K2 Winter – Returning!

K2 Winter – Returning!
by Piotr Chmielinski

This question has been bothering mountaineering enthusiasts since March 5, 2018, that is, from the moment of announcing the decision to end the Polish Winter Expedition to K2 – will the Poles return to Karakorum to enter the top of this inaccessible mountain? Unofficially, it was said that the team would take up the challenge once again. Enthusiastic declarations of the participants about the willingness to repeat the challenge confirmed this belief. However, with time the emotions began to cool down because of the lack of a formal decision of the Polish Winter Himalayan Program (PHZ) – the initiator and organizer of the expedition to K2.
And now finally, a decision! The Poles will return to K2 in the winter of 2019/2020. On April 24, the Polish Winter Himalayan Program announced:
“After reviewing the findings and analyzing the situation, the Organizing Committee and members of the expedition decided that the next winter expedition to K2 would be planned for the winter of 2019/2020 as a part of the Polish Winter Himalaism Program named after Artur Hajzer.
In the face of the entire organizational and communication machine, PHZ is convinced that the next 1.5 years should be used for the selection and preparation of the expedition, communication activities, and organization of training expeditions, as well as the acquisition of sponsorship. We have 1.5 years of hard and intensive work ahead of us. ”

One and a half years of preparation
While the decision regarding continuation of the expedition to K2 was expected, the date of its implementation was quite a surprise. It was expected that climbers would set off again in Karakorum in December this year. “The beginning of May is approaching; to return to K2 later this year, we just have too little time” – explained Krzysztof Wielicki, the leader of the K2 Winter Expedition 2017/2018, in the interview with the Polish daily “Gazeta Wyborcza”. Time is needed above all to find the sources of financing for the trip. Mountaineering equipment is already completed from the previous attempt to get to the mountain, now it only needs to be finalized.
In addition, it is necessary to properly prepare the climbers. According to Janusz Majer, manager of the Polish Winter Himalayan Program, besides the climbers, who expressed their will to return to K2, “we will have to broaden the group of candidates with the younger generation of climbers and may organize a training expedition to some eight-thousander later this year.”

Poles have a chance to get K2
– “It is Poles who started winter climbing in the Himalayas and have a historic chance to end it. With capturing K2 something damn important will end. Poland had the most beloved pope (John Paul II) in history and the ice warriors. This is Poland’s flagship in the world” – Simone Moro said in an interview for “Newsweek Polska”.

And it is Poles with whom Simone Moro would even break the promise he made to his wife – a promise that he will not climb K2. However, the condition for his participation in the conquest of the mountain is to limit the team to a maximum of four people, entering lightly and quickly. Who would he like to climb to the top of K2 with? “It could be Denis Urubko, Adam Bielecki, Janusz Gołąb” – he said in the aforementioned conversation.
Undoubtedly, one of the most frequently asked questions about the composition of the climbers’ team at K2 will be Denis Urubko. Recall, the Kazakh climber with a Polish passport, who was a participant in the previous Polish Winter Expedition, at the end of February left the base and the team to attempt to attack the summit alone. That unsuccessful attack has aroused much controversy, especially among his teammates. Time has already calmed the emotions down. “I miss meeting him personally and talking about this situation,” said Adam Bielecki, a partner of Urubko to enter the K2 summit, in an interview. – But we’ll do it for sure. I’m curious how he looks at it today. But let’s not make a big deal out of it. He went; he did not get to the top and fortunately, he came down in one piece. I think we will continue to climb together. Denis is a phenomenal climber; it seems to me that we are a really strong team together. ”

Second attempt
Poles made their last attempt of the winter K2 summit at the beginning of 2018. It took almost two months to prepare for the peak attack, which did not take place due to bad weather conditions and avalanches. The team of climbers managed to reach a height of 7200 m above sea level, where they set the camp. From there, Adam Bielecki and Denis Urubko entered 200 meters higher. Then, Urubko, alone, during his lonely “escape” reached the height of 7600 m above sea level. Safety, or rather too much danger, was the main reason for ending the expedition just before the spring in Karakorum.
Based on the experience from that first expedition, the next one will start much earlier – as Janusz Majer claims. The team should reach the base before December 20th of 2019. Weather windows appearing at the beginning of January increase the chances of establishing camps, from where it will be possible to reach the summit.
It turns out that the experience gained at that time not only allows preparing a strategy for winning K2, but above all, it strengthened the faith of the participants for the expedition success.
“When I was going to this mountain, I was not sure if we could enter the top, now I am convinced that it is within our reach” – says Adam Bielecki.