Russian Team Responds to Alex Txikon’s ExWeb K2 Interview

ExWeb K2 Interview: Last week I posted a story linking to an interview with Basque climber Alex Txikon that was conducted over at Explorers Web. In that interview, Txikon discussed his recent winter expedition to K2 and the challenges he and his squad faced in dealing with a team of mountaineers from Russia, Kazakstan, and Kyrgyzstan.

Both groups shared Base Camp with one another, but according to Alex there wasn’t much interaction. He says the Russian team wasn’t especially cordial, showed no interested in cooperating with one another, and when their expedition ended they left a considerable amount of trash and gear behind.

The Spaniard and his team reportedly cleaned up that trash and brought it down, with Txikon saying that he was still waiting for his thank you. Well, as these things tend to go, there are two sides to the story and it seems the Russians have a few things to say on the matter too.

Team leader Vassiliy Pivtsov responded to Txikon’s accusations through the “Gazzetta dello Sport”, which reached out to him following the ExWeb interview. Pivtsov paints a different picture of what it was like on K2, saying that Txikon’s team was arrogant in its approach and that they complained openly about the Russian squad.

Apparently, one of the members of Txikon’s team had to use supplemental oxygen just to reach K2 Base Camp, and when word of that leaked out Pivtsov says the Spaniard “freaked out” and clamped down on communications between the teams. To the point that the Russians never knew exactly what the other team was up to, which route they were taking, or when they were headed up the mountain.

Txikon had accused the Russians of using his team’s ropes without permission as well, and criticized them for not installing as many lines as necessary, but instead clipping into old ropes. Pivtsov counters this by saying that their plan all along was to use the ropes that were installed last summer, provided they were still in good working order.

He also says that the Spanish squad installed its ropes parallel to their own, which made it impossible at times to tell which lines belonged to which teams. Sometimes they may have clipped into those ropes by mistake, but it wasn’t an intentional slight to use the other team’s lines. Pivtsov also points out that his team was the only one to install ropes through a small, yet crucial icefall, which the Spanish used as well. The Russian says it didn’t even occur to them to complain about sharing.

As for the trash that was supposedly left behind on the mountain and the Spanish team cleaned up, Pivtsov has an explanation for that too. He claims that his team deposited gas and supplies for teams coming in the summer and not just random garbage strewn about the mountain. He calls these accusations “lies” and goes on to say “Mr Txikon should not be involved in mountaineering, but rather in talk shows dealing with scandals and gossip.”

I guess its safe to say that Txikon and Pivtsov won’t be exchanging Christmas cards this year. These kinds of petty disputes and rivalries are not uncommon in mountaineering, but this one happens to be playing out in the press, which at least makes it entertaining to read. I suspect the truth of the matter sits somewhere in the middle, but I felt it was definitely important to share both sides of the story.

Read the entire interview with Vassiliy Pivtsov –– which includes interesting side notes and analysis ––  here.