The Swat Valley in the north western part of the country, swung back in action in the dead of winters, when the Frontier Four-wheel Club arranged a rare jeep rally, treading the thick of the snow with their gruesome drives. The valley has been lurking in obscurity for a considerable time, owing to the Taliban movement some two years back. The valley was predominantly controlled by the maulana Fazul Ullah who, with his infamous radio broadcasts, wreaked terror in the hearts of the local populace.
The valley was freed from the clutches of the tyrants by a massive Military operation but the valley, which was one of the famous tourist destinations in the world, has still to return to its former glory. Local people of the country, let alone foreigners, are still scared of venturing into the serene valley primarily because of the fears of the Taliban.
Frontier Four-wheel Club, owned and operated by some of the four-wheel driven fans of KPK, decided to launch the jeep rally all the way to the once-thriving skiing resort of Malam Jabba. The PTDC Motel, which was built in the last tenure of the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, was later burned down to ashes by the Taliban who wanted to harm every single government installation that came in their path.
The two-kilometer-long track zips through the resort perched 9,200 feet above sea-level. More than 25 daring drivers brought their 4×4 jeeps along to the spectacle.
“The sole aim of the race is to tell the whole world about the serenity, beauty and peace in Swat valley,” said chairperson of the Frontier Four-Wheel Club Baber Khan. We want to remind the world that Swat is really the Switzerland of Asia. We want to attract tourists from everywhere,” he added.
The local population which relied heavily on the tourist inflow in the region are hopeful of a booming season ahead in the summers. Several hundred hotels, motels and restaurants operated in the region stretching from Badain, Mandian and Bahrain, lined alongside the Swat River. After the collapse of the tourism industry and with many of the local populace had to migrate to safer places in the country, the local industry had to bore the brunt of economic stagnation, which continues to this date.
“This is an encouraging event which has brought economic benefit and a lot of fun to the area,” said Mohammad Raziq, owner of a local hotel.“Many tourists are coming to Malam Jabba this year from Lahore, Islamabad and elsewhere, and we are doing good business,” he said.
He added that the government should at least help clear the roads to make the resort more accessible for tourists.
Artur crossing a crevasse
With no fewer than five winter attempts on his belt, Artur Hjzer of the Polish Gasherbrum-1 winter expedition is one of the most experienced climbers pitching for the first winter ascent of the 8,080m peak in the bleak and hazardous Karakorum. The team has completed their acclimatisation drills and are now set for the summit push on Sunday, February 26. Pakistan-explorer.com had a chance to talk to the renowned climber from his Base Camp.
Question: How are you guys feeling? It's been over a month there, how are team spirits?
Hajzer: We are well. I am lucky to have two very good partners: Janusz Golab (a seasoned big wall winter climber,) and Adam Bielecki (my summit partner from Makalu). They are both self-motivated, technically skilled climbers. Agnieszka Bielecka is providing good support in Base Camp and further up. The team spirit is therefore very good, and I am really optimistic about the expedition's next steps on the mountain. One month is too short to lose motivation and hope, especially for me - as you know I am used to stay in BC for up to 3 months.
Question: How is everyone's health? You had a pretty tough descent from C3...
Hajzer: Our third camp (assuming it still exists), is not high enough (7,040 m) so the plan is to move it higher up - at least to 7200m. For the summit bid we will probably go in a team of 4 (us 3 Poles and Shaheen Baig). We want to climb traditionally, from one camp to the other. We will probably be forced to climb up to 7000 m in bad weather conditions in order to take advantage of the best possible conditions for the summit day. In winter, it is very rare to get more than two consecutive days of acceptable weather for a summit push.
Artur and Janusz after a descent to Camp-1
Question: As a highly experienced team leader - what are you proud of, about your team's performance? What do you reckon is the hardest part of a winter 8000er expedition?
