The ongoing saga of Denis Urubko’s planned expedition to K2 took another strange turn today with the news that the entire expedition has been cancelled. Yesterday, Urubko and his teammates, which included Alam Bielecki of Poland and Alex Txikon of Spain, received word that the Chinese government would not issue them a permit to climb due to a high terrorist threat in the region they would be passing through. This was their second attempt at obtaining a permit, but this time the rejection has brought an end to their efforts.
The team had been preparing for an early January departure for China, where they had intended to climb the mountain from the North Side. Their original plan had been to set out for K2 – the second tallest mountain in the world – last week, with the intention of being in Base Camp by the start of the winter season on December 21. But just days before they were to fly out, Denis received word that their permit has not been approved. Undaunted, he, Adam, and Alex shifted to another logistics company with the hope that they could still get a permit. They seemed fairly confident that that would happen, but were forced to shift their plans by a few weeks.
Denis broke the news of the second rejection on his Facebook page where he posted the email note he had received from the team’s logistical support crew in China. It indicated that the permit was cancelled due to terrorist activity in the Xinjiang region of China, an area that the team would pass through on their way to K2, but would not be spending any significant amount of time in. Back in November, a terrorist attack killed 15 people in the region, and wounded another 14. That has put the area on high alert, with a great deal of tension permeating the mostly-Muslim population there.
With the news that the K2 winter expedition is over, the mountain will remain unclimbed for another year. It is one of only two 8000-meter peaks that have yet to be summited during the winter, with the other being Nanga Parbat. That mountain will see no less than three teams attempting to climb it this year, while Urubko’s squad was the only one heading to K2.
I’m sure the news of the cancellation of the permit was a crushing blow to Denis, Adam, and Alex. They had been planning this expedition for months, and were set to embark on what was surely going to be a difficult and demanding journey. Now, they’ll be back home for the winter, and wondering what their next adventure will be.
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