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.