Heeding to his highly developed mountaineering instincts, Denis Urubko decided to abandon his summit bid on K2 and has retreated to Base Camp.
Reasons stated for the retreat are high winds and bad weather. Denis left the Base Camp on Saturday, February 24th without informing the Expedition Leader Kryzsztof Wielecki in an attempt to summit the Savage Mountain alone. As fatal as it may sound, Denis had full realization that any misadventure during this attempt is going to put him into a very awkward position.
Denis was talking to TVN24.pl when he announced his departure from the Polish Base Camp and the eventual conclusion of his K2 winter attempt for the year. Citing rules that he has laid himself, Denis reasoned that the end of February marks the limit of credible winter ascent and he personally believes that any ascent after February should not be considered as an official winter ascent.
Regardless of whatever standards he has set for himself, it is now more than obvious that he is not welcome in the Polish camp anymore and probably he never will be.
Without any remorse, Denis questioned the decisions made by the expedition leader Kryzsztof Wielecki.
Expressing his mistrust on Wielecki, he said;
“I do not think I have to say sorry. They are not angels either. Wielicki allowed me to enter the third camp and later he told me to come back for reasons I do not understand. Okay, we're men, climbers. This is not a situation to say sorry. Nobody apologized for their mistakes. My opinion remains the same.”
Denis, who is a born Kazak and thereby ethnically Russian, got his Polish nationality just three years ago. His unruly behavior and his betrayal has generated heated discussion in Russia and Poland but what has been professionally unreasonable is his disrespect of the mountain and underestimating a giant like K2. While preparing for the K2 Winter expedition from the North (Chinese) side 2014-15, Denis had grossly overestimated his capabilities calling the expedition
“Just another climb”.
“Do you mean my personal ability? I think that I am able to reach 9,500 meters without oxygen… but on the easy (classic) route. The crisis limit when I was younger was above 8,600m; now it is higher, I suppose. This is due to my experience.” Denis said during an interview in 2014-15.
Of all the good tidings mountaineering brings along with it, humility remains the most cherished treasure of all.
Setting off on his solo bid on Saturday, February 24th, Denis has made no contact with the base even after 36 hours. Poles are now in frenzy and have already started climbing in order to secure the summit before Denis steals the show.
This is ideally the vintage climbing drama which ceased to happen for the past few decades and has reappeared on one of deadliest and most difficult mountains on earth. The betrayal has left Expedition leader Kryzsztoff Wielecki offended and heartbroken. Earlier, Marek Chmielarski and Artur Malek, who were in Camp-1, were told by the Base to engage Denis and convince him to talk to Wielecki on radio.
This proposal was declined by Denis, who later ventured further up without taking radio.
“I've known Denis for many years, we're friends. I did not think it would come to that” Wielecki was talking to tvp.info.pl. “Above all, the biggest one may not regret it, but the biggest surprise was that Denis, going up when he was stopped by our team in the first camp, because I wanted to talk to him, told his friends that he would not talk to me. And it hurt in such a personal aspect.”
There have been no updates on Denis’ blog or through his facebook posts. Also he is not carrying a radio or any other means of communication. This not only makes it exceedingly hard to trace his location it has essentially made it impossible to launch a rescue effort if anything goes wrong.
This is not the first time Denis has refused to follow the expedition leader. He complained earlier on his blogpost when he was called back to the Base by Wielecki while he was approaching Camp-3. He has complained of laid-back attitude of the Polish Expedition and questioned the seriousness of their intentions.
For the moment, the last deposits made at Camp-3 at 7200m will be the only supplies Denis is left with to continue further up.
There are no fixed ropes on the bottleneck across the Serac which makes it more or less an Alpine style push from Camp-3 onward.
This presents an extremely dangerous proposition even in summers let alone in the dead of winters.
After series of complains about the Polish Expedition that he has been part of, Denis Urubko finally decided to bid adieu to the Polish Camp on Saturday and has barged on a mindless solo winter attempt of the “King”.
Since the beginning of the expedition on the earlier Cessen/Basque route, Denis has been repeatedly complaining on his blogposts about the slow performing Polish camp and had cast apprehensions on the real “intent” of the expedition. His departure from the expedition in his bid for the solo attempt has come as a huge setback for the Polish Camp, where the rest of the climbers are definitely not pleased.
“Today, in addition to the planned exits, Denis Urubko independently, without notification to the leadership of the expedition, left the base to attempt an ascension to the top of K2 until the end of February” wrote Kryztoff Wielecki.
This was later followed by a damage control statement from the Base Camp; "Denis is a member of our expedition, and we must support his exit, despite the fact that he went AWOL," Janusz Majer
For the moment, the Polish Expedition has been successfully able to reach 7400m via Abruzzi Ridge courtesy primarily to Denis’ hardwork and relentless pursuing to open the route.
“Just imagine!, - I said to Adam. - Only five people were at such height on K2 in winter! You, Wielicki, Marcin, Petrek Morawski... well, and I again... could.
-Yes, I did this! - Adam laughed in the mask.” Denis wrote on his blog on reaching 7400m.
They have been lucky to discover good condition old Korean Ropes from the summer expedition and have utilized to cross over House's Chimney all the way to tackle the dreaded Black Pyramid.
Adam Bielecki and Denis worked hard to establish Camp 2 and 3 on the route amid fierce blizzards and snowstorms. They later pushed camp-3 to another 100m up to achieve better acclimatization and altitude gain for the team.
