Top 10 Expeditions of 2018: #1: Andrzej Bargiel Skis K2

Over the last 12 months, ExplorersWeb has documented incredible adventures in climbing, cycling, running, walking, skiing and anything involving force of will and dedication to a dream in the outdoors. As this year comes to a close, we present our countdown of the Top 10 Expeditions of 2018.


Top of the list, and rightly so, sits Polish extreme skier and mountaineer Andrzej Bargiel. In July, Bargiel became the first person in history to ski uninterrupted from the summit of K2 to Base Camp. Bargiel ascended the mountain alone and without oxygen, then descended in seven hours via both the normal route and across a number of technically demanding lines on the South Face.

Despite a well-known reputation as the Killer Mountain, the stunningly triangular peak that Reinhold Messner once suggested was made by an artist draws climbers from around the world. But with a summit count that grows each year, and many lines drawn across its jagged canvas, one of the few remaining challenges was a complete ski descent from the summit to Base Camp. There’s a good reason it wasn’t done until Bargiel came along. Ominous ice seracs wait to topple, crevasses gape and slopes of 50 degrees or more await those skilled and brave enough to take it on.

Bargiel wasn’t the first to attempt this; a number of the world’s finest ski mountaineers have hurtled themselves from K2’s lofty summit. In a well-publicized and sad event, Swedish ski mountaineer Fredrik Ericsson died after a fall near the infamous Bottleneck ice gully in 2010. Nine years earlier, veteran Italian Hans Kammerlander watched a Korean climber hurtle past to his death only a few hundred feet down from the summit. After witnessing this event, a shocked Kammerlander unclipped his skis and climbed down on foot. He said at the time: “Somebody will do it, but he’ll need a lot of ability and a whole lot of luck.”

Immediately following Bargiel’s effort, I spoke to Alan Hinkes, the first Briton to climb all the 8000’ers. He named K2 as the gold medal in mountaineering, and it was pretty clear that he rated Bargiel’s achievement highly: “To climb it and ski down is phenomenal. A slip would have meant a fall of 3,500m. Bargiel must be very brave as well as an extremely competent skier.”

Revered British mountain guide Kenton Cool, who has himself skied some 8,000m peaks, also told me: “People need to put this descent into context. He did it solo on what’s considered to be the hardest 8,000m peak. In short, it’s proper bad ass. Some of the world’s best adventure skiers have tried this over the years and no one has come close. Bargiel has spent four months over two seasons waiting for the right moment, that’s not an easy thing in itself. Climbing K2 by any route is considered an achievement…to ski down it really is out of this world.”

Among the noise of the ever-popular world of high-altitude climbing and adventurous pursuits, Bargiel’s feat of technical, physical and psychological mastery deserves to stand out as a once-in-a-generation accomplishment. Chapeau Andrzej Bargiel!