The Winter Polish K2 team ended their effort after K2 had seen over 80cm/31 inches of new snow that buried ropes and destroyed high camps. The climbing community is now 0 for 4 with attempts to summit K2 in the winter since 1987/88. 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 – Facing Reality
With 15 days left, the Poles needed to finish their acclimatization rotation, stock the high camps and then have a multi-day weather window open. Given that all three of these tasks appeared to be virtually impossible, they wisely ended their mammoth effort. To complicate matters, the recent heavy snow increased the already substantial avalanche risk on the upper mountain. Recall that in 2013, two climbers were killed when an avalanche hit them in their sleep at Camp 3. The danger is real on K2.
Both winter efforts, Everest and K2, ended without summits even with supremely strong climbers giving it their best. This goes to show how difficult a task climbing 8000-meter peaks is in winter. K2 remains the only one of the 14 not topped out in winter, whenever that is! 🙂
We saw two very strong efforts on the mountains, with Alex Txikon created a tight small team on Everest. They did everything right, and amazing patience but in the end were stopped by high winds. The Poles made every effort on K2, even switching routes, but also acknowledged the one thing they could not control, the weather.
Both teams are suggesting they will be back. Txikon spent over USD$400,000 and the Polish gang a similar amount. And this may also control their return. Raising this amount money is an enormous hurdle. I hope the sponsors for both teams felt they got a return for their investment. Personally I throughly enjoyed covering them and am grateful to each member on both teams for their work, and their sponsors for the vision to support these climbers.
K2 Team Found What They Feared
With better weather on Monday 5 March 2018, climbers Adam Bielecki and Janusz Golab went to Camp 1. Primarily they went to inspect the ropes that were already installed after the recent snows but found ropes, tents at Advanced Base Camp gone, and, without going higher, knew their tents and ropes all the way above 7,000-meters were probably gone. To reinstall all of this would require a Herculean effort. Also they needed to make one more acclimatization rotation above 7,000-meters before attempting the summit. But it was not to be.
Expedition leader, Krzysztof Wielicki, posted on their expedition site:
Based on a deep analysis of the situation in consultation with the team today decided on completion of the K2 mountain.
1. The result reconnaissance team Adam Bielecki and Janusz Golab today. We found that on the way to C1 all ropes are covered with tent advanced basecamp is damaged, there is also a high probability to destroy camps C1, C2 and C3.
2. Weather forecast, which only confirms the 1 short weather window around 11/03/2018
3. Inability to acclimatize minutes. 1st team at the height. 7200m, after which he would return to the base to attempt the summit on 11.03
4. Impact Avalanche in the upper path. In the last 8 days, we recorded a total of more than 80cm of snowfall.
5. Warning Portal Ventusky large rainfall on wys.7600m
6. Bad forecasts for the period after 03.11.2018
The priority is the safety of the participants of the expedition.
Adam Bielecki added his personal observations via Twitter:
Unfortunately this year the mountain proved to be difficult and we were too weak. Few days snowfall [buried ropes] and the wind destroyed the tent in ABC and probably tents in the higher camps. Until the action at the top is too dangerous and we lack time to wait for better conditions. will come back here because K2 is up to conquer winter! Thank you for all the warm words and amazing cheering
One last look at what they were dealing with from this video from their Facebook account :
I hope you enjoyed my coverage of winter K2 and Everest. Next up I will be shifting to the Everest 2018 season, my 17th year of covering all things Everest. Teams are already packing and staking out their basecamp locations. They will begin arriving at basecamp in early April, about a month from now.
I want to remind my readers that I am just one guy who loves climbing. With 35 serious climbing expeditions including four Everest trips under my belt and a summits of Everest in 2011 and K2 in 2014, I use my site to share those experiences, demystify Everest each year and bring awareness to Alzheimer’s Disease.
My mom, Ida, died from this disease in 2009 as have four of my aunts. It was a heartbreaking experience that I never want anyone to go through thus my ask for donations to non-profits where 100% goes to them, and nothing to me. Any amount that is meaningful to you is meaningful to me. Select your own Alzheimer’s organization or I have suggestions at this link.
Memories are Everything