Thursday, December 18, 2014

Winter 2015 | K2 Permit Issues, Three Teams Ready for Nanga Parbat

Months after physical, mental and financial preparations for an endeavour like attempting K2 via new route in winter, you suddenly receive an email, right before departure, that your climbing permit has been withdrawn. It does happen if you are climbing in China. On the other hand, three teams are ready for winter Nanga Parbat; there were no expeditions to the mountain during summer climbing season.

K2 Permit Retracted
"Dear Mr. Denis, after conferring with friends we decided to cancel permit your team to climb K2. Good luck! I hope we will see us for a cup of tea! All the best! With warm greetings from Xinjiang... etc. etc. Sincerely Yours Mr. Lee," Denis Urubko was stunned by the latest development. The team coordinated with relevant authorities to get the matter sorted out.

From latest update, it appears that permit has been issued, but with a delay of two weeks. Adam Bielecki wrote on Facebook today, "I should get upset but all in all I am glad :-) Due to the Chinese bureaucracy, the start of trip is delayed by approximately 2 weeks. So, the holidays with my family:-)"

Tomek Mackiewicz
Tomek Mackiewicz has been in Rupal valley since past few weeks. He has acclimatized to over 5000m on different mountains. Although, the acclimatization is not sufficient for an alpine style attempt on Nanga Parbat, he should be able to progress swiftly on the Diamir face.

It appears that Tomek has two route options in his mind. a) Messner 1978 route. b) Route to the left of Kinshofer, which was first attempted by Messner and Habler in 2000. He shall be reaching Diamir BC by next week.

Daniele and Elisabeth
Elisabeth Revol is expected to reach Pakistan by Dec 20th, whereas Daniele Nardi will be arriving a week later. He will be accompanied by Roberto Delle Monache (mountaineer and videographer) and Federico Santini (videographer). Daniele will attempt Mumery Rib for third time.

Russian Team
A strong team of Russians Nickolay Totmjanin, Valery Shamalo, Serguey Kondrashkin and Victor Koval will be leaving for Pakistan on December 22nd. Precise information about climbing route is not available yet.

Iranian Expedition
Third Nanga Parbat expedition consists of three climbers Reza Bahadorani, Iraj Maani and Mahmoud Hashemi from Iran. The trio will be arriving in Pakistan at around second week of January. They will be climbing on Diamir side, although route is not confirmed.

Tomek's route options on Nanga Parbat; Source

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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Winter 2015 | Tomek Mackiewicz Begins Acclimatization in Rupal Valley

Winter climbing season is now a couple of weeks away. Majority of teams are finalizing their preparations for a mid-December departure to the mountains. On the other hand, Tomek Mackiewicz reached Pakistan in November and is already in Rupal Valley. The Polish climber intends to conclude his acclimatization before going to Diamir side.

Last year, Ralf Dujmovits had a similar strategy. He acclimatized on Aconcagua, the highest mountain outside Himalayas, before travelling to Nanga Parbat. Despite his failure to launch a summit push, Ralf thinks the acclimatization-elsewhere idea is workable. “The idea is feasible,” Ralf commented at the end of his Diamir side expedition, “but you need a lot of luck, and conditions on the mountain have to be good.

Tomek flew to Pakistan on November 12th. A week later, after concluding the routine tasks in Rawalpindi, he left for Astore (last major town before Nanga Parbat). He arrived in Lattabo on November 21st. The Polish climber intends to climb Rupal Peak (5642m) and the neighboring Laila Peak (5971m) for acclimatization before joining Daniele Nardi and Elisabeth Revel at Diamir BC.

During a conversation about on going activities, Tomek told Portal Gorski on 25th, "I have chosen easy targets, so far. I am concentrating. There is an unusual peace and quietness. I feel good." He was expected to leave for Rupal Peak on Monday (Dec 1st).

Polish team's hut in Lattabo during 2014 winter expedition.
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Monday, November 24, 2014

History of Winter Climbing Nanga Parbat | Episode 4

Unlike very few expeditions to K2, Nanga Parbat has a long history of winter attempts. The mountain’s ease of access is its principal attraction. It has been attempted 21 times since winter 1988/89; 12 of them in past four years. Except Polish winter expedition of 1996-97, none of the teams had a real prospect of reaching the top.


