The Polish team, who was on the historic expedition to K2 this winter has called off their expedition yesterday mainly because of bad weather and safety of the climbers, thus ending their expedition of Winter 2017-18 on Himalaya and Karakoram as well. K2 remains the only eight-thousander to remain unclimbed in winter. "The priority of the expedition is the safety of the participants," Krzysztof Wielicki, the expedition leader wrote on Facebook.
Due to the heavy snowfall it is assumed that the routes towards upper camps are blocked and the threat of avalanche is increased. Also there is high chance of destruction of Camp 1, Camp 2 and Camp 3 as well. In addition, only one good weather window was expected around 11th March 2018, but probably it was a very short time period for summit push and it might endanger the life of the climbers, as analyzed by Wielicki.
A thirteen member Polish team came to the K2 Winter Expedition in late December 2017. From the first week of January 2018, they started activity via Cesen/Basque route. The rotation continued till 25th January 2018. Meanwhile, an incident happened on Nanga Parbat. Frenchwomen Elisabeth Revol and Polish climber Tomasz (Tomek) Mackiewicz were stuck on Nanga while attempting for summit. This forced four climbers from the Polish team (Denis Urubko, Adam Bielecki, Jarek Botor and Piotr Tomala) to go to Nanga Parbat for the rescue operation. On 27th and 28th January 2018 they rescued Elisabeth Revol from an altitude of around 6000m, but failed to do the same in case of Tomek.
From 1st February 2018, they restarted their activities via Cesen/Basque route. Then the team chose the Abruzzi Spur route on K2 and cancelled their previous approach via Cesen/Basque route due to an accident causing injury to Rafal Fronia on 9th February 2018, which forced him to abandon his expedition. Via Cesen/Basque route they reached up to 6300m, while on Abruzzi Spur route they reached up to 7400m. However in his solo attempt Denis Urubku reported that he probably reached up to 7600m.
Adam Bielecki stated his personal opinion on Twitter, "Unfortunately, this year the mountain turned out to be too difficult and we were too weak. Snowfall for a few days covered the railings and the wind destroyed the tent in ABC and probably tents in higher camps. For now, the action at the top is too dangerous and we do not have enough time to wait for better conditions...will come back here because K2 is available for winter! Thank you for all the warm words and incredible cheering."
K2 was first summited by Italians Achille Compagnoni and Lino Lacedelli in 1954, but no one has ever scaled it in winter and still remain unclimbed in winter. An international expedition team (The Winter Netia K2 Expedition) on the North ridge of K2 in winter of 2002-03 led by Krzysztof Wielicki, three members (Denis Urubko himself, Marcin Kaczkan and Piotr Morawski) reached up to 7650m, which is the highest point reached by any team in winter till now!
Krzysztof Wielicki (Leader), Denis Urubko (Climber), Janusz Gołąb (Climber), Adam Bielecki (Climber), Rafał Fronia (Climber), Marek Chmielarski (Climber), Marcin Kaczkan (Climber), Artur Małek (Climber), Piotr Tomala (Climber), Maciej Bedrejczuk (Climber), Jarosław/Jarek Botor (Medical rescuer), Dariusz Załuski (Filmmaker), Piotr Snopczyński (Base manager).
1. Activities on Cesen/Basque route:
9th Jan: The team arrived at Base Camp (~5000m).
15th Jan: Janusz Gołąb and Denis Urubko reached up to 5700m.
17th Jan: Janusz Gołąb and Denis Urubko reached around 5900m and returned to Base Camp.
21st Jan: Denis Urubko set up a temporary Camp 1 at 5900m.
22nd Jan: Danis Urubko reached a height of 6300m and there he set up Camp 2 and spent the night there. While Artur Małek and Marek Chmielarski spent the night at Camp 1.
23rd Jan: Danis Urubko and then Artur Małek returned to Base Camp. Adam Bielecki and Marek Chmielarski reached Camp 2. Maciej Bedrejczuk and Marcin Kaczkan reached Camp 1.
24th Jan: Adam Bielecki with Maciej Bedrejczuk and Marcin Kaczkan spent night at Camp 2. Marek Chmielarski reached Base Camp. Rafal Fronia and Piotr Tomala reached Camp 1.
25th Jan: All climbers returned to Base Camp.
2. Rescue mission on Nanga Parbat:
27th-28th Jan: Denis Urubko and Adam Bielecki together with Jarosław Botor, Piotr Tomala were flown to Nanga Parbat and rescued Elisabeth Revol, who was with Tomasz (Tomek) Mackiewicz on an winter expedition on Nanga Parbat. Elisabeth and Tomek were stuck on the mountain on their summit attempt. The rescuers were unable to rescue Tomek, he still remains on the mountain.
