The Polish K2 team halted climbing on the Česen and switched to another route believed to be safer. The Everest team continues to wait meanwhile there has been a summit of extremely cold Pik Pobeda.
See this post for full background on the K2 and Everest expeditions and the history of winter attempts on the highest two mountains on Earth. Both expeditions need to summit no later than the spring equinox on March 20, 2018, at 0:15 PKT for K2 and 18:00 NPT for Everest to meet a winter summit definition.
Winter K2 – Switch to the Abruzzi
The Polish team planned to climb the Česen Route aka Basque Route because it was shorter, steeper and somewhat faster than the Abruzzi or other routes on K2 from the Pakistani side. However the winter of 2017/18 has been a low snow year allowing dangerous rockfall on the ridge. Two climbers had already been injured, Rafal Fronia with a broken forearm and Adam Bielecki with a broken nose and gash to his face. Adding to the dynamics, Kazakstan alpinist Denis Urubko who has held Polish citizenship since February 2015, publicly criticized the team and methods on his blog. As a result, expedition leader Krzysztof Wielicki halted all climbing, brought his team back to base camp to regroup and consider alternatives.
There are multiple routes on K2 but the two most commonly climbed are the Česen and the Abruzzi. It now appears they will attempt the Abruzzi. I summited K2 in 2014 by this route. While a bit longer than the Česen, it has very similar issues – exposure to wind and objective dangers. It requires climbing House’s Chimney, a 50-meter/150 foot off-width crack rock climb just below Camp 2 (22,000’/6700m) and up the Black Pyramid, a section of highly loose rock for almost two thousand feet to Camp3 at 24000’/7300m. This route will not be any easier, or safer in my opinion.
The Česen and Abruzzi merge at Camp 3 so they would have had the same issue on the upper mountain regardless of route selection. They had reached 6,300-meters on the Česen.
Today, 11 February on the Abruzzi, Janusz Gołąb and Maciek Bedrejczuk reached 5,650-meters and established their Camp 1 at 5,300-meters.
Tommorrow, if the weather allows, they will put in fixed ropes according to their official site. Also the weather allowed Rafał Fronia to be helicoptered to a Skardu hospital to look after his broken arm. Adam Bielecki is staying with the team and expected to continue climbing.
The good news is the weather is expected to be acceptable for the next week but we know how forecasts go for K2.
Winter Everest – Wind, Wind, Wind
Alex Txikon and the team continue to wait for low winds up high before starting their summit bid, hopefully this upcoming week. They are safe and comfortable, as much as you can be in sub-zero temps, at base camp. They have ropes set to 7,850 meters between Camp 3 and the South Col.
Pik Pobeda – Summit
Summit! First winter ascent of Gora Pobeda (Pik Pobeda), the highest mountain (3003 m.) of the Mounts Cerskij Range, in the coldest place on earth, in Siberia, at the Polar Artic Circle.
In about 7 hours, at 3.37 pm local time, Simone and Tamara Lunger reached the summit and in 11 hours total they were back to BC. “It snowed all day long, but there was good visibility. It was extremely cold! How cold we do not know yet, we’ll check and tell you.” These are the quick comments made by Simone and Tamara who called once back at the village of the reindeer herdsmen who have already brought them from BC to their little village. “We are very grateful to the herdsmen who really supported us.”
In the next days, as soon as they will be back with internet connection they will send us the pictures of the ascent and the summit.
Memories are Everything