Winter Climbs 2020: Climbers Depart Broad Peak Leaving Urubko To Go It Alone

The updates from the winter climbing expeditions just keep coming. Last week, we shared the news that Denis Urubko and Don Bowie had launched a summit bid on Broad Peak, only to pull the plug on that attempt when Bowie took ill.

The duo returned to Base Camp, where Urubko shared the news that everyone was safe and that he would rest up before having another go at the summit once a new weather window opened. If that window does indeed come, the Russian-Pole by way of Kazakhstan will be climbing alone, after his partners left Base Camp and headed for home over the weekend.

When Urubko and Bowie aborted their attempt on the mountain last week, it was unclear exactly what ailment had befallen the Canadian climber. In an Instagram post from this past weekend however, he made it clear that he was not suffering from high altitude pulmonary edema. Instead, he had contracted pneumonia while on the mountain and it was slowly settling into his lungs, making it very difficult to work and breathe while at altitude.

This led to an emergency evacuation by helicopter, with Bowie flying back to Skardu for treatment before leaving Pakistan in a few days time. On that flight out, he was joined by Lotta Hintsa, the third member of the team who had never quite found her footing with the squad either. She suffered from a few minor illnesses throughout the expedition and was not doubt looking forward to leaving the cold conditions behind too.

For his part, Urubko is sad to see his climbing partners leave, but now he’ll be ready to go the next time the opportunity arises. He is one of the strongest climbers in the world and is a good solo alpinist. If anyone can summit Broad Peak alone in winter, it is probably Denis.

For now, we’ll have to wait for him to announce his next summit push. Hopefully it will come soon, as he has set at March 1 deadline for ending the expedition.

The other two winter climbing expeditions that are still ongoing include Alex Txikon’s attempt at a winter summit of Everest without oxygen and Jost Kobusch’s similar goal, albeit solo and along the West Ridge. Both Alex and his team, and Jost on his own, remain in BC today as they wait for the wind speeds to drop.

For the Spaniard, the hope is to go up to Camp 3 and possibly Camp 4 on the next rotation. From there, he’ll assess the weather and potentially launch a summit bid. For Kobusch, he’ll simply keep scouting the route, pushing higher, and wait for any opportunity that might present itself.

That’s it for now. Everyone is playing the waiting game as they watch the weather. More updates to come once conditions improve.

Kraig Becker