Hajzer: There are quite a few things I'm proud of in this expedition. The most important being:
- Our good logistics
- Our timing strategy (not starting too early)
- Our equipment (until now, without fault)
- The support of Polish Alpine Association, and our strategic sponsor Orlen (Polish oil company)
- The perfect BC cooperation with Gerfried's International Team.
Ali Sadpara fixing ropes on Japanese Couloir
Question: Any thoughts about the other winter teams who were forced to abandon this season?
Hajzer: The news about the death of the Russian team member took us by surprise and was very depressing. It made our climbing much more difficult.
Moreover, I was not exactly elated to have so many expeditions in Karakorum this winter, mainly because it creates a competition factor, which I don't like at all. With only two expeditions left in the range, much of this pressure is gone.
Simone and Denis make such a fantastic and strong team, which has had a lot of successes, so I think that one retreat this winter won't make a big difference for them. I might add that Nanga Parbat is an incredible difficult winter goal for a 2-people team. I was impressed when I knew they were going to give it a try. I would like to remind as well that our mountain of choice this winter was Broad Peak, but since Simone declared last winter (during our last days of BP expedition 2011), that he would have liked to go there, we left it free for him. Now, I would like to state that the Polish Alpine Association will attempt to climb Broad Peak in winter 2012/2013.
Regarding the Polish climbers on Nanga Parbat, they are not associated with Polish Alpine Assoc. and are neither known among the Polish climbing community. I am not aware of their skills and experience, so I would rather avoid commenting on them.
Question: Speaking of Russians, some have said that the Russians are the only ones capable of bagging winter K2. Do you agree? How about you guys?
Hajzer: It seems that, with modern technology, K2 is a mountain impossible to climb in winter without oxygen. Of course, it is our dream to do it, and we plan to attempt climbing K2 in winter someday, but not within the next 3-4 years. Unless, that is, Denis Urubko decides to change his nationality and become a Pole! Simone is also invited to do so.
Seriously speaking though: I think that Russians have the same problem as Polish - they lack a next generation of talented high altitude climbers.
The 49-year-old Hajzer has conquered six 8000ers, with three of them from a new route. He has participated in five winter expeditions to the Himalayas and Karakorums. He also conquered 8,091m Annapurna for the first time in winters and also Makalu 8,463m without the use of supplementary oxygen.
Simone Moro and Denis Urubko abandon the first winter ascent of Nanga Parbat, on their way to IslamabadRead Now
Simone Moro and Denis Urubko, who decided to carry on with the gigantic task of taming Nanga Parbat in the dead of winters, even after the sturdy Poles have left the brutally tough mountain, have now abandoned the mission in wake of the extended winters in the Himalayas and the adjacent Karakorums.
Simone, Denis and Cory Richards (not Part of Nanga Parbat winter 2012) were the first team of mountaineers who were successfully able to summit the first Pakistani winter 8000er, Gasherbrum-2 last year, out rightly rejecting the earlier held view that none of the five 8000ers in the deadly Karakorum’s will ever be captured in winters.
G-2- (8,035m) considered one of the comparatively easier 8000ers in the world, is the only 8000er in Pakistan which has been taken down in winters.
For the moment, however, Simone and Urubko decided to walk away from the “Killer Mountain” as Karl Gable has reported an extended winters in the region.
“Everything is being packed.” said Simone on his blog. “We are here with our three Pakistanis, Saeed Jan, and Fakir Nur.With us there are already three carriers and 15 more are arriving tomorrow. We will take everything away from here and our tracks will disappear in a few hours”.
He further added, “We return home with no top but with the knowledge that mountaineering told for what it is, without exaggeration and without emphasis, without a struggle and heroism anachronistic, may still be of interest to an audience not only to specialists. Mountaineering is not just for the elite, or for a small club. It may be a subject matter and also normal people, also sensitive to vertigo. …. But we must inform, tell, and this is the responsibility and guilt, that we took....”.
