The news of the winter conquest of K2, the last 8,000 still inviolate in winter, looped all night from Saturday January 16 to Sunday January 17 on Nepalese websites and newspapers. Whether in The Kathmandu Post or The Himalayan Times, the two most important English-speaking media, the satisfaction of seeing the Nepalese outsmart the Westerners who have also embarked on the adventure is real but remains modest.
A very great Spanish mountaineer, Sergi Mingote, died at the same time in another roped party, which imposes a certain reserve. But it did not escape observers that his fatal fall occurred on the descent, the most dangerous exercise in high mountains, especially after the fatigue and intoxication of such a feat. For the Nepalese who know the rules of the Himalayas better than anyone, the triumph will not be complete until the ten men have returned safely to base camp.
“An ascent dedicated to all Nepalese carriers”
Other than that, the ascent of Saturday January 16 will go down in the annals as a huge victory for the Nepalese people, especially for the Sherpa ethnic group living in the foothills of the Nepalese Himalayas, which provided the men and the organization.
→ READ. The Sherpas want to become masters at home again
The ascent was carried out under the aegis of Seven Summits Treks, an agency specializing in supporting western climbers on Everest. It has invested millions to be the first to set foot on the last of the 8000, which is mostly in… Pakistani and Chinese territory.
The intentions of its boss Mingma Sherpa were very clear before the launch in December. “The K2 is the last 8,000 that has not been climbed in winter, so this is an opportunity for the Sherpas to demonstrate their strength, he said. All mountaineers are assisted by Sherpas to make their dreams come true: to reach a summit of 8,000 m. I have helped several foreigners achieve this. And I was a little surprised not to see any Sherpa during the first winter. This ascent is therefore dedicated to the whole community of Nepalese carriers known today thanks to our friends and clients from different foreign countries ”.
The symbol is all the more clear as this triumph follows an alliance between all the best Sherpa mountaineers involved in the four expeditions launched this winter on the K2. The small troop was led by the big Nepalese high altitude star, Nims Dai, who gained world fame in 2019 becoming the first Nepalese to climb the fourteen 8,000 in a single season.
“ We have decided to make the impossible possible and we are honored to share this moment, not only with the Nepalese climbing community, but with communities around the world. What a journey ! “, Former British Special Forces soldier Nims Dai said from a satellite phone.
No sherpa on the first winter since 1980
Best of all, the fittest waited a long time for the slower to arrive together on the second roof in the world at 8,611m. “It is really a beautiful symbol”, reacts Michel Pellé, French guide and filmmaker who in 2000 dedicated a film called Ghalzen the Mender of Everest the sherpas then confined to the role of installers of ropes and carriers of oxygen bottles.
“After having been in the shadows for a long time, they learned and became big names, unparalleled technicians endowed with an exceptional physique because some spent their childhood at 4000”, he continues.
→ SERIES. Conquering the last 8,000 (1/4). The K2, a giant never conquered in the Himalayan winter
Sixty-seven years after the conquest of Everest by Edmund Hillary who was accompanied by Sherpa Tensing Norgay, the circle has been completed by these ten Nepalese, more numerous on Saturday on a roof of the world than in the entire history of mountaineering himalayan.
Of the first 44 men to have trampled one of the 8,000 in summer, only three were Nepalese. The winter record is even more eloquent. Since Everest’s first winter in 1980, 29 men, mostly Polish, have climbed the 8,000 in the bad season. This list did not include any Nepalese, until Saturday January 17.
With or without oxygen?
The ten Nepalese belonging to the Sherpa ethnic group who climbed the K2 were equipped with oxygen cylinders, a device disputed by most mountaineers… Westerners. According to the so-called Tyrolean declaration, adopted in 2002 in Innsbruck, only the first without the use of fixed ropes and oxygen should be approved. There is therefore still a challenge to be taken up on K2 for the Polish team Adam Bielecki-Denis Urubko who had unsuccessfully attempted the winter adventure in 2018. She intends to do it again next winter, in so-called “alpine” style, that is. that is to say without the use of oxygen.