ISLAMABAD, Feb 21: Spanish mountaineers Alex Txikon and Jose Fernandez have climbed the Laila Peak in a historic attempt to climb it in winter. The climbers havenow returned home.
They bagged the first time ever winter ascent on February 18, 2013, when they summited the Laila Peak, one of the most beautiful mountains in the Karakoram Range.
The Spanish expedition team comprising of four climbers spent nearly 45 days on the mountain. Ramon Portilla had a frost bitten finger and couldn’t join the team for a second summit push on the Laila Peak. While Juanjo San Sebastian too had to turn back shortly after starting the climb because of a knee injury.
On the other hand, Alex and Jose battled with deep snow for seven hours to reach Base Camp I.
On February 18, the climbers left Base Camp II at 5, 600 metres early morning on their second summit attempt and pushed against wind and snow for 10 hours.
“At 4pm local time, their globed positioning system (GPS) read 6,100 metres, with the snow up to their chests,” said one of the climbers on his web blog, adding, “It was very, very, very hard. It was a wild day, extreme, harsh, endless, under very adverse weather conditions, also with technical difficulties. Winds were up to 60 kilometres and temperatures as low as 35 degrees below zero, but with the wind-chill it must have been very, very low.”
Two other climbers from the Spanish expedition, Juanjo San Sebastian and Ramon Portilla, were forced to turn back earlier because of a knee injury and frostbite respectively, said Karrar Haidri.
Laila Peak, in the Hushe Valley has been climbed only twice and a total of only seven people have climbed the 6, 096 metres (20, 000 ft) high mountain.
With a distinctive spear-like shape, the Laila Peak has never been summited in the winter season before.
Its northwest face has a slope of 45 degrees in more than 1, 500 vertical metres.
According to the ACP, the duo had safely returned to Camp II after 14hours of their successful summit of the Laila Peak.
“It is the first winter ascent of one the most beautiful peaks in the world. The summit push in chest deep snow took 10 hours upward and another 4 hours down hill,” said Karrar Haidri explaining how the climbers also had to fight against winds up to 60 kilometres.
Out of over half a dozen winter expeditions, four had failed to summit the eight thousand metres plus peaks because of extreme cold and had returned home.