Winter Climbs 2014-2015: Chinese Deny Urubko and Company Climbing Permit for K2

1280px K2 2006b

The winter climbing season is set to officially get underway in just a few days, and as I write this, the teams that are planning major expeditions this year are busy putting the finishing touches on their plans. But one squad received bad news yesterday when they learned that the Chinese have denied them a permit to climb on K2 on the eve of their departure. Now, they are left wondering what they can do to salvage an expedition they have been planning for months.

One of the most interesting expeditions that was set to take place this winter was the attempt to complete the first ascent of K2 from the North Side of the mountain. The very experienced team of Denis Urubko, Adam Bilecki, and Alex Txikon were preparing to depart for China this week with the hopes that they could be in Base Camp shortly after the official start of winter. But yesterday Denis posted an update to his Facebook page sharing the news that they had been denied their permit, and as you can imagine, that was a devastating blow.

With no permit, it is difficult to say what the team will do now. They still have a few days before their flight to try to sort through the bureaucracy that prevented them from getting the permit in the first place, but it is hard to know why the Chinese denied their request to climb from the North Side. Perhaps the expedition can still be salvaged provided the communications from Chinese government is forthcoming with their demands.

The other alternative would be to attempt to jump to the Pakistani side of the mountain, although that doesn’t seem likely either. This entire expedition hinged on a specific route that Denis had planned from the North Side. The small team was hoping to climb along a new route that would potentially shield them from some of the worst weather that K2 will throw at them in the weeks ahead. The trio of climbers was not training or preparing for the more exposed route along the “normal” path to the summit in Pakistan, which of course has not yielded much success during the winter in the past.

For now, we’ll have to just wait to see what will happen. Clearly the team is heartbroken by this news, but hopefully they’ll still be able to get something organized for this winter. Time is running short however, and the Chinese bureaucrats are not well known for being flexible. I’ll post an update as soon as we know more.

Meanwhile, elsewhere teams are preparing to travel to Nanga Parbat for the first winter ascent of that mountain as well. Expect updates soon. And of course, Lonnie Dupre is already in Alaska, and waiting for the weather to clear so he can travel to Denali in preparation for his attempt at a January ascent of that mountain. The season is just about to really get going, so expect more updates soon.

Kraig Becker