25 February 2003


It's this Wednesday or never

The mountaineers are climbing higher and higher amidst the blizzard. Weather permitting, especially the wind, they will attempt to reach the K2 summit on Wednesday.

Denis Urubko and Marcin Kaczkan, amidst high wind and blizzard, reached camp III this Monday (7150 m). The Russian tent ("Efimov" - ed. note) weathered the storm without much harm. But it was full of snow. Urubko, calm and good-natured as he is, was in a fury when saying on the radio phone what he thought of the colleagues leaving the tent door open. Instead of cooking, getting warm or having a rest, he had to bring the tent back to order. "It's extremely cold" - reported Denis who's not in the habit of complaining. Marcin Kaczkan joined him an hour and a half later. They are planning to climb up to camp IV (7630m) on the next day.

The expedition chief, Krzysztof Wielicki, is one day behind them and has reached camp II (6780m). On Tuesday he plans to cut the distance and, leaving out camp III, to meet his colleagues in camp IV. According to the weather forecast, fair conditions are expected on Wednesday, but unfortunately it'll be windy. More clouds and strong wind are expected on Thursday. If that forecast is right, Wednesday will be the only day to attempt reaching the summit. It's not so much the cloudless sky that matters, but rather the strength of the wind.

Up to camp IV, the climbers use fixed ropes. On the last kilometer, they no longer have this protection. In the summer of 1995, the wind blew off the wall six climbers descending the North Ridge (on the Pakistan side). Krzysztof Wielicki and Denis Urubko seem to have enough experience to judge their chances and take the right decisions.

- It's make or break - that's how the expedition's doctor, Roman Mazik, commented on the strategy to storm the summit.

Monika Rogozinska


Denis is awaiting Marcin

Dining room tent destroyed by the wind. Photo by © Monika Rogozinska

At night, the wind has destroyed the dining room tent, breaking the aluminum poles. Gusts of wind are throwing people to the ground. Nonetheless, the attack on K2 continues.

K2 is clouded over once again. Jerzy Natkanski and Jacek Jawien, who had unearthed camp I (6030 m) from underneath the snow and spent a night in it, tried to reach camp II (6780) the following day. A blizzard, little avalanches of dust and flying rocks caused them to turn back from the steep ice-fields leading up. Meanwhile, Denis Urubko has reached camp I together with Marcin Kaczkan. Denis' requests over the radiotelephone to hold out were in vain. They have returned to the base.

At night, the wind tore the dining room tent at the base. Krzysztof Wielicki, the head of the expedition, was running between the tents on Sunday morning, awaking his friends so that they could help him to save it. Their drowsiness might have made him feel forlorn in his fight against the elements. He walked away into the blizzard without saying goodbye. He has decided to constantly execute the plan of attacking the summit, despite the gale and the blizzard. It takes five days to climb the summit. According to the weather forecast, there are two clearer days ahead. Wielicki wants to be as high as possible when the weather improves. He reached camp I by himself. The camp is sheltered from the wind by the high edge of an ice-crack. "It was tough" - that is all he said over the radiotelephone to the base.

Denis Urubko and Marcin Kaczkan have not pulled back from tremendous difficulties, either. The very same day, they ascended to camp II. "I pitched the tent. It's undamaged, but empty, and I'm struggling inside so that the wind, which is very strong, won't sweep it away along with me. I'm waiting for Marcin to arrive and help me to weigh it down" - said Urubko. Apart from these three alpinists, the slopes of K2 are empty.

Monika Rogozinska
Feb. 23, 2003