Of all of the 8000-meter peaks, just two remain unclimbed during the winter – K2 and Nanga Parbat. Of those, Nanga has seen the most action in recent years, with several teams trying to reach its summit last winter alone. No team has attempted K2 during that season since 2011-2012, when a Russian squad last made the attempt. They abandoned the expedition when a team member named Vitaly Gorelik died in Base Camp after suffering severe frostbite while shuttling gear to the higher camps. He was awaiting evacuation at the time of his death, but due to the extremely poor weather conditions, a rescue was impossible.
A trio of very experienced climbers has announced their bid to summit the toughest mountain in the world during the coldest, harshest season of them all. Kazakh climber Denis Urubko is joining forces with Polish mountaineer Adam Bielecki and Spaniard Alex Txikon to attempt the North Face of K2 in the winter, as the team attempts to become the first to climb that mountain during that brutally cold time of year.
Those are the kinds of conditions that Urubko, Bielecki, and Txikon will face on K2 during the winter. The mountain is extremely difficult under the best of conditions, and during the winter months the cold, snow, and winds are unrelenting. The team will need all of their skill and experience – not to mention a healthy dose of luck – if they are to have any hope of reaching the top during the winter.
Of the three climbers, Urubko has the most experience on 8000-meter peaks in the winter. He teamed with Simone Moro and Cory Richards on Gasherbrum II back in 2011, as they made the first winter ascent of that mountain. Moro and Urubko often climb together, but Simone has promised his wife that he would not attempt K2 after she dreamed that he died on that mountain.
Bielecki is no stranger to winter climbing however, as he has made two first winter ascents as well. The Polish mountaineer was a member of teams that summited Broad Peak and Gasherbrum I in winter. He also successfully climbed K2 in 2012 during the summer.
This expedition won’t launch for a couple of months yet. The team will probably depart for Pakistan in early December, and arrive on the mountain just as winter officially sets in. We’ll have to wait to see what kind of schedule they set for themselves however, as some teams wait until after the holidays to launch their winter climbs. Either way, you can bet that I’ll be following along with the action.