Polish K2 winter expedition ends

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Monday 5th Mar, 2018 – 8.50am GMT

It’s all over! Since Adam Bielecki and Janusz Gołąb set off from base camp yesterday due to improving weather, conditions have since deteriorated again and team leader Krzysztof Wielicki has now taken the decision, in consultation with his team, to end the expedition.

This is the full update from the team’s website this morning:

“Based on a deep analysis of the situation in consultation with the team, I decided today to end the mountain action on K2. The following factors influenced the decision to end the campaign:

1. The result of the reconnaissance of the team Adam Bielecki and Janusz Gołąb today. It turned out that on the way to C1 all ropes are filled up, the tent in the base is damaged, there is also a high probability of destroying camps C1, C2 and C3.

2. Weather forecast, which confirms only 1 short weather window around 11/03/2018

3. No possibility to acclimatize min. 1st team at a height of 7200m, which would be able to return to the base after the attack on the peak on 11.03.

4. Avalanche threat in the upper parts of the road. In the last 8 days we recorded a total of over 80cm of snowfall.

5. Warning from the Ventusky Portal with high rainfall at 7600m

6. Bad forecasts for the period after 11/03/2018

The safety of the participants is the priority of the trip.”


Wednesday, 28th Feb, 2018 – 12.30pm GMT

After announcing yesterday that his team had decided to end their Everest winter expedition, Alex Txikon has apparently had a change of heart and is staying at base camp in the hope of conditions improving.

“We continue at the Base Camp, but the weather is not playing in our favor. Temba and Ali Sadpara have returned to Kathmandu because they weren’t able to continue, but the rest of us, we fell very strong. I would also like to appreciate the great work of Cheppal, Nuri, Pasang, Wallung and Geljen during the whole expedition. Everything indicates that the weather forecast will not be favorable until mid-March so we are considering different possibilities. I’ll let you know,” Alex posted on his Facebook page.

Meanwhile, over on K2 things have come to a standstill due to bad weather, though expedition leader Krzysztof Wielicki  did post the following update this morning: “Today, Denis Urubko has left base camp, along with one of Amin’s porters who requires further hospital investigations related to temporary but repetitive blindness. Mountain action halted due to snowfall and rising wind.”

Tuesday 27th Feb, 2018 – 10.25pm GMT

Denis Urubko has given his first interview since descending to K2 base camp following his audacious solo summit attempt at the weekend: “It was my chance to do something on this mountain. I took the top attack and I’m glad I did it. I do not regret (it). I would be angry if I did not do it. Conditions up (there) are difficult. Cold, lots of snow, and fog. The decision to stop the top attack was right. I could only do this (course of action,” said Urubko to TVN24.

Urubko’s actions have caused anger within the Polish team, however the Russian is unrepentent: “I have nothing to apologise for. They are not angels either. Krzysztof Wielicki let me go to the third camp, and then he ordered me to return to the base. I do not understand this decision. Nobody apologised for such mistakes to me,” he said.

Meanwhile back on the mountain, bad weather is hampering progress according to the team’s official website: “Both teams have gone to C1 and today they are returning to the base. The weather is getting broken, which prevents further work up (there). Krzysztof Wielicki Medical report as at 26/02/2018 Adam Bielecki – wounds healed completely (brilliant sewing), nose after fracture with slight displacement…”

Eleswhere in the Himalaya, the Spaniard Alex Txikon (36), has announced that his winter attempt on Everest without supplemental oxygen via the South Col with Pakistani mountaineer Muhammad Ali Sadpara (45) is over. His post on Facebook read: “This time, winter has not given us the opportunity, but I’m sure the future will bring us together in a new adventure.”

Weather and delays had played a key part in the duo’s failure to get to the top this time, according to their logistics provider, Mingma Sherpa: “Weather was not so good, the expedition got delayed… and they had to cancel their expedition this time. However they have reached up to 7900m approximately.”

Txikon and Sadpara were part of the team who last year made the first winter ascent of Nanga Parbat (8126m), along with Simone Moro and Tamara Lunger.


Monday 26th Feb, 2018 – 3.20pm GMT

Uruko quits expedition! According to the Polish team’s website, Denis Urubko has decided his expedition is finished and will be leaving the rest of the expedition team for home. This is how the news was announced:

“Denis Urubko, according to his convictions regarding the end of the winter season, decided to leave the Winter Expedition on K2. This decision was accepted by the participants of the expedition, who did not see any further possibility of cooperation with Denis after his independent attempt to get the top.”