Nanga Parbat, the second highest 8000er in Pakistan and ninth highest in the world, has of one of the deadliest climbing history. Better known as the “Killer Mountain”, Nanga Parbat claimed some 32 lives before its first successful attempt was made by Austrian Herman Buhl in 1953.
Lot of credible work has been done in the conservation of dwindling Snow Leopard population, which mostly inhabits the difficult and rugged terrains of Khunjerab National Park and the Baltistan area, close to the Chinese border. Initiatives were taken to train the local guides and scouts, the insurance of the livestock of the local people, in the conservation of the main prey of the snow leopard i.e. the Ibex, Markhor, Urial and blue sheep etc, and intensive surveying and documentation of the cats and their respective territories.
The government has also enacted strict laws on illegal hunting and trade of its bones and hides, mostly sold for Chinese traditional medicine making. The Himalayan Brown bear, found strictly in Deosai national park, is now considered out of the danger zone and its population is said to be stable for the moment, owning particularly to the laws pertaining to its hunting and poaching.
The Asiatic Black bear’s population, however, has experienced a sharp decline as it is often hunted for its bile which is used in traditional medicine making, and is also captured alive for the game of bear baiting practiced in the urban and suburban areas of Pakistan. It is now rarely spotted in the Kashmir area and many conservation organizations have pressurized the government to enforce strict laws in this regard and ensure severe fine and punishments to the offenders.
The conservation of Markhor, found in Western Balochistan, the Khyber Pakhtoonkhaw and the northern areas of Pakistan, has been one of the success stories in the conservation history of the country. In the year 1985, its population in the Torghar area of Baluchistan dropped to less than 100. It is extensively hunted for its prized head as its horns can be as long as up to 36 in. A licensed hunting program was developed to generate revenue as well as to check illegal hunting.
Pakistan is the only country with CITES hunting authorization for Markhor with a quota of 12 trophies each year. Torghar conservation program has helped increase the Markhor population to more than 1648. Torghar is now considered as the last stronghold of the internationally threatened straight-horned Markhor.
The Indus Dolphin has also been the victim of the increasing population and man’s interference in nature. It has a poorly developed retina therefore also often called as the Blind dolphin. Its population sharply decreased after the Indus water Treaty between India and Pakistan which enabled Pakistan to build dams and barrages and draw canals to irrigate its thousands of acres of barren land. The dolphin’s habitat now stretches to just 1200kms and is often found entangled in fishing nets and trapped in canals.
WWF has carried out several training courses among the locals to help them better understand the importance and methods of its conservation.
Among other notable conservation projects are those of the marine turtles ( Green and leatherback) found off the coast of Makran district, the Houbara Bustard, golden eagle, the Siberian crane migratory birds form the steppes of Russia and Siberia.
_ It is often argued that art finds its place only in the annals of affluence. Probably much for the same reason there are not many organized societies in Pakistan that would develop and nurture the love for art, wildlife and nature itself. Worsening law and order situation and deepening political crisis have played havoc with the lives of the common people.
Particularly after 9/11, the tourism industry plummeted to its lowest ebb. In the year 2009, there were less than 500 visitors to the K2 base camp as compared to 15000 to that of Everest.The country has been in an unofficial state of war for the past one decade. Interestingly though, Northern areas, the major tourist destination in the world, remains the most peaceful place in the country. To quote a French tourist, “These are the safest and most beautiful places in the world".
_ Much of the western Pakistan adjoining Afghanistan is in the process of returning to normalization, the northern areas closer to china, India and Kashmir are completely safe to visit throughout the year.
Pakistan is a country of diverse geographical strata and therefore supports a wide variety of wildlife. With a not-so-encouraging literacy rate, it is difficult to make people realize the importance and need of conservation. The international wildlife channels, however, have done amazingly well to create awareness among the common people in this regard. Though much work needs to be done, the foundation has been laid as the people do understand, to some extent, the importance of ecology and conservation and the harmful repercussions of their absence.