At the start of winter climbing season, last year, we reviewed 17 winter expeditions to Nanga Parbat till then. The posts can be accessed here.

History of Winter Climbing Nanga Parbat | Episode 1
History of Winter Climbing Nanga Parbat | Episode 2
History of Winter Climbing Nanga Parbat | Episode 3

An avalanche coming down Diamir face, Winter 2013/14; Source

Winter 2013/14

18. Ralf Dujmovits
Last winter, famous mountaineer Ralf Dujmovits returned to Nanga Parbat with a different approach. He acclimatized on Aconcagua (6960m) by spending four nights at 6000m and two nights on the summit, and arrived at Diamir BC ready for a solo alpine style summit push via Kinshofer route. It was first expedition to Diamir Valley after the murder of eleven mountaineers at the Base Camp in June 2013.

Ralf reached BC on Dec 24th. Darek Zaluski also accompanied him as Base Camp companion. Initial investigation revealed that Kinshofer route was full of blue ice and was unsuitable for the German climber’s plan. So, he decided to go for Reinhold Messner’s line of 1978 ascent. On Dec 30th, Ralf and Zaluski deposited some gear at 5500m.

January 1st was first sunny and clear day since the team’s arrival at BC. They observed that two ice towers immediately above 6000m on Messner route were in dangerous condition and prone to serac fall activity. Ralf’s entire route below ice towers, including C1 at 5500m, was entirely exposed to ice-avalanches. Owing to high risk, Ralf Dujmovits decided to cancel the expedition on January 2nd.

19 & 20. Polish Expedition and The North Face Team
There were two independent expeditions to Nanga Parbat’s Rupal Face, last winter, although they worked together on Schell route. Marek Klonowski and Tomek Mackiewicz returned to the mountain under the banner of Justice for All. The team also included four other Poles Jacek Teler, Pawel Dunaj, Michal Obrycki and Michal Dzikowski. Due to some personal issues, Marek Klonowski and Michal Dzikowski left the expedition in January. Others continued the climb in collaboration with The North Face team, Simone Moro and David Gottler. Emilio Previtali was the BC manager and blogger for North Face team.

Poles were first to reach the BC. They led the progress on the mountain, fixing ropes and establishing camps, till 5800m. Simone Moro and David Gottler progressed further to C3 (at 6700m) on January 28th. The route wasn’t in good condition, as Tomek Mackiewicz called it ‘another planet’ as compared to a year ago. “Much more difficult!” he said.

In February, climbers made three attempts towards the summit, but were forced to retreat each time because of difficult metrological conditions. Good weather windows were too small to reach high camps. During final summit push at the end of February, Tomek Mackiewicz and David Gottler ascended to 7200m, but didn’t have sufficient time for a summit-bid.

The North Face team called off the expedition on March 3rd; however, Tomek Mackiewicz wanted to stay till the end of calendar winter. On March 8th, Polish climbers decide to launch another summit push, which turned into a search and rescue mission when Pawel Dunaj and Michal Obrycki were hit by an avalanche enroute to C1. Both Pawel and Michal sustained serious injuries. After helicopter couldn’t fly to BC for two days, the injured climbers were carried down to Tarashing in stretchers and driven to Skardu hospital.

21. Daniele Nardi
After the thrilled experience of 2012-13, Daniele made a second attempt on Mummery Rib, last year. However, like Ralf Dujmovits, dangerous conditions didn’t let him make any significant progress. He arrived at BC on January 28th, much later than typical winter expeditions. After acclimatization on Ganalo Peak, he launched a summit attempt on Mummery Rib during the last week of February. Daniele was forced to turn back at around 5450m, after closely escaping an ice avalanche. On February 27th, he decided to abandon the expedition.

