ALEX TXIKON ON THE SUMMIT OF MANASLU IN WINTER
Alex Txikon on the summit of Manaslu in winter. Ferrino was also at his side in this new great feat.
Alex Txikon has done it! On January 6th, the Basque mountaineer, Ferrino's ambassador, realised his long pursued dream, reaching, without the use of oxygen cylinders, the 8163 metre peak of Manaslu, together with Nepalese mountaineers Tenjen Lama Sherpa, Pasang Nurbu Sherpa, Mingtemba Sherpa, Chhepal Sherpa, Pemba Tasi Sherpa and Gyalu Sherpa.
This was the second ascent of the mountain in the coldest season. The first had been carried out in January 1984 by the Polish climbing team of Maciej Berbeka and Ryszard Gajewski, who, however, had started operations on the mountain in late autumn. That of Txikon and his companions, however, was the first ascent to be carried out completely in winter.
Alex had already made Himalayan mountaineering history in 2016, when, roped together with Italian Simone Moro and Pakistani Ali Sadpara, he was the first to reach the summit of Nanga Parbat in winter. Since then, he had twice unsuccessfully attempted the ascent of Manaslu, a feat he succeeded in this year thanks in part to a change of strategy, which allowed the mountaineers to arrive at Manaslu already acclimatised for the very high altitude and ready to take advantage of the first favourable opportunity.
At the end of December, the team set up base camp at 5,000 metres and, looking at the weather forecast, discovered that in the last days of the year the wind would be strong but then the weather would begin to stabilise.
“It was the opportunity we had been waiting for," says Alex, “So on January 4th, we took the necessary equipment and climbed directly to camp 2, at 6,400 metres. We climbed about 1,500 metres and the ascent was very hard because of the wind, the cold and all the weight we had on our shoulders”.
Here Simone Moro, who was part of the group, had to give up due to health problems, returning to base camp alone. The other climbers continued quickly, reaching C3 on January 5th, set up just below 7,000 metres.
“When we arrived at C3 we thought about the strategy to follow,” Alex recounts, “We had to decide whether to rest or to attack the summit directly. It was not an easy decision, because it was very late and at those altitudes, in winter, the more time you spend outdoors at night, the more you run the risk of frostbite. But we were there and the weather conditions were good. It was our opportunity and we had to take advantage of it”.
At 11 pm, after not even an hour's rest, Txikon and his Nepalese companions set off again towards the summit, which they reached at 9.30 am on January 6th:
“It was a very long, endless climb! When we reached the pinnacle, at 7,992 metres, before the main summit, it was already daylight. We saw the place where the commercial expeditions stop, but from the photos analysed before the ascent, we knew that the real summit was a little further on, beyond a short ridge. The summit of Manaslu is very narrow and we could not all fit on at once. We climbed and descended the ridge one at a time, and eventually all the climbers in the group reached the summit. Afterwards, we started to descend, which was, without a doubt, the most difficult part of the challenge. At 6pm, we all arrived at base camp: devastated!”.
Txikon and his companions completed the ascent and descent in less than 60 hours, a record time for climbing an 8,000 metre peak in winter, and this despite the enormous difficulties they faced: “It was one of the toughest and most dangerous experiences of my professional career and required incredible physical and mental strength,” explains the Basque climber.
“Especially in the first part, the mountain was in worse condition than I thought. The temperatures dropped to -45º, and the wind gusts reached 50 km/h. It's difficult for people to get an idea of what these conditions are like: even the water in the flasks that we carried between our chests and the down-suit was freezing, something that had never happened to me before!”.
Concluding his comments on the ascent, Alex dwells on the importance of the pioneering Polish expedition of 1984: “They had enormous merit. Maximum respect for those climbers! Even though they started the expedition in autumn, while ours was carried out entirely in winter, it is clear that we had equipment and information that they could not have”.
In this historic enterprise, Ferrino was at the side of Alex Txikon and his companions, providing the Colle Sud model tents, used at base camp, and the Snowbound 3 high altitude tents for the high camps. Two top products from Ferrino's HighLab line which, thanks to constant research, testing and development work, guarantees continuous improvement of the equipment, optimising their extremely high performance even in the Himalayan winter conditions, with very strong winds, intense snowfall and temperatures of several degrees below zero, as the images of Alex's feat show.
The backpacks used by Alex for the expedition are those of the Instinct line, which are ultralight and made of Dyneema® Composite Fabric, Cordura® Nylon and SuperFabric® reinforcements to guarantee an optimal ratio between resistance and lightness. Essential in every part but complete with every kind of mountaineering equipment, they are true all-arounders for the mountain.
“We are really proud to have contributed to this important ascent, which sees our ambassador Alex Txikon as the protagonist - comments Anna Ferrino, CEO of Ferrino - A climber who has demonstrated once again that he has the talent and audacity of the great protagonists of the history of mountaineering, imagining adventures that are still able to make people dream and realising them in compliance with the technical standards and light and clean style that characterise the frontier of this discipline”.
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