Winter Mountaineering on SteepEdge

Thursday 26th February 2015

Although we’re quick to complain about how conditions in the UK this winter have been cold, icy and windy, you can guarantee that there’s a mountain range somewhere with colder and windier conditions within which someone’s defying all logic and trying to climb something freezing and exposed. Fortunately for us plenty of these winter mountaineering expeditions have been caught on camera and developed into feature films, now available to rent and download from SteepEdge. From the Tatras to the Greater Ranges, we’ve got mountain ascents from across the globe in some of the most severe conditions on the planet, featuring some of the biggest names in mountaineering.


Footprints on the Ridge: Many of the most accomplished mountaineers in history first cut their teeth in the Tatra Mountains. Although they’re significantly smaller than the Alps in size, the climbing can be equally as serious, especially in winter. The majority of the mountain range can be linked together in one continuous knife-edge ridge incorporating over 130 peaks, challenging any mountaineers who choose to tackle this line with many miles of unrelenting exposed climbing. In Footprints on the Ridge Michal Sabovčík and Adam Kadlečík attempt to traverse the entire ridge in winter, battling the mental and physical strain of spending multiple long, cold days high in the mountains. As well as aerial shots of the duo working their way along the ridge, the film incorporates terrifying footage from the climbers’ head cams, as well as talking head interviews with Michal, Adam and others, including Vlado Plulík, who achieved the same feat solo in 1997, an achievement he regards to be more dangerous and draining than his ascent of Everest without supplementary oxygen.


Cold: Since 1986, 16 expeditions have tried and failed to climb one of Pakistan’s 8,000-metre peaks in winter. In February 2011 a team consisting of Simone Moro, Denis Urubko and Cory Richards became the first, by reaching the summit of Gasherbrum II (8,035-metres). Filmed by Cory, who during the ascent became the first American to reach the summit of an 8,000-metre peak, we see the huge risks they face in trying to climb one of the world’s most notorious mountains in winter. Making an audacious ascent, using no sherpa support or supplementary oxygen, the team travel through some of the most hostile terrain on Earth, enduring high winds, sub-zero temperatures and an avalanche before eventually reaching their end goal.

The Last Great Climb: The last instalment in Alastair Lee’s ‘mountain epics’ trilogy, following Leo Houlding, Sean Leary, Jason Pickles and Chris Rabone as they attempt to make the first ascent of one of the world’s last great mountain lines, the north-east ridge of Ulvetanna Peak. First discovered in 1994, Ulvetanna lies in the centre of Queen Maud Land, Antarctica, and its north ridge rises majestically from the snow to meet ‘the wolfs tooth’ peak, a much coveted line which remained unclimbed until the team’s arrival in 2012. Experiencing unprecedented good weather upon their arrival, the climbers waste no time setting off on their journey making impressively quick progress up the ridge, but halfway up the mountain the weather changes for the worse and we see the unrelenting horrors of an Antarctic storm.


Everest in Winter: In 1980 a British team led by the inimitable Al Rouse set out to make the first ascent of Everest in winter. Capturing some of the characters who first sought to apply an alpine climbing style to 8,000-metre peaks, including Joe Tasker, Paul Nunn and Brian Hall, we see the team’s ambitious plan unravel, as they attempt to complete the climb using no Sherpa support, little fixed rope and no supplementary oxygen. Despite several weeks of good weather at the beginning of the expedition, the weather took a turn for the worse, forcing the team to spend two and a half months at base camp in consistent sub-zero temperatures, going through 32 paraffin stoves just trying to melt ice. Intense suffering direct from the golden age of British Himalayan mountaineering.

Towers of Temptation: Patagonia is infamous for its exposed rock towers, freezing temperatures and unforgiving storms. Therefore the majority of climbing films from Patagonia contain plenty of danger and excitement, and as Towers of Temptation contains two expeditions in one film, there’s plenty of high altitude suffering to be enjoyed. The first expedition, led by Chris Bonington in 1962 documents the first ascent of the Central Tower of Paine, probably the most sought after summit in the southern hemisphere at the time. The second takes place ten years later as a strong British and American team attempt to make the first ascent of Torre Egger, but as they see their plans thwarted by relentless high winds, they turn their attentions to an unclimbed spire across the valley. Besides the location, the common theme of the two expeditions is their central character, British climbing hero Don Whillans, who cooly reties his rope when it snaps halfway up the Central Tower of Paine, rescues Mick Coffey after he falls down a crevasse and remains seemingly unfazed by his daunting surroundings throughout both trips.