Frequent updates appear in Tweet Box on right side of this blog, on Twitter and at Facebook.
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History of Winter Climbing Nanga Parbat | Episode 3

Winter 2012-13 was the ‘busiest’ winter season on Nanga Parbat, when four teams attempted the mountain from Diamir and Rupal sides. While Diamir teams underwent usual hardships of Killer Mountain, the situation on Rupal face was more intense.

Tomek Mackiewicz on Nanga Parbat in winter 2013

14. 'Justice for All' Third Attempt 2012-13
After two unsuccessful attempts on Diamir side, Tomek Mackiewicz and Marek Klonowski went for Rupal face in winter 2013. They arrived at Base Camp after the start of calendar winter season. ABC was established on December 24th, C1 on January 3rd and C2 on 13th. After due rest and hint of improvement in weather, they went up again on 19th. After spending nights in established camps and multiple bivouacs at 6000m, 6100m and 6600m, they set up C3 on 27th and decided to wait there for an improvement in weather.

On February 1st, Marek decided to abandon the climb, owing to the challenging conditions, whereas Tomek opted to stay in bivouac at 6100m. After fighting severe cold and wind for several days and climbing as high as 7400m, Tomek made it back to Base Camp on 8th. It was only the second instance that a team managed to go above 7000m on Nanga Parbat in winter.

15. US-Hungarian Expedition 2012-13
American Ian Overton and Hungarians David Klein and Zoltan Robert were on Nanga Parbat’s Diamir side in winter 2012-13. Their plan was to climb the line attempted by Messner and Eisendle in 2000 (and also by Simone & Denis in winter 2011-12).

Unfortunately, Zoltan suffered frostbite on his toes during trek to BC and couldn’t participate in climb. After his early departure, the chances of team’s success were almost non-existent. Ian and David made a half-attempt to go up the mountain, but eventually the expedition was abandoned on February 10th. The highest point reached by David and Ian was around 5400m.

16. Joel Wischnewski’s Disappearance 2012-13 
French climber Joel Wischnewski became the first victim of winter Nanga Parbat, who went missing after February 6th. He was on Rupal face to attempt a direct route up the SE Pillar. Joel reached the Base Camp on January 9th and established two camps at 4150m and 4300m, in next couple of weeks.

With a forecast of three good days, Joel left C2 on February 6th, never to be heard again. All efforts to reach and find the missing climber went in vain. However, his body was recovered from the mountain, after snowmelt uncovered his remains, in October. It’s assumed that he was hit by an avalanche, while moving between camps.

17. Daniel Nardi and Elisabeth Revol 2012-13 
The Italian-French duo, Daniel Nardi and Elisabeth Revol, was the second team on Diamir side, last year. Having reached the Base Camp on January 7th, they acclimatized on Ganalo Peak (6608m) before attempting the Mummery Rib in alpine style.

On January 28th, they reached 6400m but were forced to turn back because of high winds and bad weather. Before abandoning the expedition, the duo made another attempt on Mummery Rib, but couldn’t go above 6000m.

History of Winter Climbing Nanga Parbat | Episode 2

History of Winter Climbing Nanga Parbat | Episode 4

Note: Aforementioned 17 climbs are known winter attempt on Nanga Parbat; the listing isn’t an official verdict, however. It’s important to note that several of these climbs started before the calendar winter, i.e. winter solstice in northern hemisphere (December 21st).

Frequent updates appear in Tweet Box on right side of this blog, on Twitter and at Facebook.
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History of Winter Climbing Nanga Parbat | Episode 2

After almost getting Nanga Parbat climbed in winter 1996-97 and the luckless trip of winter 1997-98, Andrzej Zawada was planning for a third attempt in winter 2000-01. But, unfortunately, the life didn't give him that chance. The respected Polish expedition leader died on 21-Aug-2000.

