Winter Climb Update: Details From K2


It continues to be along, challenging week in the Karakoram for the teams tackling 8000 meter peaks there. The weather has only improved marginally, but it has created a whole new set of problems for the climbers, who are struggling to get time at altitude and starting to watch the clock.

We’ll start today’s update on K2, where the Russian squad is still waiting for extraction of the team and gear. You’ll no doubt recall that they aborted their expedition earlier in the week when team member Vitaly Gorelik passed away in Base Camp. The team leaders didn’t go into detail on what exactly happened, but ExWeb got the scoop and posted the story earlier.

Apparently, Vitaly was part of a three-man group that was fixing lines above 7000 meters (22,965 ft) from January 28-31. When the bad weather set in, the entire team was forced back to BC, where it was determined that he had suffered frostbite on both hands while working at high altitude. Later, he was also diagnosed with pneumonia, and a helicopter was called to retrieve him. Unfortunately, the incredibly bad weather made it impossible for the medics to fly in and evacuate the ailing climber, and after two days of waiting, Vitaly had to be put on a respirator. He was still on that respirator when he died.

It’s a sad story and sobering reminder of just how challenging and dangerous K2 can be in any season. During the winter, the “Savage Mountain” becomes even more brutal however, which is why it remains unclimbed during that season. The entire team did a great job of giving it a go, but I think we can all understand why they elected to come home.

Meanwhile, Simone Moro and Denis Urubko continue to struggle on Nanga Parbat. After abandoning a summit bid earlier in the week, the duo are now worried about having to restart their acclimatization process after spending an extended stay in Base Camp. Worse yet, the heavy snow has covered their previous tracks, which means they’ll be forced to break trail once again. To add insult to injury, more snow is projected over the next week, which will only add to the challenges. In fact, it has gotten so bad that the Polish team that they’ve been sharing BC with have decided to go home. It seems that they weren’t able to even get much above Camp 1. We’ll have to wait and see if Simone and Denis get a crack at the summit.

On Gasherbrum I, the weather has improved dramatically, which allowed the Polish team to go up to C1 yesterday, with Alex and Carlos following today. Alex claims that it is the warmest temperatures they’ve seen on the mountain yet, and they hope to take advantage of the break while they can. In fact, if they feel strong, they may continue up to Camp 2 tomorrow, as they continue their acclimatization process and shuttle gear up the hill.

It is starting to look pretty grim in the Karakoram. As usual, everything hinges on the weather.

Kraig Becker