3. Activities continues on Cesen/Basque route:
1st Feb: Marek Chmielarski and Artur Małek moved to Camp 1.
2nd Feb: Marek Chmielarski and Artur Małek moved to Camp 2 and returned back to Camp 1. Denis Urubko, Adam Bielecki and Piotr Tomala arrived at K2 Base Camp after the rescue operation.
3rd Feb: Marek Chmielarski and Artur Małek returned to Base Camp from Camp 1. Jarosław Botor reached his country.
4th Feb: Marcin Kaczkan and Denis Urubko moved to Camp 1 and spent the night there.
5th Feb: Marcin Kaczkan and Denis Urubko moved to Camp 2 from Camp 1 and spent the night there.
6th Feb: Maciej Bedrejczuk moved to Camp 1 and spent the night there. Marcin Kaczkan and Denis Urubko returned to Base Camp.
7th Feb: Maciej Bedrejczuk returned to Base Camp. Adam Bielecki and Janusz Gołąb moved to Camp 1. Adam was hit by a falling stone at Camp 1. He returned to Base Camp. Janusz Gołąb spent night at Camp 1.
8th Feb: Janusz Gołąb returned to Base Camp. Artur Małek and Marek Chmielarski moved to Camp 1.
9th Feb: Artur Małek and Marek Chmielarski moved to Camp 2 from Camp 1. Piotr Tomala and Rafal Fronia went for Camp 1. While approaching to Camp 1, Rafal Fronia was hit by a falling stone, causing a fracture in his forearm. He with Piotr Tomala returned to Base Camp and decided to return to his country.
10th Feb: Artur Małek and Marek Chmielarski returned to Base Camp. Expedition leader Krzysztof Wielicki decided to cancel their approach via Cesen/Basque route for the safety of the climbers.
4. Activities on Abruzzi Spur route:
11th Feb: Janusz Gołąb and Maciej Bedrejczuk went up to 5650m. They spread their tent at 5300m.
12th Feb: Denis Urubko left Base Camp for reconnaissance above Camp 1 (6100m) without rigging.
13th Feb: Urubko returned from reconnaissance. He reached up to 6500m. Marcin Kaczkan and Piotr Tomala left Base Camp for rigging to Camp 1. But the task remained incomplete due to bad weather.
14th Feb: Two HAPs Saddik and Jalal went up to complete the previous day's task. Rafal Fronia reached his country.
15th Feb: HAPs returned to Base Camp.
16th Feb: Marek Chmielarski and Artur Małek went up to Camp 1.
17th Feb: Marek Chmielarski and Artur Małek left Camp 1, went up to Camp 2 and retured back to Camp 1. Janusz Gołąb and MaciejBedrejczuk went up to Camp 1 and pitched a second tent there. Adam Bielecki and Denis Urubko reached 6300m.
18th Feb: Two teams Marek Chmielarski, Artur Małek and Janusz Gołąb, Maciej Bedrejczuk left Camp 1 for Camp 2 to locate the way. Marek Chmielarski and Artur Małek returned to Base Camp, while Janusz Gołąb and Maciej Bedrejczuk returned to Camp 1. Adam Bielecki and Denis Urubko climbed the "House's Chimney" and pitched tent at 6800m.
19th Feb: Janusz Gołąb and Maciej Bedrejczuk left Camp 1 for Camp 2 and returned to Base Camp. Marcin Kaczkan and Darek Zaluskiwent went up to ABase Camp. Adam Bielecki and Denis Urubko climbed the "Black Pyramid" and pitched their tent at 7200m (Camp 3).
20th Feb: Marcin Kaczkan went up to Camp 1 from ABase Camp. Adam Bielecki and Denis Urubko checked the climbing route up to 7400m.
21st Feb: Marcin Kaczkan is in Camp 1. Adam Bielecki and Denis Urubko returned to Base Camp. Other participants are at Base Camp as well.
22nd Feb: All members returned to Base Camp.
24th Feb: Maciej Bedrejczuk and Marcin Kaczkan moved to Camp 1. Denis Urubko left the Base Camp alone to summit the mountain before the end of February.
25th Feb: Maciej Bedrejczuk and Marcin Kaczkan moved to Camp 2 (6700m) from Camp 1. Marek Chmielarski and Artur Małek moved to Camp 1.
26th Feb: Denis Urubko returned to Base Camp and decided to leave the expedition. Maciej Bedrejczuk and Marcin Kaczkan were at Camp 2 (6700m), while Marek Chmielarski and Artur Małek were at the height of 6500m.
27th Feb: Both teams returned to Base Camp.
5th Mar: Expedition called off.
Photo Courtesy: Polish K2 Winter Expedition Team and Denis Urubko