Climbing Mummery Rib on Diamir Face; Source

7. The Return of Poles 2006-07
An experienced team of Polish climbers united under the winter manifesto of Krzysztof Wielicki returned to Nanga Parbat in winter 2006-07. Led by Wielicki himself, the team consisted of outstanding veteran climbers like Artur Hajzer, Dariusz Zaluski, Jacek Jawien and Jacek Berbeka and front line young climbers like Przemyslaw Lozinski and Robert Szymczak. They arrived at Rupal BC early and established C1 (5000m) on Schell route before the start of calendar winter season.
The things turned ugly, after that. Hurricane-force gale and extremely low temperatures made climbing slow and painful. Thanks to a bold attempt by Robert and Lozinski, C3 was set up at 6800m, but all attempts to climb higher remained unsuccessful. “Above 6000m was only freezing hell”, said Krzysztof Wielicki. After an avalanche swept away a tent at C2 and Robert and Lozinski suffered frostbite, the expedition was called off on January 17th.

8. Simone La Terra 2007-(08)
Together with Mehrban Karim, Italian Simone La Terra made a winter attempt on Nanga Parbat's Diamir face in 2007-08; although the expedition was over even before the start of calendar year 2008. They established C1 at 6000m on December 10. On the night of December 21, a blizzard blew off the team's kitchen tent with everything in it across the glacier. After losing all the supplies, it wasn't possible to continue the attempt. 

9. Polish Attempt 2008-(09)
While the primary team of Polish winter climbers led by Artur Hajzer attempted Broad Peak in winter 2008-09, a second team of Jacek Teler and Jarosław Żurawski headed to Diamir face. Tough conditions awaited them as four feet deep snow didn't allow them to reach the Base Campt. BC was established five kilometers away from its normal location. After breaking trail through one meter deep snow, C1 was established at 5400m. Excessive snow, bitter cold and difficulties in supply (due to adverse weather) forced the climbers to end the expedition by end-December.

10. Serguey Tsygankov Solo 2010-11
Sufficiently experienced in winter climbing elsewhere, Serguey Tsygankov Nikolayevich was a fresh name in Himalayas. He arrived at Diamir Base Camp at around mid-December to solo attempt Kinshofer Route. Just a few days after his arrival, Serguey showed the symptoms of a pulmonary edema and problems related to respiratory system caused by the altitude and cold. Serguey managed to reach an altitude of 6000m, before health issues forced him to retreat.

11. 'Justice for All' 2010-11
Polish duo Tomek Mackiewicz & Marek Klonowski silently arrived at Diamir BC in winter 2010-11, to attempt Kinshofer Route. It was their first endeavor in Himalayas and they were probably under-prepared for the task. Expedition was called off at around mid-January, due to excessive snow, high avalanche risk and gear related issues.

12. Simone Moro and Denis Urubko 2011-12
Italian Simone and Kazakh Denis undoubtedly make the best pair in modern winter climbing era. Apart from their success in Himalaya proper, they made the history by climbing first Karakoram (and Pakistani) eight-thousander, Gasherbrum II, in winter 2010-11. When the duo announced 2011-12 winter expedition on Nanga Parbat, many believed it was the best chance of the success on the mountain. They reached Diamir base camp on January 3rd to attempt Kinshofer Route. Later on, they decided to try a different route, previously attempted by Messner in 2000, because of difficult conditions on Kinshofer. By the end of January, C3 was established at 6800m. After that it was simply a test of their patience. It snowed continuously from January 27th till February 14th. With forecast showing no respite in hostile conditions, Simone and Denis made the difficult decision to turn back home.

13. 'Justice for All - 2' 2011-12
After the unsuccessful first attempt, Tomek Mackiewicz and Marek Klonowski were back to Nanga Parbat, in winter 2011-12. This time, they shared the base camp route with Moro and Urubko. The terrible conditions on the mountain can be envisioned from the fact that during their 45 days stay at BC, there was hardly any weather window to climb the mountain. The pair abandoned the expedition on January 13th, with the pact, they will try again.

History of Winter Climbing Nanga Parbat | Episode 3
History of Winter Climbing Nanga Parbat | Episode 4/4

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History of Winter Climbing Nanga Parbat | Episode 1

After several first winter ascents in Nepal, Polish climbers made the first attempt to climb Nanga Parbat in 1988-89. Since then, there have been 17 known attempts to scale this mountain in winter. In winter 1996-97 Krzysztof Pankiewicz and Zbigniew Trzmiel narrowly missed the summit, when the latter had to retreat from just 250m below summit due to severe frostbite. Majority of other climbers never managed to go above 7000m.

