Spanish climber calls off winter Everest summit bid

A Spanish climber on Tuesday abandoned his bid to make the first winter ascent of Mount Everest in 25 years after "lethal weather" forced him to retreat.

Spanish climber calls off winter Everest summit bid
Photo: Alex Txikon / Facebook

It is the second time in as many years that mountaineer Alex Txikon, 36, has been forced to call off his attempt to scale the world's highest peak in winter without the use of tanked oxygen.

The last successful winter summit was in 1993 by a Japanese team. But only one climber has previously reached the peak in winter without using supplemental oxygen: a Nepali mountaineer in December 1987.

“Alex has ended his expedition. He reached up to Camp Four but the weather did not favour him,” Mingma Sherpa of Seven Summit Treks, which managed the logistics of Txikon's Everest bid, told AFP.

Txikon and his team reached 7,950 metres (26,083 feet) at the weekend, roughly 900 metres below the summit.   



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Weather forecasts had indicated that strong winds would calm early Sunday, allowing them to press on to the summit.   

But winds up to 100 kilometres (62 miles) per hour forced the team, which included experienced Pakistani climber Muhammad Ali Sadpara, to return to base camp.

“We are back at base camp from C4 (Camp Four). Very strong winds and lethal weather made it almost impossible to go for the summit,” Sadpara posted on Facebook.

The temperatures near the summit of Everest in winter regularly plunge below minus 40 celsius (-40 Fahrenheit) while the wind chill makes it feel even colder.

In those conditions exposed skin freezes in less than five minutes, putting climbers at serious risk of frostbite.

Limited oxygen at high altitudes also increases the risk of frostbite as the body directs oxygen-rich blood toward its core and away from extremities.   

Txikon was climbing without supplemental oxygen used by many climbers to reduce the effects of Everest's extreme altitudes.    

The five Nepali Sherpa guides climbing with the Spaniard were used tanked oxygen. It is not clear if Sadpara was too.   

In 2016 Txikon and Sadpara became the first climbers to summit Pakistan's Nanga Parbat (8,125 metres) — nicknamed the “Killer Mountain” — in winter, a feat they achieved without using additional oxygen.

Hundreds of climbers flock to Everest each year hoping to reach the top of the world. But most attempt it during a narrow window of calm weather between late April and May.

Mountaineering is a major revenue-earner for impoverished Nepal, which is home to eight of the world's 14 peaks over 8,000 metres.

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Spain’s capital delays reopening of schools after historic snowfall

Madrid's regional government on Friday postponed the opening of schools until January 20 because many roads remained blocked a week after Spain's worst snowstorm in decades.

Spain's capital delays reopening of schools after historic snowfall
Children riding sleds are pulled by their parents amid a heavy snowfall in Madrid on January 9, 2021: AFP

The region's 2,557 schools had been set to reopen on Monday but access to over half of them, or 57.6 percent, remains difficult because of the snow and ice, the regional government said in a statement.

Clean-up crews will “continue working intensely over the following days” to ensure school can open as planned, it added.

Storm Filomena dumped 50 centimetres (20 inches) of snow on Madrid between last Friday and Saturday, leaving the city and large swathes of the country impassable.


The storm had been blamed for five deaths. It was followed by several days of plunging temperatures, which hardened mounds of snow and slush.

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While main arteries have been cleared, hundreds of side streets remained caked in snow and ice which has disrupted post delivery and rubbish collection, with huge piles of refuse piled up around overflowing bins across Madrid.

A pile of garbage bags is pictured in Madrid on January 14, 2021. Gabriel BOUYS / AFP

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About a third of all streets, or 30.3 percent of all streets have been cleared, according to Madrid city hall which estimates the storm caused at least 1.4 billion euros ($1.7 billion) in damage.

Madrid mayor Jose Luis Martinez-Almeida said the storm dumped more than 1.2 million kilos of snow on the city, enough to form a line of trucks stretching from Madrid to Brussels.

He has called on the central government to declare the area a disaster zone, a move that would trigger emergency aid and other measures.

But the central government wants to wait for a final evaluation of the damage before it decides whether to declare Madrid a disaster area, Transport Minister Jose Luis Abalos told reporters.

People walk amid a heavy snowfall in Madrid on January 9, 2021. GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

Meanwhile, Madrid three main art museums — the Prado, the Thyssen-Bornemisza and the Reina Sofia, the home of Picasso's masterpiece “Guernica” — all announced that they would reopen on Monday for the first time since the storm hit.

People enjoy the snow outside the Royal Palace in Madrid on January 9, 2021. Gabriel BOUYS / AFP

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