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with Stefan Nestler

K2 winter expedition: “Democracy weakens the team”

K2, the “king of the eight-thousanders”

One does not have to be a prophet to predict that K2 will be besieged regularly in winter until it is also scaled in the cold season. The second highest mountain in the world is the last remaining eight-thousander, the summit of which is still untouched in winter. After the failed Polish expedition from the beginning of this year, a team from three states of the former Soviet Union will attempt “Chogori”, as the local Balti call the mountain, next winter: Five Russians, four Kazakhs and two Kyrgyz. “We must be in Islamabad at the latest on 2 January,” writes me Artem Brown. The Russian, born in 1976, has been organizing the winter expedition.

Without bottled oxygen

Pivtsov and Zhumayev on the very last meters to K2 summit (in 2011)

Vassiliy Pivtsov will be the expedition leader. The 42-year-old Kazakh has scaled all 14 eight-thousanders. In August 2011, he completed his collection on K2: Along with his compatriot Maxut Zhumayev, the Polish Darek Zaluski and the Austrian Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, he reached the summit via the rarely climbed North Pillar route on the Chinese side of the mountain. Zhumayev and Kaltenbrunner also completed their eight-thousander collections at that time; they had forgone bottled oxygen on all their climbs. Pivtsov had only used a breathing mask on his descent from Mount Everest, because he had been not doing well. Pivtsov’s team wants to make the first winter ascent of K2 without bottled oxygen. Only for possible emergencies, oxygen is in the luggage.

Like a lighthouse near the ocean

View to K2 from the base camp

The mountaineers from Russia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan want to climb via the classic Abruzzi Spur route opened by the first ascenders of K2. “It’s pretty safe,” says Artem Brown. “To change something in the course of the expedition, probably will be the complicating factor.” It’s complicated enough anyway. It is not for nothing that K2 is the last remaining eight-thousander to be scaled in winter. “It is the northernmost eight-thousander, in addition it is located just like a lighthouse near the ocean, it meets strong winds. The weather on it is unpredictable,” explains Artem. Nevertheless, he is confident that the climbers from three nations will be able to land the winter coup at the end. “We have a good team, several winter expeditions lie behind us, enough experience to try. K2 will check it.”


“Making mountaineering more popular”

Artem Brown

The decisions on the mountain will be made by expedition leader Pivtsov, Artem Brown points out, adding that there will be no democratic votes on tactics: “Democracy on a submarine? Democracy at war? It weakens the team.”

At the beginning of the year, people throughout Poland shared the excitement with the climbers of the K2 winter expedition. Artem does not expect a similar enthusiasm in Russia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. “There are people in our countries who admire us. But nationwide, the interest is low. Perhaps we will make mountaineering more popular.”

Is Alex Txikon coming, too?

Maybe Artem Brown meets an old acquaintance on K2. The Spaniard Alex Txikon was also granted a climbing permit for this winter by the Pakistani government for the 8,611 meters high mountain in the Karakoram. Txikon, who failed on Mount Everest in the past two winters, has not yet specified whether he will really use his K2 permit. Brown and Txikon, together with the Russians Denis Urubko and Dmitrii Sinev and the Polish Adam Bielecki, had opened a new route variant via the north face of the eight-thousander Kangchenjunga in spring 2014. Urubko had been the only one of the team to reach the summit at 8,586 meters.

P.S.: The members of the international K2 winter expedition communicate via Instagram:@winterk2exp2019.


20. November 2018 | 0:44