of winter climbing on the 8000ers. Such as the patriarch Andrzej Zawada, eternal Krzysztof Wielicki, giant Jerzy Kukuczka, his grande climbing partner Voytek Kurtyka and legendary Wanda Rutkiewicz. Continuing with Maciej Berbeka, Artur Hajzer and Adam Bielecki, to name just a few other legendary members of the Polish platoon.
They are joined by the "non-Poles" who include Switzerland’s Marianne Chapuisat, who in summiting Cho Oyu became the first woman to climb an 8000m peak in winter. There’s Italy’s Simone Moro, a winter expert and absolute reference point with his record-breaking four winter first ascents on four 8000ers. There’s French ace Jean-Christoph Lafaille. Incredible and incomparable Denis Urubko. And then Daniele Nardi, who gave his all to his dream of climbing Nanga Parbat in winter. There's unstoppable Alex Txikon. Unmistakable and unfortunate Tomasz Mackiewicz. Tom Ballard, the boy destined to climb. The ever smiling and extremely powerful Tamara Lunger. The petite and indomitable fighter Elisabeth Revol. And all the others who make up this crazy tribe of mountaineers.
The book focuses on their dreams, on their climbs and the difficulties they faced. The rare victories and the many defeats, but also the loves and quarrels, glory and misery. The endless struggles for survival, the immense tragedies and pain of their loved ones intertwine each other without apparent end. And their stories therefore seem the very representation of life itself. Theirs are magnificent and also tremendous individual and collective journeys that search for that limit, and those answers, which perhaps we will never find, but which nevertheless make us alive.
by Vinicio Stefanello
Bernadette McDonald is a Canadian-born author of several books that deal with mountaineering and mountain culture, several of which have become absolute best sellers including Art of Freedom - The life and climbs of Voytek Kurtyka, winner of the the Banff Mountain Book Festival and the Boardman Tasker Award. In 2010 she was awarded the the Silver Cardo at the ITAS Award with Tomaž Humar. She directed the Banff Mountain Festival for twenty years. When not writing, she spends her time to climbing, hiking and skiing, as well as cultivating his beloved vines.