Revisiting K2 Winter 2018: What Happened Thus Far and What Next?

It was a star-studded expedition consisting of Poland’s finest climbers. Inclusion of Denis Urubko was the icing on the cake. The expedition started with extensive media coverage and a lot of positive energy. After all, preparations for this attempt had been going on since years. Two months down the course, has K2 weathered away the flare and flamboyance? The winter season ends in three weeks and the team might still pull it off without their Russian compatriot. Chances of success are dwindling, nonetheless.

February 27th, 2018
All members of the expedition are back in BC. Unfavourable weather has stopped all the activities on the mountain for now. Denis Urubko returned from the summit push yesterday and will be starting the journey back home. He is unregretful about the defiant act. Expedition manager Krzysztof Wielicki is content that the Russian climber is leaving himself and he doesn’t have to ‘expel’ an old friend from the expedition.

"I do not think I have to apologize. They are not angels either. Everyone on this expedition ignored me. They made decisions without me. Wielicki allowed me to go up to camp 3 but then he told me to return for reasons I do not know. It is true that we are men, Himalayans. This is not a situation to ask for forgiveness. Nobody has apologized for their mistakes. My opinion is still the same," Denis Urubko’s commented immediately after returning to BC.

What Next?
Despite reduced human power, the team will continue with climb as usual. Nonetheless, chances of success have been significantly compromised, as none of the expedition members, except Adam Bielecki, has touched 7000m mark yet. “We have come here to climb. I do not know if we will succeed or not, but we must try,” says Wielicki.

We need two weather windows. The first to get the acclimatization and the second to get the summit. I wonder if we..” Adam Bielecki tweeted. Two weather windows within a span of three weeks on K2 in winter is extremely improbable, though.

Polish team flew to Pakistan on December 29th, took another flight to Skardu on 31st and finally drove to Askole on second day of January. After long walk up the Baltoro, they made it to K2 Base Camp on Jan 9th. Gusts of strong wind welcomed them. After organizing the camp and initial trips to the base of mountain, the actual climb began around mid-January. The team was attempting Cesen route.

Denis Urubko and Janusz Golab reached 5900m, site where C1 was to be established. However, the location wasn’t good enough to set up a camp. On January 23rd, Denis established C2 at 6300m.

In last week of January, four members of the expedition participated in a rescue mission on Nanga Parbat. Adam Bielecki and Denis Urubko made a quick ascent to C2 on Kinshofer route and assisted Elisabeth Revol down the mountain. They returned to mountain few days later.

Denis Urubko fixed a few hundred meter rope above C2, to an altitude of 6500m, on February 7th. However, in following days, two members of the expedition Adam Bielecki and Rafal Fronia were hit by falling rocks. Fronia had to abandon the expedition. The team, then, switched to Abruzzi Spur.

Denis Urubko went up immediately to check route conditions and acclimatize. He spent night in ABC (at the foot of Abruzzi Spur, where HAPs had set up tents a day earlier). Early morning on February 12th, he went up the mountain and found ropes of previous summer expeditions in good condition. In some section, he had to cut ropes out of hard ice. By mid-day, Denis had reached around 6500m and put the tent for the night.

I had food and gas for three days. In morning I planned to continue to C3, as agreed with the leader. So I was very surprised when Wielicki ordered me to descend to the BC. It was a pity to give up the unfinished work.” The Russian climber commented upon his return to BC.

On February 17th, Adam Bielecki and Denis Urubko left BC, hoping to reach C3 and evaluate route conditions above. They spent night in C2 and opened the route up black pyramid to C3. They reached 7400m and spent a couple of nights in C3 at 7200m.

After unsuccessful argument with team management about an early summit attempt, Denis Urubko went up alone on Feb 24th. He reportedly reached 7600m, before excessive snow, bad visibility and overall adverse conditions forced him to turn back.

"It was my chance to do something and not remain seated at base camp. I tried and I'm satisfied, if I had not, I would have been furious.” Says Denis Urubko, who has climbed all 14 eight-thousanders without supplemental oxygen, achieved first ascent of Makalu and GII, opened new routes on Lhotse, Cho Oyu, Manaslu and Broad Peak, and has been part of several challenging expeditions in Himalayas.

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