Rare Blind Dolphins
_ The local tourist industry has witnessed an increasing trend as most of the young have finally decided to abandon the luxury of hotels and their cruisers to venture out on their feet. Naran, for instance, which used to be a small hill station at 10000 ft above sea level and at about 250 kms north of Islamabad, have transformed into a bustling small city and a thriving tourist destination.
The major contributor to wildlife conservation in Pakistan is the World Wildlife Federation (WWF) which has done a commendable job in protecting some of the critically endangered species.
Himalayan Brown Bear
_Among other major contributors are the IUCN, Snow Leopard Conservancy, the International Snow Leopard Trust, the Punjab and KPK Wildlife Department and many others. The critically endangered species in Pakistan which are also on the red list are the Snow leopard, the Asiatic Black Bear, Houbara Bustard, and Markhor, Ibex, Indus
Dolphin, Green and Leatherback turtles.
to be continued...
Details have now been coming in about the tragic death of Russian veteran climber Vitaly Gorelik which ultimately forced the Russian National Winter K-2 Expedition to abandon the mission of climbing the "Savage Mountain" in the dead of winter. Gorelik had vast experience of high altitude hard climbing and had already done several of the 8000ers, both solo as well as without supplementary oxygen.
The Trio Gorelik, Totmjanin and Shamalo were picthed amid the fiercest of blizzards and were able to make a deposit at 7000m just beneath the "Death Valley" by January 28-31. They tried to clear enough ground to pitch the tents but were forced to make an early descent as the Jetstream turned into a Hurricane and temperatures plummeted to -46 degrees Celsius. They returned safely to the Base Camp but Gorelik, by that time, had already acquired pneumonia and severe frostbite on fingers of both hands.
The team doctor who is a veteran and had been on many expeditions including Everest North Face, and K2 West Face, recommended an immediate evacuation by the Pakistan Army Aviation Helis but it could not be carried out as the Hurricane pounded the Karakorum.
Vitaly, known for his perseverance and strong will, wrestled his way for life for four continues days. He remained on Ventilator and gave up his battle for life on the fifth gruesome day, February 06.
His condition required deep ventilation lungs, which are only available in hospitals.
Gorelik's death has shattered the confidence of the rest of the four teams which have been aspiring to climb the other 8000ers in the region which have never been climbed in winters. Simone Moro and Denis Urubko, pitched in an attempt to scale Nanga Parbat, are in low spirits as Gorelik and Urubko have been close friends for years.
"I should write...Vitaly Gorelik was … it's such a terrible word «was»!"Urubko writes on his blog. "Vitaly Gorelik was a strong climber and a strong person. He respected himself and everyone else. All has ridiculously come to the end!"
The climbing community all over the world have expresssed their deepest condolences for the tragic death of Gorelik.
"If ever there had been a team that could pull K2 winter off, it was this Russian team of Giants," said the renowned Dutch climber Bob A. Schelfhout Aubertijn.
Canadian winter climber Louis Rousseau asked to make the following statement: "I want to express my admiration to all these ice warriors from the past, present and future who will have the courage and audacity to struggle on the slopes of K2 during winter season".
The battered and bruised Russian Team is still waiting for the hurricane to settle down so that they can be airlifted back to civilization.
One of the second biggest fresh water resources of Sindh, the Haleji Lake, is fast turning into a pool of stagnant saline water, severely threatening the ecology of the region and the whole province.
A vibrant bird sanctuary just a decade ago, has succumbed to the massive negligence on part of successive governments and what once was a major destination of the migratory birds from central Asia and Russia, is now devoid of any life form for the moment. Haleji Lake is located some 80 kilometers from Karachi and covers a area of 6.9 square kilometers, making it the second biggest source of water after the Keenjhir Lake. The lake which was once regarded a s the “bird watcher’s paradise” does not hold the most favoured destination for the migratory birds anymore as the water of the lake has turned saline and has
severely affected the fish colonies in the lake.
