Karakoram Summer 2019: Urubko Launches Attempt on New Gasherbrum Route

The Karakoram climbing season may be over on K2 and most of the other big peaks in Pakistan, but that doesn’t mean everyone is heading home just yet. Polish (by way of Kazakhstan) climber Denis Urubko is preparing to launch an ambitious new attempt on Gasherbrum II, where he hopes to put up a new line on the mountain. But as the first days of August grow closer, the clock is starting to tick on the last few days of the season.

Yesterday we learned that Urubko played a role in two rescue operations in as many days this past weekend, bringing the total number of rescue he conducted to three over the past week alone. At the time, we wondered if that would have an impact on his plans, as helping with high altitude rescues can be time consuming and sap a climber’s energy too. Apparently it hasn’t had much of an impact on Urubko, who is now reportedly heading up the mountain with Canadian Don Bowie’s team. They will share the walk to Camp 1 on GII, before going their separate ways.

Last week we learned that Denis would attempt the new line entirely on his own after his wife suffered a back injury while trekking to Base Camp. That solo effort will start at C1, where he will apparently branch off and begin a new line up the mountain. Beyond that, not much is known about his plans and it seems likely that he’ll be playing it by ear in terms of summit schedule. Trying to estimate how fast you can travel along a new route can be difficult, but thankfully it looks like the weather will hold out for a few more days at least.

As for Bowie, he’s set to attempt GII along its more traditional route. He had launched a summit bid last week, but cancelled it to help with one of the rescue operations that Urubko was a part of as well. Now, he seems rested and ready to resume the climb, so hopefully he’ll get a solid crack at the summit as well.

It seems that the drama in the Karakoram this summer hasn’t just been confined to the mountains. ExWeb is reporting that Spanish climber Lina Quesada saw her chances to summit K2 come to an end when her expedition team decided to unilaterally pull the plug on the climbing season. That’s not all that unusual of course, but in this case Quesada was on her way to Camp 1 when the company –– Karakoram Expeditions –– decided to pull up their stakes and exit Base Camp. This left her high and dry on the mountain, which she felt she had a great shot of climbing. Unfortunately, without support, she had to abandon the attempt and reluctantly head home. But, Quesada says she will potentially take legal action against the company citing breach of contract.

That’s all for now. It looks like things aren’t quite over yet in Pakistan, so we’ll keep a close eye on developments over the next few days.

Kraig Becker