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Mountaineering’s Last Great Frontier: K2 to receive truckloads of expeditions this winter

K2 as seen from Gondogoro La Pass

Standing tall and unimpressed, calling out mankind for one last great fight-K2 has remained the only 8000er in the world which has never been climbed in winters. The mammoth granite structure truly holds the crowning glory for the one who will stand on top of it for the first winter ascent.

Denis Urubko
Denis Urubko_Spotkania z Filmem Górskim, Zakopane
Canadian Climber Don Bowie-Facebook
Don Bowie via Facebook

An interesting rainbow of international teams is gearing up with nationalities as far and wide as Chinese, Nepalese, Canadian, Icelandic, French and Russian-Polish climbers. Denis Urubko has already announced his combo of taking down both Broad Peak and K2 probably teaming up with Canadian Don Bowie. Both climbers had a nice rendezvous in summers when they rescued an Italian climber from the slopes of G-7. Bowie has not yet announced his plan for the K2-winter attempt but a team-up of Bowie and Urubko is quite likely on the cards. It still remains to be seen if Bowie can manage a restless and impatient Urubko who is known for his no-strings-attached attitude at the Base Camps.

Recently Urubko revealed his winter plans at the Zakopane Film Festival in South Poland. “If I can climb the broad peak I will be acclimatized- so if the weather will be favorable and if i have the right partner I will go to K2 but climb in winter is a very big risk”.

Mingma Gayle Sherpa-Facebook
Mingma G via Facebook

Another strong contender is Mingma Gayle Sherpa from Nepal, of the Seven Summit Treks will be right in the middle of the heat with his team mates the Icelandic John Snorri and Chinese Gao Li. The expedition is likely to be accompanied by another handful of Sherpas from Nepal.

Interestingly, K2’s formidable foe, Alex Txikon will not be returning to pitch yet another attempt on the Savage Mountain as he announced in his long letter on Facebook.

alex txikon
Alex Txikon via Facebook

“For all these details, and seeing the great expectation generated by the many who want to try, we have decided, much to my regret, not to return to the K2 this year, even having much of our team in Pakistan, even in the very base camp itself. After eight seasons of winter expeditions, we feel that this is not our time, so we take a ticket and move on to the last place in line.
And to all and all who are going to try this year, we wish them all the luck in the world, hopefully the K2 gives them the opportunity that they did not give us”. Alex wrote on his Facebook Profile

K2 as seen from Camp-4- Bottleneck with overhanging Serac via Adrian Ballinger
K2 as seen from Camp-4- Bottleneck with overhanging Serac via Adrian Ballinger
nirmal pujra k2
Nirmal Purja on his way up K2 via Nims Di Facebook

Abruzzi route on the South-East is likely to be the route-of-choice for all the aspiring expeditions, presenting a more complicated scenario than what is normally experienced on this route in winters. Just a few months back, K2 denied access to more than 100 climbers who waited impatiently at the Base Camp and allowed only a handful to reach the top. The track below the Serac and right through the bottleneck was clogged up with heavy snow and was eventually cleared up by Nirmal Purja of the “Project Possible” fame, eventually landing him the stardom.

Those who will be setting their foot for the first time on Baltoro in winters will witness the bone chilling temperatures of -65C and those reaching up to 7600m will be lashed by the hurricane level winds generated by the notorious Jet Stream. The official winter grid stands from December 25th to March 20th with a superimposed condition of moving towards the Base Camp on or after December 25th.

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