Waiting at Nanga Parbat C2; Photo: Polish Winter Expedition 2007

Tragedy in winter 1950
In October 1950, three Brits, J. W. Thornley, W. H. Crace and R. M. W. Marsh, hit the road to spend winter in northern Karakoram for observatory purpose but their plan was thwarted by unforeseen issues. They, instead, opted in to do a winter reconnaissance of Nanga Parbat. It wasn’t a pure climbing expedition but a trip to study temperature, snow and avalanche conditions on the mountain in winter. After setting up BC and C1 on Rakhiot Face by mid-November, Thornley and Crace climbed further while Marsh had to turn back due to frostbitten toes. On December 1st, a snowstorm struck the mountain. Thornley and Crace who were in a tent at 5500m went missing and were never seen again. Several unsuccessful attempts including an aerial search were carried out to reach the missing men. The disappearance of Thornley and Crace further added to the notoriety of unclimbed Nanga Parbat that had already taken 29 lives, before that.

1. First winter attempt 1988-89
After successful winter ascents in Himalaya proper, the Poles turned to Nanga Parbat in 1988-89. Maciej Berbeka lead a team of ten (eight Polish, one Colombian, one Italian) to climb the Rupal face via SE Buttress. However, assessment of conditions on the mountain compelled them to switch to German route (first climbed by Messner brothers, Felix Kuen and Peter Scholz in 1970). The meteorological conditions in western Himalaya were quite different and difficult than Himalaya Proper. Lower temperatures, hard ice, strong wind and fewer weather windows seriously hindered the team's progress and eventually the expedition was called off amidst deteriorating weather. The maximum altitude of 6800m was achieved by Maciej Berbeka, Piotr Konopka and Andrzej Osika on February 09.

2. Anglo-Polish Expedition 1990-91
Maciej Berbeka returned to Nanga Parbat in winter 1990-91, confident that knowledge and experience from previous expedition would enable him to go atop. This time the team of 11 consisted of seven Poles and four Brits. Their plan was to climb German route. The team reached Base Camp at the end of November, and established C1 on December 1st, but then the progress to C2 was slowed by worsened weather. On December 19, a pressure wave cause by an avalanche on the mountain flattened the tents at BC. Bad weather and high winds denied all the efforts to reach C3 at 6800m. Maximum altitude attained on Messner route was 6600m.

On January 13, with only 14 days of expedition left, the chances of success on aforementioned route were nonexistent and the climb seemed over. But Maceij Berbeka made a brave move. He decided to switch to Schell route. The plan was to acclimatize till 7000m, and then launch the summit push. Again the strong winds didn't allow the pair, Andrzej Osika and John Tinker, to go above 6600m. Expedition wrapped up on January 27th.

3. French Attempt 1992-93
Two French climbers, Eric Monier and Mlle Monique Loscos made an unsuccessful attempt to climb Schell route in 1992-93. They reached the Base Camp on December 20th and established ABC on 23rd. The duo made several attempts to go above 6000m, but harsh weather forced them to retreat every time. On January 9th, Eric was at 6500m but strong wind didn’t let him go further. He descended to BC on 10th and expedition was eventually called off on 13th.

4. British Winter Expedition 1996-97
In winter 1996, British architect and writer Victor Saunders and Danish climber Rafael Jensen made a brief attempt to climb Kinshofer Route on Diamir face. They examined the mountain conditions in November before going back to Islamabad to obtain climbing permit. Upon their return, they settled in a shepherd’s hut at 3700m, which served the purpose of Base Camp. Next, they hauled the gear and food to 4300m and 5000m.

But the challenges of a winter climb were more severe than what they had anticipated. The expedition was over, well before the start of calendar winter and arrival of Polish team, which intended to climb the same route. Highest point reached by this team was somewhere below 6000m.