“The lake’s water is highly saline. Its quality has become so poor that it stinks now. It is not suitable even for washing hands and face with. Lotus plants, which attracted many bird species, have almost vanished from the lake while the floating fern (Salvinia molesta) is fast encroaching on the lake, having already covered about 10 to 15 per cent of its area. There has been no addition of trees, which could help improve the lake’s ecology and encourage wildlife,”says Jehangir Durrani, a wildlife expert representing the World Wildlife Fund-Pakistan posted at the Keenjhar Lake.
The city government of Karachi decided to abandon the lake for its daily need of potable water some 15 years ago, choosing the larger Keenjhar Lake for the purpose. As a result, the fresh water supply to the lake from the Jam Branch was also stopped resulting in a dead cesspool of bacteria rich water. "The lake’s major problem is water that needs to flow. Right now, it can’t be termed a lake because the little water the lake receives stays put. The lake can rehabilitate naturally if the government starts releasing adequate water into the lake that is also used as a means of supply of freshwater,” said Hafizullah, the WWF site manager at the Keenjhar Lake. The lake was included in the WWF’s recommendations for the Indus for All Programme. But it had to be left out after consultations with stakeholders. Work on selected sites in the second phase of the project is pending because of non-availability of funds,”he said.
Currently Keenjhar Lake has been the focal point of the current
government as the area around it has been designated for a large commercial
hotel. Haleji Lake is in a dire need of restoration and rehabilitation and the
government can effectively engage the private sector to help restore the once
glistening paradise of the province.
The word Karakorum is a Turkish word which stands for “black rubble”. K-2 traces back its creation in the last of the Orogenic Movements (mountain building movement) some 300 million years ago. The Karakorum Range is
believed to have buckled up and overthurst on the face of Earth when the free-floating Indian plate collided against the pre-existing Eurasian Plate, causing an earthquake of the likes never encountered before. The giant collision caused the Karakorum and the Himalayas to pop up above the face of Earth, creating to what we now refer to, as the highest mountain range in the world.
Despite of these unproven theories, K-2 has a unique shape which gives it the typical look of a mountain rather than the flatter and easier to climb Everest. This Granite pyramid is consistently steep and stands 3000 meters from the base. It has some of the steepest vertical drops on almost all sides, which makes it all the more difficult to map a route to the top. K-2 is also ranked 22nd in Topographical Prominence as a considerably low
altitude trek can be traced all the way back to Everest in Nepal, having an average altitude of 4,594 metres (15,072 ft), at Mustang Lo, as both peaks have been the outcome of the same geological change in the past.
K-2 is located at the Northeastern border of Pakistan and its north face is located in the Chinese territory. An estimated eight square kilometers of area around K-2 holds another three 8000er’s and some more than six dozen 7000er’s and is also home of the longest glaciers on earth after the polar caps. Gasherbrum 1 also known as The Hidden Peak, Gasherbrum 2, and Broad Peak are located adjacent to K-2, which effectively makes it the climbing heaven for mountaineers from all over the world.
The giant rock is considered the ultimate challenge for the mountaineers and hard climbers. The deadliest recorded incident in the history of mountain climbing where no fewer than 11 mountaineers and climbers lost their lives on the “Savage Mountain” will perhaps suffice in justifying the magnitude of the lethal force K-2 exerts on the ones who attempt to conquer it.
2nd August, 2008, broke headlines all across the world when 11 mountaineers and high altitude porters (HAP) were wiped out in a blink of an eye when an overhanging Serac broke loose. Among all the 8000er’s in the world, K-2 not only is one of the steepest but offers a dangerous combination of Seracs and bottlenecks above 8000meters. This altitude is the threshold of human endurance where lack of oxygen and air pressure cause multiple abnormalities in a human body ranging from High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) and High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE) apart from severe frost bite which can often lead to permanent amputations.
