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ExWeb series: The meaning of winter in 8000+ climbing, part 3 final
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Nov 24, 2004 10: 25 EST
"...but the night was extremely cold; -52°C in the night...! We stopped at 7700m because it was 3 p.m. and the shadow came upon us. Our feet started to freeze again. Had we continued to climb I'm sure we would have reached the summit. But we would have had to make a bivy in extreme conditions, risking to die or to lose our feet and hands."

Winter is approaching Himalaya and Simone Moro, Piotr Morawski, Jacek Jawien, Dariusz Zaluski and Jan Szulc are leaving only 1 week from now for another winter attempt of Shisha. Last year, this dispatch ended their climb.

Today, the final part 3 of the ExWeb's series "The meaning of winter in 8000+ climbing". It's a wrap-up of the on Calendar/off Calendar winter summits in Himalaya since 1988 - and some temperatures comparisons from AdventureWeather.

Wrap-up of Calendar winter FIRST summits 80-88

Up until now only 7 out of all 14 eight-thousanders have been winter climbed, all located, partially at least, in Nepal. All first winter accents were made by Polish climbers, from Everest in 1980 to Lhotse in 1988.

Classic winter climbs are those made within the “calendar winter,” from December 21 to March 21.

Wrap-up other ON-Calendar winter summits since 1988

Yalung Kang 1989 (Kangchenjunga West) scaled by a Korean and two Nepalese December 20. All died during descent.

Everest 1993 Japan made a ‘calendar winter’ summit on the Roof of the World December 22.

Cho Oyu 1988-1994:
Spanish solo on February 6, 1988.
Four Spanish on February 8, 1993.
1 Spanish on February 10, 1993 - with the only female "calendar girl" - Swiss Marianne Chapuisart.
2 Spanish January 26, 1994. Last Calendar winter summit.

Wrap-up other OFF-Calendar winter summits since 1988

Everest 1993, Japan, Dec 18 & 20.
Manaslu 1995, Kazakh team, December 8.
Manaslu 1998, Korean team, December 6.
Cho Oyu 2002: Alberto Iñurrategi/Jon Beloki, Dec 3. Last non-Calendar winter summit.

Himalayan Winter temperatures from AdventureWeather

The world’s seasonal calendar has winter beginning on December 21st, whereas Nepal and China’s permit winter season start is on December 1st. In the northern hemisphere, the Winter solstice is day of the year (near December 22) when the Sun is farthest south. This is the time when Simone & co intend to begin their climb. So how does this translate to the actual temperatures in Himalaya?

The information below is compiled from 868 forecasts from May 1, 2002 to Nov 1, 2004, by AdventureWeather:

Monthly Average 2002-2004 Coldest temperature Everest Summit
July -18
Aug -18
Sep -21
Oct -27
Nov -30
Dec -34
Jan -36
Feb -35
Mar -32
Apr -25
May -20
Jun -18

Those temperatures show that the coldest 3 months on Everest summit are December-February. The coldest climbs in Himalaya take place between Mid December to Mid February - pretty consistent with the Calendar winter rules.

But the temperature is not all. There is the snowfall, and the wind... The highest forecasted wind speed, 78 m/s (175miles/hour) was on February 6, 2004. This is well above the 156 miles/hour threshold for a Category 5 Hurricane. In fact, from late autumn (app. Oct 20) until end of January there is almost constant hurricane force winds (more than 3 out of 4 days) at the summit of Everest.

The meaning of winter in 8000+ climbing is to pick the toughest season of them all - to begin the climb, and make the summit in the harshest conditions possible. The Polish had it right, even though a December climb on Everest is pretty close to the peak nightmare.

Don't miss next weeks series from Adventure Weather: "The 'BAD' chart in Himalaya weather - climbing beyond wind chill."
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