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

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