HACE is the cerebral sickness where a soft mist gathers inside the human skull causing the brain to malfunction, which thereby increases the risk of injuries two folds. Climbers report that they observe severely deteriorated decision making abilities to hallucinations at times. Meanwhile HAPE is the pulmonary sickness where dense fog accumulates inside the lungs due to lack of oxygen, heavy breathing and low atmospheric pressure. This can lead to ruptured lungs if the climber is not shifted immediately to low altitudes for rehabilitation.
On K-2, this 8000meter threshold is probably the starting point from where the toughest of the climbs are encountered. A 400m stretch of bottleneck, a narrow vertical alley, and several hundred tons overhang of ice has allowed a very few to pass through live and kicking. The point there onwards is also called as the “Death Valley”and has recorded the most number of causalities at this place.
Graham Bowley’s New York Times Bestseller “No Way Down: Life and death on K-2”is perhaps the most widely recognised account of the gory incident. Bowley states, “About the time many of the climbers were euphorically topping out — clicking photos and calling their loved ones from K2’s 28,251-foot summit — a giant sérac collapse wiped out the fixed ladders and ropes below, changing the terrain and creating a volatile funnel ripe for avalanches. Small errors and bad decisions made earlier in the day had set the stage for wide-scale disaster, and an already risky descent became a nightmarish free-for-all.”
The Serac had been hanging at the same spot for decades and although it always was a potent threat to the ambitious climbers, they have gradually started taking it for granted as it never broke off or produced avalanches. The free falling hundreds of tons of ice not only wiped away several climbers but also left many stranded above it with no way of climbing down. Many of the bodies were never recovered, marking it the most tragic incident in the climbing history.
What made the Serac to break loose is still a mystery while many of the scientists have argued that the changing climate and Global Warming are the two most probable explanations of the incident. Bowley’s description of the gory incident helped with the intricacies of the many disastrous accidents which have happened on the notorious mountain and has also helped planning and arranging proper safety measures for the climbing expeditions. The 2008 incident also triggered a controversy where the Government of Pakistan was blamed for loose regulations regarding the permissions to allow the expeditions to carry on with their mission without proper documentation. Several of the climbers were either not experienced enough to be a part of the expedition which intended to summit K-2 but many of them never had the experience of climbing even a 7000meter peak.
Alpine Club of Pakistan, which oversees the regulations of these climbing expeditions, now enforces strict regulations in managing the expeditions. For K-2 it has since been made mandatory that the aspiring climbers must have a climbing experience of any of the 8000er. Coupled with that, the climbers must have adequate experience of climbing various other 7000 meter peaks in order to qualify for the pitch. For a regular aspiring mountaineer, it takes almost 8-10 long years to prepare for an attempt for the Killer Mountain.
The Government of Pakistan also strictly follows the regulations regarding the load carried by the HAP and the amount of
minimum calories which must be provided to them by their clients. HAP are not allowed to go beyond the 7,500meter limit unless otherwise they intend to do so on their own will. A serving Pakistan Army Liaison Officer is also attached with the expeditions who stays in the Base Camp for as long as the expedition lasts. He not only overlooks the safety measure adopted by the expedition but also provides logistics and airlift support in case an evacuation is called in by the stuck climbers. Climbing expeditions usually have to submit a security fee of around $30,000 for the backup emergency support which is refundable in case no support was called in.
The incident happened in 2008, however, was not an isolated incident in the climbing history of K-2. The August 1986 American expedition met more or less the same fate when they started their ascent via the then-unclimbed Southwest Pillar, also known as the "Magic Line." Five mountaineers from the team led by John Smolich and Alan Pennington were
killed in a deadly avalanche while some eight others lost their lives in wake of raging blizzards and treacherous crevasses.
K-2 is also known to be the toughest to climb down. Causalities which occurred in the 100-years long climbing history of the mountain, most of them have happened during descent from the mountain and continues to be so this date. The technological advancements in equipment and clothing as well as better designed climbing equipments have considerably reduced the death ratio on the Killer Mountain and the ratio has now slide to a 1 out of three, still being one of the highest in the world.
