Explorers Web posted an interesting interview with Denis Urubko, one of the climbers heading to K2 to attempt a winter ascent of that mountain. As you probably already know, K2 and Nanga Parbat are the only 8000 meter peaks that remain unclimbed during the winter, and this year, both peaks will see ambitious teams attempting to summit them once again. Urubko will lead an all-star squad of mountaineers to K2, where they'll attempt the North Face of the mountain from the Chinese side. Joining him will be Adam Bielecki and Alex Txikon, two very experienced climbers, as well as Artiom Braun and Dmitry Siniew.
In the interview, Denis discusses why they chose this route – he feels it offers better protection from the elements – and what conditions he expects to find there during the winter. There has been some discussion that this side of the mountain will be darker and colder than the South Side, but Denis disputes that, saying that they'll be climbing along a route that faces to the east, which should providing good morning sun, and when they climb out of the mountain's shadow they'll find plenty of light to help guide them on their way. He also says that while he expects the mountain to protect them from the harshest of weather conditions, they anticipate they could face -50ºC/-58ºF temperatures and 100 km/h (62 mph) winds. They hope to go to the summit when temperatures are at -40ºC/F, and with winds in a more manageable 50 km/h (31 mph).
Other portions of the interview touch on snow conditions on K2 during the winter, obstacles that the team will face on the route, and their approach to fixing ropes versus just climbing as light as possible. The team hopes to use snow caves at higher altitudes for their camps, and as shelter from the weather, and they plan on making an alpine style push once they are acclimatized and the conditions are right.
As you can imagine, Denis also touches on some important aspects of the climb that he is most concerned about as well, including an icefall that looks like it could be a very dangerous section of the climb, as well as knife edge ridge at 7500 meters (24,606 ft), and a rockfall at 8000 meters (26,246 ft) right below he summit. If the team hopes to reach the top, they'll need to overcome those challenges along the way.
The team will leave for China in just a couple of weeks, and will begin their winter attempt on the toughest mountain on the planet not long after that. I will, of course, be following this expedition very closely in the weeks ahead.