Karakoram Summer 2019: Urubko Summits GII Along New Route

Denis Urubko has closed out the Karakoram climbing season in Pakistan in grand style, summiting Gasherbrum II along a new route in solo fashion. Details of the climb remain a bit light at the moment, but updates posted to Explorers Web confirm that not only did he reach the top of the mountain, he has also successfully descended back to Camp 1. After resting there, he is expected to descend to Base Camp before leaving for home.

As reported yesterday, Urubko set off from C1 on a solo push on the 8035 meter (26,362 ft) peak, which is the 13th highest in the world. He had trekked to Camp 1 with a team of other climbers that included Canadian Don Bowie and the plan was for Denis to meet them high on the mountain and descend together. Conditions had deteriorated so much however that Bowie and company decided to abandon their plans to go up the mountain and stayed in C1 instead. ExWeb quotes the Canadian as saying that he had never seen the glacier in such poor shape, as much of the snow has turned to slush. That not only makes for challenging climbing, but also increased the chances of avalanches too. 

Meanwhile, Urubko had already set out on his summit push and for a long period of time it was unclear what his status was. The group in Camp 1 had last seen him climbing above 7000 meters (22,965 ft), but what happened after that was a mystery. Climbing completely alone and along a new route takes considerable time and effort however but eventually he reached the top and then descended back to Camp 1 along the standard route. It seems likely that the entire squad will head back to BC later today before heading for home over the weekend.

It seems likely that we’ll get more details of the climb in the near future, although Urubko isn’t known for being particularly loquacious when it comes to sharing the details of his exploits. He isn’t one to share much information on social media for instance, preferring to climb rather than write long, detailed expedition reports. As one of the strongest climbers in the world, his focus is more about accomplishing his goals in the mountains and not posting to Facebook and Instagram.

It seems likely that this ascent will drop the curtain on the climbing season in Pakistan, at least on the 8000-meter peaks. There are still a handful of expeditions taking place elsewhere that will continue on, but as usual the first week of August typically closes down the big mountains for another year. We’ll keep a close eye on how things are proceeding, but there may not be much to report until the winter on K2, when a few teams may give that peak another go.

Kraig Becker