Denis has long insisted that an official Winter Ascent can only happen until February and a winter ascent in March should not be considered an official Winter Ascent. This issue also popped up with his former climbing partners during their endeavors on Pakistani Karakorum and Himalayas.
If he plans to summit K2, solo and in February, he is definitely short of time.
Expedition manager Krzysztof Wielicki has stopped all climbing on K2 after Adam Bielecki and Rafal fronia sustain serious injuries in a row.
Rafal who has a broken arm was airlifted from K2 Base Camp today. Evacuation was delayed due to inclement weather. Conditions have been getting worse for the last one week as the deadly Jet stream started pounding the higher altitudes of the Savage Mountain causing widespread rock fall and heavy snow.
In the afternoon on 10th, Krzysztof Wielicki posted on the expedition website;
“Today, around 14 local time during approach to camp C1 (5900 M) spontaneously
A falling stone hit a Rafal fronię in the forearm causing a fracture. When he gets down to the base and medical supplies, he's waiting for a helicopter evacuation to the hospital in skardu
He will return to the country in the next few days.
Just a couple of days earlier, Adam was also hit with a huge rock which came flying from the top and hit his helmet. Adam suffered a broken nose and a lot of blood loss. He returned to Base Camp for stitches under supervision of the expedition doctor.
In another notification today, Wielicki informed that expedition will now follow the Abruzzi route to the top instead of the earlier adopted Cessen/Basque route which has become prone to rock fall and lashing winds.
“Due to the suspension of the mountain action on the Basque road for security reasons, on 11/’02/2018, we start the action on the way through the Abruzzów Rib.
Despite the fact that This year’s Polish expedition to K2 was well funded and equipped, they also had some of the best winter alpinists onboard, yet the progress on the Cessen route has been excruciatingly slow. In contrast, the Russian Expedition to K2 in 2011-12 was able to reach 7200m on the Cessen by February 7th.
In a month’s time, the expedition was not able to establish Camp-3 at 6700m. They are now in direct impact of the Jetstream which is slightly delayed this year. The expedition members were artificially acclimatized before reaching the K2 Base Camp which could have been utilized as an “unfair advantage”.
Switching over to the Abruzzi route after fixing ropes and making deposits on the Cessen Route for a month is more or less the end of the tunnel for this expedition.
Abruzzi, though slightly less inclined and relatively better shielded to raging winds, is considerably more prone to avalanches even in winters.
Given the fact that all successful winter ascents must be made before March 25, This Polish Expedition will now have to move fast if they have any chance of the first winter ascent of K2
Elizabeth Revol revealed some startling details of the high drama on Nanga Parbat that ended with the sad demise of Polish climber Tomek Mackiewicz.
She was speaking with Agence France-Presse (AFP), the French News agency, after she was evacuated from the Nanga Base Camp on January 28th in a joint rescue operation of Polish elite climbers and Pakistan Army.
She was flown to Islamabad and later to Switzerland.
Severely frost-bitten, Revol is currently under examination by the French doctors whether to carry on amputations or wait and watch the progress on her limbs.
Revol revealed that she was convinced to leave Tomek at 7200m and to lower her altitude so that chances of her rescue can possibly improve. Both climbers were returning to their high camp after a successful summit attempt when Tomek complained of a blackout.
“Tomek told me‘I can’t see anything anymore,’” said Revol
“He hadn’t used a mask because it was a bit hazy during the day and by nightfall he had ophthalmia (an inflammation of the eye). We hardly had a second at the top. We had to rush to get down.”
Bracing high winds and catastrophically low temperatures, Tomek huddled on Revol’s back where she carried him down to 7200m.
“At one point, he couldn’t breathe,” Revol said. “He took off the protection he had in front of his mouth and he began to freeze. His nose became white and then his hands, his feet.”
Revol and Tomek spent the night in a crevasse trying to protect them from piercing wind. By the morning Tomek’s condition had deteriorated further and he was now spewing blood-a critical sign of High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE). She had been trying to send distress messages but many of the messages were not transmitted.
Eventually she received message from the rescuers asking her to leave Tomek and lower her altitude for a possible evacuation.
“They told me,‘If you go down to 6,000 metres, we can pick you up, and we can get Tomek at 7,200 metres.’”
She added: “It wasn’t a decision I made, it was imposed on me.”
Her last words to half-conscious Tomek were ““Listen, the helicopter will arrive late afternoon. I must go down, they’ll come to get you.”
Revol dropped all her supplies for Tomek and started to descend fast. She had to spend another night in a crevasse in order to protect herself from the wind.
she suffered from hallucinations- another of the high altitude challenges which occur due to the lack of oxygen. In her half-awake dreams she exchanged her shoe for a hot cup of tea and remained barefooted for five long hours.
By the time she had reached 6800m she had lost all strength to go further down and decided to stay and wait for the rescue team. Until late in the night, there were no signs of any rescue operation when Revol finally started losing hope.
“I started to question whether I would survive”,
she ultimately gathered all her strength to descnd further to 6200m with wet gloves and shoe-less on one foot. At 3.00am in the morning she saw two flickering lights coming from the headlamps of Adam Bielecki and Denis Urubko.
“And then I saw two headlamps arriving. So I started to yell. And I said to myself,‘OK it’s going to be ok"
“It was incredibly emotional”.
Revol describes her decision to leave Tomek “terrible and painful”, but it was most certainly the decision which saved her life. This was Revol’s fourth attempt to scale Nanga in winters.
There is no official confirmation of the summit claim, but if true, Revol will be the first woman to climb the “Killer Mountain” in winters.