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Interview with Denis Urubko – Nanga Parbat

PictureDenis Urubko at Nanga Parbat

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 .


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