History of the four attempts at winter K2


Winter Ochomilism

Only four expeditions in history have tried so far the only main Echomil that has ever been promoted in winter. There have only been Polish (1987-88, 2002-03 and 2017-18) and Russian (2011-12 and 2018-19) attempts, with Krzysztof Wielicki and Denis Urubko as major players to date.


The K2 (8,611 m) is the only great summit of more than 8,000 meters that has never been climbed in winter. The other colossi have been falling one by one since the eighties, first those of Nepal and then those of Pakistan, but the roof of the Karakórum remains inviolate in the coldest season of the year.

In fact, from a historical perspective, there have not been too many winter attempts to K2. Only four expeditions (3 of Polish and 1 Russian initiative) have spent winters in the base camp. Number to which will be added at least another Russian expedition this winter. Taking advantage of the fact that winter is approaching and that K2 will once again be the protagonist, let's review what happened with each of the previous expeditions.

Poles (with Canadians and British) 1987-88

The first expedition to attempt it was directed by the Polish Andrzej Zawada in the winter of 1987-1988. That team consisted of 23 mountaineers of Polish (thirteen), Canadian (six) and British (four) mountaineers. They arrived in December at base camp, where they had to dig tunnels to access their stores buried under the snow. They remained 80 days in the base camp of which they only registered ten days of good weather . They suffered freezes, some of their stores were swept by the wind and their ropes disappeared under the snow … The highest altitude they reached before retiring were the 7,300 meters of their C3, in two raids: the first on 2 March in charge of the Poles Leszek Cichy and Krysztof Wielicki and the second on March 6 starring the British Roger Mear and the Canadian Jean-François Gagnon ].

Poles (and ex-Soviets) 2002-03

Fifteen years passed until Krysztof Wielicki took charge of an expedition to return to K2 in the winter of 2002-2003. On that occasion, the team consisted of 19 mountaineers of nationality Polish (fifteen), Kazakh (two), Georgian (one) and Uzbek (one), although there were several desertions a half expedition. On this occasion, the vanguard managed to reach field 4, which they installed at 7,650 m, and was formed by the Poles Marcin Kaczkan and Piotr Morawski and the Kazakh Denis Urubko . The hurricane winds gave no respite to the expedition, which retreated after a summit attack in late February, aborted when Denis Urubko and Marcin Kaczkan discovered that C4 had flown. After spending a bad night in the emergency tent they were carrying, Kaczkan began to show symptoms of cerebral edema, which led the two climbers to back down. On their way, they met Wielicki, who came up with hot drink and medicine from C3, where he had spent the night. The three descended together and there were no more attempts.

Russians (and former Soviets) 2011-12

The third attempt, in the winter of 2011-2012, had the Russian signature of its leader Viktor Kozlov and 16 members . The very strong team progressed very well during the first month and a half of expedition. On January 31, Iljas Tukhvatullin, Andrew Mariev and Vadim Popovich managed to fix rope up to 7,200 meters. However, that same day, his companion Vitaly Gorelik was affected by frostbite on the fingers of both hands, coinciding with the arrival of bad weather. The meteorological conditions did not allow its evacuation in the following days, until finally it died and the expedition was canceled.

Permission canceled 2014-15

In 2014, the expectation skyrocketed when Denis Urubko announced that he was going to return to the winter K2 with two partners as expert as Adam Bielecki and Alex Txikon . The mountaineer (by then nationalized Russian), did not want to return to Pakistan at that time, for fear of insecurity, and chose the northern slope. However, a few days after leaving, the Chinese authorities denied the ascension permits and the expedition had to be canceled .

Poles 2017-18

After the winter climb to the Nanga Parbat starring in February 2016 by Alex Txikon, Ali Sadpara and Simone Moro, all eyes were on the K2 again. It took two years for the Poles to organize a new winter expedition to the last eight-thousander slope, again led by Krzysztof Wielicki and integrated by a great team in which there were no missing stars like Adam Bielecki or Denis Urubko (now nationalized Polish ) plus eight other Polish mountaineers and five Pakistani high-altitude porters. The development of the expedition was very uneven, with express rescue in the Nanga Parbat, several accidents by falling of stones, change of route and mutiny of Denis Urubko that launched an attack alone without permission with which It marked the highest point of the expedition, around 7,600 m, where it had to turn around before the anticipated arrival of a storm. After that, Urubko left the base camp, and a few days later Krzysztof Wielicki announced the end of the expedition.