Updated: Who is Really Going for Winter K2 This Season?

K2 at dawn. Photo: MingmaG

Two months ago, it seemed that K2 would be busier than ever this winter. But the main players are still waffling for a variety of reasons.

Imagine Nepal’s Mingma G (complete name Mingma Gyalje Sherpa) still wants to attempt the Abruzzi Spur, without supplementary O2. But his expedition needs to raise money, and Mingma is frantically fundraising. “We need to wait some more weeks, but we are not cancelling [yet] because of lack of funds,” said Mingma. At 33 years old, the Sherpa has previously summited K2 in 2014 and 2017.

Many pinned their hopes on Denis Urubko. If anyone was a good bet to summit the last unclimbed winter 8,000’er, it would be he. However, Urubko has warned that his main and first winter goal is Broad Peak. Although he also has a permit for K2, he cautions that a possible attempt depends on a number of “ifs”: if there’s time before the first of March, if conditions are right, etc.

Purported K2 winter expedition members Jonathan Bordes (below) and Vincent Saura. Photo: Jonathan Bordes

Meanwhile, a French team has appeared out of the blue — or, rather, out of the Pyrenees range, on the border between France and Spain.  They announced their surprise plans for winter K2 from Islamabad, where they landed on November 29. The Saura-K2-Bordes expedition members are Jonathan Bordes (42)  and Vincent Saura (25). Both claim to have climbed a number of routes in the Alps and the Pyrenees (where the highest point is humble Aneto peak at 3,404m) but they have no experience in the greater ranges. In an interview with La Dépêche du Midi, the brazen duo insisted that they were serious contenders, despite the collective mountaineering world’s raised eyebrows.

Their expedition’s website is unconventional as well. Several pages remain under construction. One photo shows the pair and their equipment in a cavernous empty warehouse. Alpine Adventure Pakistan Guides reports that the team has received just a trekking permit, which allows them no further than Base Camp.

According to Adventure Pakistan’s Ali, only one permit has been issued for K2 so far, to Urubko and Bowie. Moro and Lunger also have a permit for Gasherbrums I and II. Currently, those are the only two confirmed teams in the winter Karakorum.

In the last few hours, word from Pakistan came that the pair are detained in Skardu, after an official deemed their equipment too much for a mere trek. Also, they had been bragging to everyone that they had come to climb K2. Not exactly a discreet approach if you want to pirate a mountain.

Bielecki and Batura Sar

The most exciting expedition in the Karakorum this winter could be the one targeting a (slightly) lesser peak. Adam Bielecki and the Polish climbers who are preparing for winter K2 next year are heading for Batura Sar (7,794m). The team also includes hard-core winter climber Rafal Fronia. They land in Pakistan on January 15, then head to the remote Batura Muztagh range, west of the Hunza River. Batura features an impressive face and a 10km-long ridge. A German team first summited it in 1976, but no one has ever climbed Batura Sar in winter.

Batura Sar. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

About the Author

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides

Sport journalist, published author and communication consultant. Feeling back home at ExplorersWeb after five years exploring distant professional ranges.

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8 Comments on "Updated: Who is Really Going for Winter K2 This Season?"

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Randy Hamilton
Guest

Good article. Good information. Thanks for the report. Very curious to see if anyone even approaches K2’s summit this winter. And on a side note. Is that a summit cross he is sitting atop? If so, does that ethically seem a right thing to do? Given that they do dangerous mountaineering you would think they would have more respect and need all the good kharma they could get.

Jean-Marc Guilbert
Guest

Hello
Can you clarify the source of the information that Jonathan Bordes and his colleague Saura were arrested by the police?

Jerry Kobalenko
Admin

Not arrested, just detained. Alpine Adventure Guides.

Jean-Marc Guilbert
Guest

Thank you for that clarification. Do you think they will be able to continue their trek to K2 base camp or will they have to give up or be forced to leave?

Craig Quigley
Guest

Ain’t no one topping K2, who hasn’t had at least a few winter expeditions in Pakistan first! I think Denis is trying not to hype a K2 attempt by acclimatising on BP, then assessing conditions on K2 later.

It’ll be either him, or Bielecki next year, in my opinion.

Erik
Guest

Don’t sleep on Mingma!

mmp
Guest

Interesting article! Thanks for keeping us all posted and may all the winter Pakistan climbers come home healthy. I am however dismayed to see that Bordes and Saura chose to train for K2 by climbing a cross. Wherever in the world, the culture and beliefs of the local people deserve the same respect. I hope ExWeb will not encourage more acts of using religious shrines as climbing gyms by republishing them on their pages.

anonymous
Guest

I thought Bielecki was out for this winter due to an injury to his heel?