Tensions within the team had flared in the previous days due to Urubko believing that time was running out to attempt a summit before the end of February, the cut-out for it to be considered a winter ascent according to some in the mountaineering world. After striking out on his own, it seemed that his relations with the team would be untenable once he returned from his summit attempt. Urubko made it to Camp 3 but was apparently turned back by the bad conditions.

Monday 26th Feb, 2018 – 9.50am GMT

The latest news from the Polish K2 expedition press office is that Denis Urubko has now retreated to Camp 2 while other teammembers are moving up to Camp 3: “The team Marcin Kaczkan and Maciej Bedrejczuk are heading towards C3. Marek Chmielarski and Artur Małek are going to C2. Denis Urubko goes down. He is currently in C2,” said team leader Krzysztof Wielicki.

On Facebook, K2 veteran Pawel Michalski posted an interesting insight into the terrain that Urubko would have encountered on his way up to Camp 3, where he is believed to have spent the previous night.

The last few metres to Camp 3 on K2 (7350m) – pic courtesy Pawel Michalski

“Yesterday, Denis Urubko set off on his own from the base to the summit last night in a deposit facility over Camp 1, at altitude 6400m. Today, he probably reached the place where he left the tent climbing with Adam Bielecki at 7200m. This place I remember perfectly from the 2014 expedition. It is located close to the great bulderu (Stone) about 150m below the place where camp 3 is normally placed. The route to Camp 4, which is on the shoulder of the K2, is an area with an average gradient of about 45-50 degrees. After about half an hour, you have to watch the cracks. In the summer, there are few, but in winter they are most likely exposed. The last 100m of ascent is a slope that moves directly to the shoulder. Here, the slope angle is about 60 degrees. Finally, there’s a short traverse and shoulder view, which is the size of several football fields. It’s about 7850m. The Camp can be made here or up to 100 feet further. Unfortunately, the biggest problem is the wind.”


Sunday 25th 2018 – 10am GMT

Latest reports from the Polish team on K2 as more team members set off for their summit attempts:

“Denis Urubko goes to camp 3, two teams in the wall Sunday under and on K2 passes in good weather – from time to time the sun comes out from behind the clouds. Denis Urubko continues his lone attack. Two teams also work in the wall as planned. There is no radio contact with Denis (he did not take the radio), so at this moment it is only known that he left the tent early in the morning (at about 6,500 m) and went up. Before him is the difficult area of ​​Chimney House as well as the extensive Black Pyramid. Despite hanging hangars, it is a challenge for Urubko who is climbing alone. Given the good conditions and the fast rate at which it can climb, it can be assumed that today it will reach camp tent 3, at an altitude of 7200 m.

“According to the communication of Krzysztof Wielicki, two teams operate according to a set schedule: Atmospheric conditions are good. Marcin Kaczkan and Maciej Bedrejczuk go to C2. Marek Chmielarski and Artur Małek are on their way to C1. KW The action of Denis Urubko is, despite the controversy connected with it, unique – it attacks K2 alone in winter! The challenge that he set for himself is incredible, requires fortitude, determination and great climbing skills. Denis knows that in many sections hang the guardrails (House’s Chimney, Black Pyramid) – earlier in the reconnaissance with Adam Bielecki a few days ago, he reached the height of 7400 m, but the conditions in the upper parts of K2 are unknown. Added to this is not the best weather forecast for the next days. We keep our fingers crossed for the success of this attack and most importantly for its safe return!”

According to news reports, Russian mountaineer Denis Urubko has embarked on a solo summit attempt having left his expedition team without explanation.

Denis had become increasingly frustrated with the slow progress and initial route choice on K2 and indeed in his last blog said: “My body is emaciated. There is still energy in the muscles for a final attempt towards the summit, but it is an energy that does not warm me up.” He clearly felt the organisers were not efficiently utilising the climbers time and that the summit attempt needed to be sooner rather than later. The heroic rescue that he was part of on Nanga Parbat must also have contributed to feelings that his physical capability would diminish the longer they were on the mountain.

The Polish team leader, Krzysztof Wielicki , released this statement on Saturday: “Today, in addition to the standard acclimatization accesses, Denis Urubko left the base himself, without informing the expedition management, to try to enter the K2 summit before the end of February. The expedition operates in accordance with the assumed plan, which provided for the preparation of a top attack at the beginning of March.

“Today Maciej Bedrejczuk and Marcin Kaczkan left the band. Tomorrow they will move the second camp from 6,500 to 6,700. Tomorrow, the next team will leave the base, Marek Chmielarski and Artur Małek, intending to acclimatize in camp C3 for 7200 m and to secure the Denis trial. The next day the team of HAP’s comes out with the task of bringing oxygen to the C2 camp.”

More updates to follow…

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