Skiing K2 – Adventurer’s World First!
Skiing Down K2
A skier has decided to defy Himalayas’ K2 intimidating history and imposing slopes and try first to climb the mountain and then slide down its entire 8,611 metres (28,251 ft) on skis for the first time in history within the next month!
Polish mountaineer Andrzej Bargiel (29) is a seasoned mountaineer whose undoubted skills and excellent physical conditioning make him the ideal candidate and a worthy opponent for the feared mountain.
With nearly a decade of extreme skiing and climbing feats behind him, the record-holding Mountaineer plans on climbing one of the World’s most treacherous peaks and then by skiing his way back – something that has never been tried before.
Still, many people, among them skilled and experienced skiers, believe the attempt entails too many risks.
But first, let us meet the ‘contestants.’
K2 – Himalaya’s Deadliest Peak
K2, also known as Mount Godwin-Austen or Chhogori, dominating the famed Karakoram range in the borders of China and Pakistan, is the second-highest peak on earth (beaten only by Everest by around 800 feet) and without doubt one of the world’s most perilous peaks
Not just because of its tremendous height, but also for its general morphological characteristics, as well as the extreme weather conditions, which are known to change rapidly within the same day.
Note that contrary to Annapurna (the mountain with the highest fatality-to-summit rate, with 191 summits and 61 fatalities) and all other peaks higher than 8,000 metres, K2 is the only one that has never been climbed during the winter – and not because no one has tried it.
Taking all these into account, it is not surprising that no more than 300 people have ever managed to reach its top and tame its slopes, which is just a small percentage of those who have actually tried to do it. Unfortunately, many of those who failed during the last century paid it with their lives.
The ratio is staggering: for every four who have tried to conquer K2’s peak, one has perished, including very skilled and experienced mountaineers that had climbed the mountain before. Deaths amount to 77 in total.
The fact that its celebrated rival, Everest, has been conquered more than 5,500 times, is indicative of how much more difficult an ascent to K2 really is.
That is why it was given the sad nickname ‘the Savage Mountain’, holding the second-highest fatality rate among all peaks exceeding eight thousand metres heigh.
Who is Andrzej Bargiel?
Described as one of the most talented Mountaineers alive, Bargiel has won fame and acclaim for record-breaking climbs, despite his relatively young age.
The fearless Pole has devoted the last 10 years of his life in extreme skiing and rapid climbs, but, according to him, he is far from reaching his prime.
Having climbed the five summits over 7,000m in the former Soviet Union in less than 30 days (namely 29 days and 17 hours), Bargiel was awarded the renowned Snow Leopard prize for his tremendous achievement. The mountains include the Lenin Peak (23,406 ft), Peak Korzhenevskaya (23,310 ft), Ismoil Somoni Peak (24,590 ft), Khan Tengri (23,000 ft) and Jengish Chokusu (24,406 ft).
Striving to find new challenges that could test his skill and determination, he set a record in 2014 for climbing another tough and treacherous summit, the Manaslu of the Nepalese Himalayas, reaching the almost 27,000ft peak in a little more than 14 hours!
Clearly, Bargiel has both the skill and the experience needed to realise his ambitious plan. Besides, he isn’t the first who thought of doing it.
Previous Failed Attempts
Almost 17 years ago, the famous Italian mountaineer Hans Kammerlander hurled down K2’s slopes on skis but was forced to stop before reaching down when daylight faded, and another climber lost his life while trying to conquer the mountain.
Later on, other skilled skiers repeated the attempt, and actually succeeded in skiing down most of one of its routes – but without reaching first K2’s fierce peak.
Two of the bigger names are Fredrik Erikson (Sweden/Chamonix) and Dave Watson (USA, Minnesota). While neither of them has had success, both have experienced tragic events. Fredrik’s partner Michele Fait (Italy) slipped while skiing and fell to his death while descending from Camp 2. Understandably not wanting to continue, Fredrik aborted his attempt.
According to Bargiel, it was these previous failed attempts that convinced him the descent is feasible.
Will This Attempt Succeed?
The key, as Bargiel says, in successfully climbing and skiing down K2 lies in careful, diligent and strenuous preparation, excellent physical condition and prior experience in high-altitude descents.
There are numerous routes on K2, of different difficulty level, but all feature certain important adversities.
Besides the obvious problem of the lack of oxygen due to K2’s extremely high altitude, the mountain is hit by extreme storms that often last several days; in fact, this factor is considered mainly responsible for most of the deaths around the summit.
Last but not least, K2’s steep, exposed, and committing routes make retreat very difficult, particularly in bad weather.
Hence, there are factors Bargiel admits are out of his control, especially the weather conditions and the state of the snow in various parts of the mountain. So, he wishes luck will prove his ally the day he makes his attempt.
His motive? Well, apart from being an evident adrenaline addict, he craves to see his name carved into the Himalayan mountaineering legend.
The eyes of the international mountaineering and extreme sports community are fixed on the young Bargiel, anticipating to learn the exact date of his attempt and wishing him good luck and a safe return.