5. Polish Winter Expedition 1996-97
The third Polish winter expedition to Nanga Parbat was led by the father of winter altitude climbing Andrzej Zawada. After two attempts on Rupal side, Poles switched to the Kinshofer Route on Diamir face (which Krzysztof Wielicki solo climbed in summer, earlier that year). This expedition eventually proved to be the most successful winter assault on Nanga Parbat till date.

First three camps were established by the end of January - last one being at a altitude of 6700m. The team must have had a strong feeling of success when C4 was reached in early February. Duo Krzysztof Pankiewicz and Zbigniew Trzmiel felt strong for the summit push, when they left C4 for the summit on February 11th. Unfortunately due to severe frostbite, both of them had to turn back slightly short of summit. Krzysztof Pankiewicz retreated from around 7700m, while Zbigniew Trzmiel was merely 250m short of summit. Frostbitten Zbigniew Trzmiel and Krzysztof Pankiewicz were heli-evacuated from BC.

Once back in Poland, Zawada expressed his sentiments in these words, “I would not comment on how narrowly we missed the summit. I would rather ask, when are we going back? Do we want to waste our effort and experience on that vast, beautiful and a difficult mountain? Would Poles be first to winter summit Nanga Parbat, from which we were just 300m away?”

6. Polish Winter Expedition 1997-98
After the intriguing winter of 1997 year, the return of Andrzej Zawada and Poles to Nanga Parbat was inevitable. Though climbing route and composure of the team were almost unchanged, but weather wasn't on their side this time. Extremely harsh weather and heavy snow conditions that appeared this winter in the northern part of the Himalayas and Karakorum were unprecedented in past two decades. Initial rapid progress didn't help much when snowfall events wrecked BC and C1 on different occasions. A falling stone broke the leg of Ryszard Pawlowski. Eventually the expedition was called off without success. Maximum altitude attained was 6800m.

History of Winter Climbing Nanga Parbat | Episode 3
History of Winter Climbing Nanga Parbat | Episode 4

Frequent updates appear in Tweet Box on right side of this blog, on Twitter and at Facebook.
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Saturday, November 22, 2014

History of Winter Climbing K2

“We do not blame ourselves because we did everything that was humanly possible in those inhospitable conditions,” Andrzej Zawada, winter-climbing pioneer, commented about first unsuccessful winter attempt on K2, of which he was expedition leader. Winter ascent of K2 is probably the finest unclaimed title in Himalayan mountaineering. Multiple factors including extensive funding required for such a complex expedition, complications in approach, the technical difficulties of the mountain, harsh conditions and absence of climbable weather windows, the great altitude and logistical challenges have discouraged several climbers from having a shot on K2. The mountain has been attempted just thrice, compared to 21 attempts on Nanga Parbat.

The 1983 Reconnaissance
After first winter ascent of Everest in 1980, the Polish mountaineers wanted to attempt K2, the next big thing. However, the cost of the expedition was out of Polish climbers’ budget. So, Andrzej Zawada reached out his contacts in Canada for financial support, and luckily the response was encouraging. To conclude the details of expedition and prepare a definite plan, Zawada and a Canadian-resident Polish national Jaques Olek visited Baltoro in 1983.

The situation didn’t look promising; authorities weren’t willing for winter permits, cost was well beyond previous estimates and the logistics were complicated. So, some British climbers were included in the team to gain more sponsors. The dedication of Zawada and his partner paid off and by 1987, everything was set for first K2 winter attempt.

First K2 Winter Expedition 1987-88
First attempt on K2 was made from South side via Abruzzi Ridge. It was a big expedition consisting of around two dozen climbers (13 Poles, 7 Canadians and 4 Brits) and was accompanied by a group of trekkers. To escape additional porter cost in winter, the baggage was shifted to BC in autumn. The team flew to Pakistan at the start of December, and made it to the Base Camp on Christmas day. They were welcomed by snowfall and harsh winds. By the end of expedition, team noted that they had merely 10 good weather days during three months at BC.

