Urubko Begins New Gasherbrum Line

Denis Urubko celebrated his 46th birthday today by preparing for his new route up Gasherbrum II. He led no new rescues for a change. While his exact itinerary has remained vague, Mountain.ru’s Anna Piunova reports that today, Tuesday, Urubko will join Don Bowie’s group to Camp 1. From there, he will begin his new line.

Meanwhile, K2 summiters are busy packing up or trekking back to Skardu. “The forecast is terrible, we’re exhausted, we’ve got almost no porters, and we want to cover 60 miles in 48 hours,” Adrian Ballinger reported earlier today, his somber comments contradicting the 100-watt smiles, below, that he and his team displayed in Base Camp.

Adrian Ballinger (center) and team at K2 base Camp. Photo: Adrian Ballinger

They are apparently not the only ones having problems with porters. Lina Quesada of Spain, who was climbing K2 independently, lost her chance for a summit bid when her expedition outfitter unilaterally decided to end the expedition and dismantle Base Camp when she was on her way to Camp 1. Quesada says that she will denounce the outfitter ( Karakoram Expeditions) for breach of contract but at the time, she had no option except to join her group on the way home. “I can’t stop thinking I could have summited, since I felt just great,” she said.

Once they get back to high-speed internet, most climbers will share their post-expedition videos, photo and stories. Some have already said a few words. Adrian Ballinger has sworn that he won’t climb the Bottleneck again. “I will never regret this day or this risk […] but spending six hours under an [ice cliff] this active is just not smart,” he said.

Carla Perez’s blurry, exhausted arrival at the summit K2, without supplementary O2.

Nirmal Purja also says that he drew on the determination developed during his military career when he saw that morale in Base Camp was low after their initial summit attempt. “I was prepared to try at least three times,” he said. “I had also briefed my team, so we were mentally prepared.”

Purja bagged a record number of 8000’ers this past spring, then sped up Nanga Parbat and the two Gasherbrums, but it has been K2 which has granted him widespread applause, thank to his leadership. He basically inspired those at Base Camp to march up the mountain after him.

Even Reinhold Messner has praised Purja: In an opinion piece in Gazetta dello Sport, the legendary Italian said Purja’s speed was hellish — “for someone going on O2,” he added, suggesting that doing all 14 8,000’ers in a year without supplementary oxygen was the next great challenge. Messner met Purja at Base Camp on Nanga Parbat some weeks ago and was impressed by his determination and confidence. Messner pointed out that Purja could have retired comfortably from the military but left his pension and mortgaged his house to pursue his dreams in the higher mountains.

Lesser peaks

A handful of hard-core alpinists are opening new routes on slightly smaller peaks. On 5,100m Alisson Peak, Italians Matteo della Bordella and Massimo Faletti pioneered the southern spur. They didn’t quite reach the peak’s true summit but their valiant effort featured a two-day single push and a long overnight descent. They called their new line Ma-Ma Natura because they didn’t bolt the route or otherwise leave any trace.

The Italians’ new Ma-Ma Natura line. Photo: Matteo della Bordella

Other ongoing expeditions include Jim Donini’s to Broad Tower and the Choktoi Expedition of Thomas Huber, Simon Gietl and Yannick Boissenot. Rumors suggest that the trio may again be attempting Latok I, but they have remained stubbornly noncommittal about their objective and have warned that they will be offline for two months, in order to fully focus on the mountain.