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Feb 252018

Update: Denis Urubko has decided to leave the team. He didn’t summit. The Polish team made this announcement today:

Denis Urubko, in accordance with their beliefs about the end of the winter season, decided to leave the Winter Expedition to K2. This decision was accepted by the members of the expedition who did not see the possibility of further cooperation with Denis after his attempt to gain self apex.

Denis Urubko is currently at Camp 2 descending to base camp. Its unknown but doubtful he summited. He was on a push to K2’s summit, alone and without O’s. He has no radio by his choice. The rest of the team is spending nights at lower camps to acclimatize and give aid to Denis should he need it. This is high-altitude, high- drama. 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.

Big Picture – Chasing Winter

Denis Urubko believed that winter ends at the end of February. The Polish expedition team leader, Krzysztof Wielicki, believed it ends with the spring equinox on March 20, 2018 at 12:15 pm EDT. This disagreement was well known before the expedition started with Urukbo voicing his opinion in a November 2017 interview with Alpinsmonline Magazine where he suggested that he would be a loyal member of the team.

Apparently frustrated with the pace of his teammates and feeling he was strong enough to attempt the summit, he set out alone after not convincing the next strongest climber, Adam Bielecki, to join him. Bielecki Tweeted:

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. Meanwhile, we do our own. Bedro and Ducks assume C2 and Arthur and hops came just to C1.

Krzysztof Wielicki the Polish team‘s expedition leader was not surprised and felt a level of empathy for Urubko. He said in an interview

– It seemed that everything was OK. Denis came for breakfast in the morning (on Saturday – ed.), They sat until late, then left the base without telling anyone and went alone up. In the first camp he met with Marcin Kaczkan. Marcin asked him to talk to Krzysztof Wielicki on the radiotelephone but he did not want to carry out this conversation and went further up. He slept in the second camp tonight. Probably because there is no communication with him. Today should come to this tent, in which he and Adam spent two nights at 7200 m above sea level

On the other hand I understand it a bit, because sometimes I also had such situations that I did something solo. But here, however, we were a team, he was invited to the expedition. (…) It turned out, however, that this challenge (…), meaning getting K2 in the season – it seems to him that the season ends on February 28 – it was so great that he even sacrificed our relations.

K2 Polish Team all over the Mountain

Krzysztof Wielicki added in an additional interview on

He is well acclimatized and very efficient. It’s great. I give him a chance to enter. Because it is a really strong player. The forecast is that half and half. Worse is the descent. It will be tomorrow when the summit is likely to be attacked. Then still it is relatively. But in the afternoon the weather breaks. And very worried about his descent. How come rain and snow is to be strong and the wind is coming back from the top can be completely lost. Overcast and fog can not see anything. Skipping that did not nice – I was just afraid for him

The latest from Wielicki just posted on their Facebook account :

Denis Urubko is coming down. Currently in c2.

There is no official word on if he summited but probably not. Let’s wait to hear from Denis directly.

Marcin Kaczkan and Maciej Bedrejczuk were headed towards C3 and Marek Chmielarski and Artur Małek are going to C2. Wielicki has said he intends to continue running the expedition according to the schedule for a summit attempt in early March.

The highest anyone on the team had reached was when Adam Bielecki and Denis Urubko touched 7,400-meters before returning to 7,200-meters C3, to sleep. It is believed Urubko had reached C3, rested before leaving it for the summit today, 26 February, 2018. The winds above 8000-meters is around 45 mph/70kph which is a bit higher than is acceptable for climbing. With Denis not using supplemental oxygen, he will risk frostbite developing quicker so that had to enter into his decision to return without the summit.

You can follow them directly on their website, Facebook, and Adam’s SPOT tracker

Winter Everest – Second Summit Bid Considered

Alex Txikon and team are back at Everest Base Camp considering their options for a second summit attempt after turning back over the weekend due to high winds. Their permit is supposed to expire at the end of February but it most likely could be extended. The real question is the weather and as he saw this weekend it is less predictable than permits.

You can follow their movements on Alex’s GPS tracker,  Twitter,  Instagram, and Facebook.

Climb On!
Memories are Everything

  10 Responses to “Winter K2 – Denis Urubko Abandons Summit Effort, Leaves Team”


    With the sort of updates posted on the official facebook page, there is a certain impression given by Wielicki & Co. that they are not so much determined and steadfast to reach the summit of Chhogori a.k.a K2 this winter, given the tactics they have been adopting. With as little as 20 more days to go coupled with unpredictable weather conditions and jetstreams, there is a diminishing prospect of them reaching Camp IV. Even, if they do reach Camp IV, there is another mountain further up waiting to be surmounted.

    Urubko and Bielecki were the only determined climbers with strong physical qualifications who made some serious efforts on this expedition. No worthwhile updates from the rest? With Urubko (the strongest on this expedition) leaving ringmaster Wielicki’s Circus, the possibility of reaching the summit has nosedived.


    Thanks Alan uyoir reporting makes it all come alive in my sitting room Cheers Kate


    To borrow from an extremely trite saying, ‘there’s no I in ‘team,’ but there is in Denis’.

    At least he is safe and coming down, but he has lessened the chances of the expedition being successful by trying to go alone.

    The expedition was built around and sponsored by the Poles and their government. They bought in on the strength of the team—not a bunch of individuals.

    From my vantage point (admittedly on the other side of the world), the rules of the game should have been made clear and accepted by all who were being sponsored. For members to take matters into their own hands seems…selfish.

    Which is a really tough thing to say about a guy who literally risked his life to save another only last month.

    Unquestionably, they are a weaker team without his climbing strength and his decision will likely have a negative impact on the chances that those remaining will summit.


    Wow, according to Facebook update—and if the translation is correct—Urubko decided to the Polish Expedition as it made untenable for other team members to climb with him. Did he leave or was he (implicitly) expelled? Can’t wait for Alan’s authoritative update.

    Simone Moro, his Gasherbrum II Winter summit teammate, summed it up quite succinctly:
    “He (Urubko) has a Russian military mentality. He is very strong and he has no fear. These are excellent qualities, but he has to be managed properly to prevent him taking stupid or fatal risks.”


    Alan, may I echo the thanks above for this excellent and steadfastly impartial reporting. I have really been enjoying the updates and await the next with anticipation.


    Apologies for spelling error, Alan.


    Thank you Allan not only for the updates but also for being impartial about the K2 Drama. The knee-jerk response to this fiasco is to ostracize Urubko but let’s wait for his side. Remember, this was the same guy who jeopardized his K2 quest, together with Adam, to selflessly rescue the French climber in Nanga Parbat.

    Plus, he did not aim to climb K2 solo as he requested Adam to accompany him who wisely turned him down. Was he just really being pedantic about his belief about true Winter Summit? (Russians are known to have this steely belief; reminds me of Anatoli Boukreev who did not believe in O2 even when guiding—but that’s another topic).

    The most acute question is:
    —Did Urubko summit? This would be epic if he did, elevating him to the pantheon of Ice Warriors if he was not there already. And if he didn’t, will he attempt again in two weeks (granting that he would have the nod of Wielicki and he would be physically able to do it), knowing that he did not believe winter extends to March?

    I thought Winter Climbing drama ended in Nanga Parbat, but we still have 2.0 unfolding before us.

    Great stuff Allan!