Maciej Pawlikowski, Maciej Berbeka, Krzysztof Wielicki and Jon Tinker established C1 (6100m) on January 5th. Few days later, Wielicki and Cichy surpassed House Chimney to install C2 at 6700m. But then a prolonged period of bad weather arrived. C3 (7300m) couldn’t be reached till March 2nd. Wielicki and Cichy were first to reach C3. Roger Mear and Jean-Francois Gagnon also made it to C3 on March 6th. However, hurricane winds raged throughout the night. Both of them suffered from frostbite and had to be assisted down the mountain. The idea of further attempts on K2 was abandoned.

K2 attempt was followed by an alpine-style push on Broad Peak, where Maciej Berbeka made it to Foresummit.

International Expedition 2002-03
After 1988, Poles turned their attention to Nanga Parbat and made several unsuccessful attempts on the mountain. But in 2000 Andrzej Zawada started preparations for second attempt on K2, from Chinese side. In February that year, he wanted to reconnaissance the north side of the mountain, but a sudden illness prevented him from traveling to Karakoram. Zawada remained in hospital for six months and died in August 2000.

Zawada’s team went forth with the expedition planning and eventually in December 2002, 14 alpinists and as many members of support staff arrived in Karakoram. The team was led by Krzysztof Wielicki, and included four members from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Georgia. They intended to climb North Ridge.

The team reached BC (5100m) on December 30th and started working on the route immediately. By January 5th, Denis Urubko and Vasiliy Pivtsov had established C1 at 6000m. After a bad weather break, Krzysztof Wielicki and Jacek Berbeka fixed 200m of rope through Rock Barrier, which opened the route to C2. On January 20th, Denis and Vasiliy installed camp 2 at (6750m).

However, expedition suffered a major setback when Gia Tortladze, Iljas Tukhvatullin and Wasilij Piwcow left the team and returned home. The unification of Poles and Eastern members couldn’t work smoothly. Kazakh climber Denis Urubko decided to stay with the team.

Despite fewer resources the progress continued on North ridge. C3 (7300m) and C4 (7650m) were established on February 4th and 12th respectively. After bad weather patch, a summit attempt was launched on February 21st. Jurek Natkanski and Jacek Jawien went first. Their task was to check camps and supply them. Next day Kaczkan and Urubko began the ascent. The two climbers made it to C4 on 25th and found the tent destroyed by harsh weather. Kaczkan and Urubko spent a terrible night in a small bivouac tent.

Next morning, Denis noticed that Kaczkan was suffering from cerebral edema. A rescue mission was mobilized immediately. On 27th all climbers made it back to BC and the expedition was called off. “Although K2 has once more held out in winter, this expedition showed that a successful ascent is possible.” Piotr Morawsk wrote in expedition report.

Russian Attempt 2011-12
After multiple successful new routes like Lhotse Middle (in 2001), Everest North Face (2004) and K2 West Face (2007), a strong Russian team headed to climb K2’s Abruzzi Ridge route in winter 2011-12. The team consisted of nine climbers, a coach and a doctor. They flew to K2 Base Camp at the end of December.

The climbers worked in small groups to fix the route. C1 (6050m) was established on January 4th, whereas temporary C2 was set up at 6350m on 14th. After being restricted to BC for several days, the climbers resumed the ascent above C2 on Jan 25th. By the end of January, route was secured till 7000m.

On Jan 31st Nick Totmjanin, Valery Shamalo and Vitaly Gorelik lifted some gear to 7000m. They were followed by Iljas Tukhvatullin, Andrew Mariev and Vadim Popovich who fixed the ropes till 7200m. Hurricane winds arrived on Feb 2nd, forcing everyone to retreat.

Vitaly Gorelik suffered from frostbite during the attempt and was also diagnosed with pneumonia. An immediate evacuation was requested but bad weather prevented helicopter from reaching BC. On February 6th at around 11:30AM Vitaly died in BC, of Pneumonia and cardiac-arrest. Following the tragic incident, expedition was called off.

This year’s expedition of Denis Urubko, Adam Bielecki, Alex Txikon, Artiom Braun and Dmitry Siniew will be fourth attempt on K2 in winter (second from Chinese side). They will be attempting an unclimbed route (NE Ridge from China).
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