Live from winter Nanga Parbat: ExWeb interview with Denis Urubko

Posted: Feb 01, 2012 03:56 pm EST

(Tina Sjogren/edited 10:56 pm) "Will the recent Gasherbrum II winter victory prove a Karakoram dream mile - considered impossible until broken and then followed by many in short time?" we asked in a poll last year. "No," said you. The ExplorersWeb community didn't expect any of the other expeditions to make it, and they didn't.

The GII summiteers were a dream team, and now they are back for more (Ed: note the new Poll). With four winter firsts*, only late Polish legend Kukuczka is ahead of Italian Simone Moro. Russian-born Denis Urubko is probably the greatest active mountaineer today. Legendary weather-guru Karl Gabl is back at the weather maps.

So how is it going on Nanga Parbat and what does Denis think about his country-men on K2? Yesterday ExplorersWeb called on Nanga Parbat BC for a chat in cyberspace.

(*Ed note: check italic section below the interview about calendar winter).

ExplorersWeb: Why did you guys decide for a different route?

Denis: In winter, climbing above 5000 meters becomes a completely different ascent. The Kinshoffer couloir is too difficult and icy, while the snow conditions on the north-west slope are normal. We like to work it in light style, not meter by meter.

ExplorersWeb: How is it going, any vibrations from the mountain yet?

Denis: Few people have been on the north cwm of the Diamir glacier before so for lack of information we have had to truly discover it, like real explorers. Every step is new and interesting. We are searching for a route and a new chance every day.

ExplorersWeb: We know Simone tries his best to be single with the mountain, so how do you cope with the neighbors?

Denis: What can we do? We were decided to come here and we neither can nor want to stop anyone else. So it's all good. They are doing their thing and we are doing ours.

ExplorersWeb: Are you in touch with the other teams in Pakistan?

Denis: Yes, Simone is texting and calling with the G1 expeditions. We are in touch with our friends on K2 by e-mail. They support us in their replies.

ExplorersWeb: Last time K2 was attempted in winter you were on the team. How do you feel about the current Russian attempt there?

Denis: I'm very happy that a strong expedition like the Russians took on this challenge. I wish them success and safe return. Because if they can't do it I don't think K2 will be winter climbed in a long time.

ExplorersWeb: Why didn't you make it back then and would you like to try again?

Denis: Climbing Nanga Parbat in light style with Simone has become more interesting to me. It goes beyond winter, we planned to open a new route which is my favorite challenge on the 8000ers.

ExplorersWeb: Biggest difficulty on the peak awaiting the Russians according to you?

Denis: I'm thinking it will be the lack of weather openings in the highest parts of the route. The hurricane-force winds up there are incredible and it's important to be ready for one short summit push.

ExplorersWeb: How cold is this year compared to last?

Denis: Nanga Parbat base camp is much warmer than was Gasherbrum II BC. We are camped on bare ground with bushes around. But there is no difference above 5000 meters. It's about the same as K2 in 2003 and Makalu in 2009.

ExplorersWeb: You've been at 6600 meters already. What's your game plan from now?

Denis: We'll approach 7300 meters on the shoulder in the next step. We might stop just below for wind protection and hope to do summit push from there.
It could work via the Buhl ridge from 1953 and to the top.

ExplorersWeb: Biggest worry right now?

Denis: Too long wait for a good weather forecast.

Simone Moro and Denis Urubko make an outstanding team in the Himalayas: they bagged the first winter climbs on Makalu and GII together and are currently attempting a repeat on Nanga Parbat.

Russian-born, naturalized Kazakh Denis Urubko completed the 14x8000ers w/o O2 in 2009. He has made two first winters ascents on 8000ers, climbed new routes on Broad Peak, Cho Oyu and Manaslu, and forged many other new lines on lower peaks.

In 2003 Denis made a winter attempt on K2 led by legendary winter climber Polish Krzysztof Wielicki. Denis was selected for the final summit attempt 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. After the rescue Denis wanted to try again but the expedition was finally called off by the expedition leader.

In 2007 Denis returned to K2 with a friend and summited the peak via the North Pillar in its latest summit yet .

*Italian Simone Moro is the first climber to climb three virgin 8000ers within the deep cold of calendar winter. The mountaineer has many new routes and spectacular climbs, including on Everest, to his name. Moreover, he is a skilled skyjumper and recently licensed heli pilot.

Simone and Denis won the 2011 ExWeb Awards and it wasn't the first time. The awards lack sponsors, golden trophies and red carpet events. Winners are not even notified. The stealth prestige comes mostly from the fact that subjects are selected by their peers.

Denis Urubko is sponsored by The North Face
La'sportiva, CAMP, and Acerbis.

#Mountaineering #topstory #interview

Denis Urubko grinning at winter Nanga Parbat. The climbers flatten and bury their tents to protect gear from hard winds.
Image by Denis Urubko courtesy Denis Urubko, SOURCE
With Simone Moro (right) in a frigid high camp. The men bring the frozen and wet sleeping bags down to BC each time to dry, and then carry them back up again.
courtesy Simone Moro, SOURCE
Tight squeeze in camp 2.
Image by Simone Moro courtesy Simone Moro, SOURCE
The trek to camp 2 in a blizzard. "Few people have been on the north cwm of the Diamir glacier before so for lack of information, we have to truly discover it, like real explorers," Denis said.
Image by Matteo Zanga courtesy Winter Nanga Parbat expedition, SOURCE
The route's lower sections include a treacherous icefall. "Every step is new and interesting. We are searching for a route and a new chance every day."
Image by Matteo Zanga courtesy Winter Nanga Parbat expedition, SOURCE
The coveted Nanga Parbat, in winter, as seen from BC. Starting on the glacier at 4400 meters Simone and Denis are belayed to each other at every step.
Image by Matteo Zanga courtesy Winter Nanga Parbat expedition, SOURCE