The GII summiteers were a dream team, and now they are back for more. With four winter firsts, only late Polish legend Kukuczka is ahead of Italian Simone Moro. Russian-born Denis Urubko is probably the greatest active mountaineer today. Legendary weather-guru Karl Gabl is back at the weather maps.
So how is it going on Nanga Parbat and what does Denis think about his country-men on K2? Yesterday Denis Urubko was called on Nanga Parbat for an interview.
Question: Why did you guys decide for a different route?
Denis: In winter, climbing above 5000 meters becomes a completely different ascent. The Kinshoffer couloir is too difficult and icy, while the snow conditions on the north-west slope are normal. We like to work it in light style, meter by meter.
Question: How is it going, any vibrations from the mountain yet?
Denis: Few people have been on the north cwm of the Diamir glacier before so for lack of information we have had to truly discover it, like real explorers. Every step is new and interesting. We are searching for a route and a new chance every day.
Question: We know Simone tries his best to be single with the mountain, so how do you cope with the neighbors?
Denis: What can we do? We were decided to come here and we neither can nor want to stop anyone else. So it's all good.
They are doing their thing and we are doing ours.
Question: Are you in touch with the other teams in Pakistan?
Denis: Yes, Simone is texting and calling with the G1 expeditions. We are in touch with our friends on K2 by e-mail. They support us in their replies.
Question: Last time K2 was attempted in winter you were on the team. How do you feel about the current Russian attempt there?
Denis: I'm very happy that a strong expedition like the Russians took on this challenge. I wish them success and safe return. Because if they can't do it I don't think K2 will be winter climbed in a long time.
Question: Why didn't you make it back then and would you like to try again?
Denis: Climbing Nanga Parbat in light style with Simone has become more interesting to me. It goes beyond winter, we planned to open a new route which is my favorite challenge on the 8000ers.
Question: Biggest difficulty on the peak awaiting the Russians according to you?
Denis: I'm thinking it will be the lack of weather openings in the highest parts of the route. The hurricane-force winds up
there are incredible and it's important to be ready for one short summit push.
Question: How cold is this year compared to last?
Denis: Nanga Parbat base camp is much warmer than was Gasherbrum II BC. We are camped on bare ground with bushes around. But there is no difference above 5000 meters. It's about the same as K2 in 2003 and Makalu in 2009.
Question: You've been at 6600 meters already. What's your game plan from now?
Denis: We'll approach 7300 meters on the shoulder in the next step. We might stop just below for wind protection and hope to do summit push from there. It could work via the Buhl ridge from 1953 and to the top.
Question: Biggest worry right now?
Denis: Too long wait for a good weather forecast.
Simone Moro and Denis Urubko make an excellent team in the Himalayas: they did the first winter climbs on Makalu and GII together and are currently trying to acheive it once again on Nanga Parbat.
Russian-born, naturalized Kazakh Denis Urubko completed the 14x8000ers w/o O2 in 2009. He made two first winters climbs on 8000ers, developed new routes on Broad Peak, Cho Oyu and Manaslu, and forged many other new lines on lower peaks.
In 2003 Denis made a winter attempt on K2 led by legendary winter climber Polish Krzysztof Wielicki. Denis was selected for the final summit attempt as one in a team of two but had to abort the climb high up to rescue his mate. He left his ice axe at the turning point, around C4, hoping to one day come back for it. After the rescue Denis wanted to try again but the expedition was finally called off by the expedition leader.
In 2007 Denis returned to K2 with a friend and summited the peak via the North Pillar in its latest summit yet.
Italian Simone Moro is the first climber to climb three virgin 8000ers in calendar winter. The mountaineer has many new routes and spectacular climbs, including on Everest, to his name. Moreover, he is a skilled skyjumper and licensed helicopter pilot.
Denis Urubko is sponsored by The North Face .