When the news came last week that the Spanish alpinist Alex Txikon was headed back to Everest this winter, that left one major question mark for the winter season: Where would the Italian Simone Moro be going?
We didn’t need to wait long to find out. Moro, who has spent most of his recent winters toiling away at winter 8000ers, threw everyone a curveball: rather than trying another Himalayan objective, he announced that he and a small team will be attempting the first winter ascent of Pik Pobeda, a 9,852-foot (3,003 meters) high mountain in the Chersky Range, in Siberia, Russia.
While going from 8,000 meter peaks to a barely-3,000 meter peak might seem like an odd choice, it is a logical next step for Moro; it is not the elevation that interests him but the overall extremeness of the conditions, particularly temperature. According to Moro’s press release about the expedition, “It should represent the coldest climb [in] history on the coldest mountain of the planet.”
Moro’s success in extreme cold on high mountains is unrivaled. He owns the first winter ascents of four 8,000 meter peaks—Shishapangma (8,027 meters) in 2005; Makalu (8,485 meters) in 2009; Gasherbrum II (8,035 meters) in 2011; and most recently Nanga Parbat (8,126 meters), along with the aforementioned Alex Txikon, in 2016—more than any other person.
But with options for 8000ers unclimbed in winter dwindling—K2 is the only one that has not been summited in winter, and Everest awaits a true winter ascent without the aid of supplemental oxygen—Moro decided to test his mettle and tolerance for frigid temps further north this year. Per the press release, Sakha, the Siberian Republic in which Pik Pobeda lies, has “an average January temperature −46 °F (−43.5 °C). The coldest recorded temperature [has] been at -71.3 °C.”
Pik Pobeda has been attempted in winter once before, by Austrian alpinists Matthias Mayr and Matthias Haunholder, in 2016. The pair abandoned their attempt, though, and returned to climb and ski the mountain in spring.
Joining Moro on the 2018 expedition will be Tamara Lunger, an Italian alpinist who summited K2 sans bottled oxygen; Oleg Sayfulin, a Russian alpinist with an intimate knowledge of the Chersky Range, and leader of the winter expedition to Pik Pobeda in 2016; Matteo Zanga, an Italian cameraman and alpinist; and Filippo Valote Alebardi, a Russian-Italian journalist.
While the team hopes to succeed on Pobeda, even more than that they hope to bring attention to an area ripe for adventure for anyone with a tolerance for cold. “The Chersky mountain Range is an area that had been very rarely explored,” reads the press release, “and could be a future frontier for [alpinists], skiers and [outdoor] explorers.”
Check back at Rock and Ice for updates!
Also read First Winter Ascent of Nanga Parbat