(Tina Sjogren/ExWeb, Lena Laletina/RussianClimb) The upcoming K2 winter attempt is the number one mountaineering event this year. It could become the biggest happening of the decade. ExplorersWeb checked in with Denis (thanks Lena for translation) to get the scoop. Here goes.
Explorersweb: Hi Denis, why did you choose this route?
Denis Urubko: 4 expeditions over 12 years gave me plenty opportunity to study the mountain. I climbed the south side to 8200 meters, the north side to the summit and to 7800 meters in winter. In my humble opinion the eastern flank of K2 offers protection from the wind by the summit tower. Snow conditions are better and we hope to dig snow-caves in high camps. We have to save power for the summit push and as far as we can tell the east part of K2 offers easier access than the Abruzzi or Japan ridges.
Explorersweb: The north side is cold and dark. From your own experience and other teams' reports, how much sunlight do you expect?
Denis Urubko: Actually it's not. We can be in good shape as soon as we leave the bottom part and get out of the mountain shadow. There's a grassy area that can be reached for rest in half a day. The eastern slope will obviously provide lots of morning sun.
Explorersweb: What can be expected in terms of temperatures and wind speeds?
Denis Urubko: We will be most exposed on the ridge, some 300 meters before summit. Worst case conditions can be really bad there, I'm sure. To survive and function well our team can take no more than about -50 degrees temps and 100 km/h wind. We'll hold out for a summit window at -40 degrees and 50 km/h max.
Explorersweb: The fields between your planned C2 and C3 look like heavy snow accumulation, do you think passing there may be a problem?
Denis Urubko: Hola! We wish :) Winter is much drier than summer. We'll have to use CAMP-snow-rockets to avoid avalanche danger of course, but heavy deep snow doesn't exist there in winter. Or that's what I suppose by my experience.
Explorersweb: On the ridge: The Americans (1978) had to traverse on the east face onto the Abruzzi - do you have an idea yet how your climb will go there or will you play it as it comes?
Denis Urubko: We count it as one of the options of course. Worst case we'll try to traverse to the Bottleneck under the big seracs but you can imagine how dangerous that would be. I still keep hope that we can find a direct way.
Explorersweb: How much do you plan to fix, or did you choose the route to avoid a lot of rope?
Denis Urubko: That's exactly right :) We can't physically carry kilometers of rope above 6000 meters. Our plan is to use no more than 1000 meters, most of them to fix by the summit tower.
Explorersweb: What do you view as the biggest cruxes, and what do you think are your (the team's) strength/weaknesses?
Denis Urubko: I have some exact points that worry me.
First is the lowest ice fall, looking so delicate and fragile. Second is part of the US route by the knife ridge at 7500. Third problem point is rockfall above the snow terraces on 8000, just below the summit.
General negatives challenging the expedition: to perservere through 60 days of hard work with little prospect of success; to have ample gear for the long approach, and to find good weather windows.
On the flip side: We are the Kanchenjunga-14 team; each technically and physically strong and with winter experience over 8000 meters. We have perfect equipment from our sponsors, broad support by the mountaineering community, and a nice relation to our families and friends. The most important thing should be simply to follow hope. Thanks a lot!
The most experienced active Himalaya mountaineer today, Denis Urubko has countless remarkable achievements such as new routes, solo variations and virgin winter ascents on the world's 12 tallest peaks, all above 8000 meters (26,000 ft) in altitude.
The most seasoned of the upcoming 2014 K2 winter expedition, in 2003 the Russian climber made a winter attempt on K2 led by winter climber Polish Krzysztof Wielicki. Denis was selected for the final summit push as one in a team of two but had to abort the climb high up to rescue his mate. He left his ice axe at the turning point, around C4, hoping to one day come back for it. In 2007 Denis returned to K2 with a friend and summited the peak via the North Pillar in its latest summit yet.
Check out ExWeb's interview with Urubko about these and other winter climbs (Makalu and G2).
Denis Urubko was born son to a Russian family in the North of Caucasus. He moved to Kazakhstan in early 90s and became an officer in the Kazakhstan Army. He then moved back to Russia, and renewed his Russian citizenship.
After recent winter successes on Broad Peak and the Gasherbrums only 8000ers Nanga Parbat and - the Grand Prize - K2 remain winter unclimbed.
2014 K2 winter team members:
• Denis Urubko - Russia
• Artiom Braun - Russia
• Dmitry Siniew - Russia
• Adam Bielecki - Poland
• Alex Txikon - Spain
The Kanchenjunga-14 team comprises Urubko, Bielecki and Txikon. Polish Adam Bielecki has two winter firsts: GI and Broad Peak, and he also climbed K2 in the summer of 2012 on the normal route.
Spanish Txikon was part of Goschl's fateful G1 winter attempt and later made it to 7100 on K2 via the Abruzzi Spur.
• ABC (4650 meter)
• C1 (5500 meter) at the bottom of an "ice-fall".
• C2 (6200 meter) at the bottom of two gigantic "steps" leading up to..
• C3 (7200 meter) just below the wall leading up to NorthEast ridge.
• C4 (7600 meter) and C5 (8150 meter ) both on the ridge.
• Summit (8611 meter).
At the NorthEast ridge the line joins the American 1978 route for the last 1000 altitude meters to the summit. The Americans left the ridge below the summit and traversed the upper East Face to join Abruzzi. (Read the American expedition report here. )
For updates, check http://facebook.com/Urubko.
Local sources: http://www.russianclimb.com and www.risk.ru
History of winter climbing K2
Winter 2014/15: Preparations Underway for Exciting Ventures
K2 Winter: New Route and Two More Russians
Veteran trio to attempt K2 North Face