One of the last remaining big goals to accomplish on the 8000-meter peaks is a winter ascent of K2. It is the only one of those 14 mountains that has not been climbed during the harshest, most difficult season of them all. Naturally, this has made it the center of attention in recent years as a number of high profile expeditions have been made to attempt to solve the puzzle that is the “Savage Mountain” in winter. So far, all of those efforts have come up short, but this coming winter it looks like there will be several squads heading to the Karakoram to give K2 a try and they’ll be led by some well known alpinists.
Amongst the climbers who will attempt K2 this winter is none other than Mingma Sherpa, who announced his plans on Facebook earlier in the week. He’ll be joined by John Snorri from Iceland and Chinese climber Gao Li. All three climbers have extensive experience on 8000-meter peaks, with Mingma himself summiting K2 in 2014 and 2017, albeit in the summer months. This fall, the trio will climb Manaslu together as a warm up and to get to know one another better. They also hope to raise some funds to bring two or three other Nepalese Sherpas along with them on the expedition.
The word that Mingma Sherpa would attempt K2 in winter would normally be fairly big news in the mountaineering community, but he isn’t the only well-known mountaineer who has announced his plans this week. According to ExWeb, Denis Urubko has once again thrown his hat into the rim and plans to climb K2 this winter as well. His goals are even more ambitious than simply making the first winter ascent of the mountain however. Urubko says he’ll first summit Broad Peak for acclimatization, then head over to K2 afterwards. He also indicates that he’ll be climbing with Canadian Don Bowie as well.
As you may recall, Urubko has been on K2 during the winter before, having joined a Polish team that made an attempt on the mountain back in 2017. He also famously follows a meteorological calendar when it comes to the seasons, so he doesn’t recognize the first (and only) winter ascent of Broad Peak back in 2013 because it occurred after March 1, but prior to the ending of winter on the calendar.
Perhaps the biggest news of all is that Urubko says this will be his final big expedition to the 8000-meter mountains. He says that he’ll retire and concentrate on rock climbing instead. Bold words from one of the strongest alpinists in the world, but perhaps he feels like now is the time to get out while he is still alive and in good health.
There are some rumblings that a Polish team will head back to K2 this winter as well, but that isn’t confirmed as of yet. Funding needs to be secured and a team would have to be finalized, but it could happen. If so, K2 Base Camp would have quite a few people in it this winter.
One person who isn’t going to K2 is Alex Txikon. He was there last year and made an attempt on the summit, only to be turned back by bad weather. He indicates that he doesn’t appreciate the tactics being used on K2 and would rather sit out the season rather than get caught up on dangerous race to the summit. Instead, he’ll stay home and wait to see the outcome.
What isn’t clear is whether or not Nims Purja will attempt K2 this winter. Having just summited the mountain in July, he made some waves when he indicated that he’d like to return to make a winter ascent without bottled oxygen. Considering the fact that he’s finishing up his attempt to climb all 14 8000-meter peaks in just 7 months, he may not be full recovered and ready to go for a winter expedition as well. Still, as strong and determined as he is, we wouldn’t put it past him.
One thing is for sure, it’ll definitely be an interesting winter to watch what happens on K2.
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