A Polish climber has abandoned his attempt to climb the K2 mountain alone – after ditching his team in dramatic fashion over the weekend.
Denis Urubko, 44, is part of a team currently attempting to climb K2 in winter, something that has never been done before. Standing 8,610 meters (28,248 feet) tall, the mountain is second in height only to Everest, but considered more of a technical challenge as it is much steeper.
Their expedition, led by Krzysztof Wielicki, also from Poland, began shortly after Christmas. Since then, the team has steadily been making its way up the mountain, creating several camps ahead of a planned attempt to reach the summit before March 20 – the meteorological definition of the end of winter.
But some mountaineering circles consider February 28 to be the end of winter. As such, Urubko attempted to convince his team to head for the summit last Friday, February 23. But when that failed, he became angry and decided on Saturday to attempt to climb the final segments to the summit alone.
“I don’t understand him,” Wielicki told National Geographic. “Our plan was for the team to attack the summit in the first part of March.”
A tweet from team member Adam Bielicki yesterday: "Denis probably goes today to C3. I'm worried about it very much. He proposed a common exit but I suggested to better rest and wait for reasonable weather. He went alone."
K2 is the only mountain in the world over 8,000 meters (26,250 feet) that has not been climbed in winter – seen as one of the ultimate challenges for mountain climbers. With steep cliffs, temperatures as low as -62°C (-80°F), and winds that can reach 200km/h (124mph), it has been nicknamed “The Savage Mountain”.
Only 306 people have reached the summit, compared to more than 5,000 for Everest, and 84 have died trying to climb it. There have been other winter attempts before, two including Wielicki, but none have made it to the summit.
Urubko’s solo effort was therefore incredibly dangerous, with Pakistani climber Mirza Ali Baig telling AFP his decision was “completely suicidal”. Thankfully, however, he has now returned to his team, descending to Camp Two – one of four camps set up on the way to the summit.
“Denis Urubko goes down. He is currently in C2,” Michal Leksinski, the team’s spokesman, tweeted earlier today.
Urubko was in the news for more positive reasons last month when he saved a French climber, Elisabeth Revol, who had become stuck on the nearby mountain Nanga Parbat in Pakistan. Sadly her partner, Tomasz Mackiewicz, could not be rescued.
Now that he is back with his team, it’s unclear when – or if – they will make a new attempt to reach the summit of K2 before the end of winter.