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Denis Urubko about K2

/ Mountain News

Claiming I was afraid would be an understatement. I am well aware of the risk factor. Just like all the other expeditions I took part in – says Denis Urubko, in charge of the K2 winter expedition that starts in the beginning of December.

Winter K2 – how come?

We are going to climb in a team of three: Adam Bielecki, Alex Txikon and myself. We are good friends. We participated in mountaineering expeditions together, took part in Polish and Baskian mountain festivals together. Having accomplished the Kanjenjunga expedition we came to a conclusion that we were able to take on this challenge. Unanimously we agreed this would be an interesting experience.

Why have you chosen Adam Bielecki?

And why has Adam chosen me? First of all, we are good friends. Secondly, I am fond of his independent thinking and personal values. I admire his climbing style and stamina.

The history of alpinism proves the Poles to rule the highest mountains in the winters. Do you treat Adam’s participance in K2 expedition as a sort of a good omen or the way to secure a victory?

In such battle, Adam is irreplaceable. I am really glad that a Pole will have his chance to attack the summit of K2 in winter.

Denis Urubko-mDenis Urubko. Fot. Wikipedia

Having come back from Broad Peak winter expedition, Adam has faced just as much public acclaim as criticism...

When you are young, you have your priorities but should obey the older ones. Since Maciej Berbeka decided to attack the summit (he was the most experienced in the group), then none was entitled to take away the leadership from him or to take over the role of becoming the one responsible for the lives of the accompanying people and his own. Adam was very well prepared, way better than the rest of the members. Everything he did was in accord with the logics of the events.

Do you trust him?

I do. And I think he trusts me just as well.

I have heard it was hard to find sponsors for the expedition. Do you think it had something to do with how the Polish winter Broad Peak expedition ended?

I don’t see any relation to that event. We have found the sponsors and the public became interested in our project. You interviewing me is proof enough.

When recruiting the climbers for this expedition did you rather take into account their experience or their personalities?

You should consider everything. But the most important thing is, that all of us wanted to have a shot at K2 in winter. Each one of us has a lot of experience that we gained in the high mountains during winters, and then there is friendship. In the last few years we came across one another often and we formed climbing teams. Eventually, we climbed Kanjenjunga together.

k2-3-mK2 Image:portalgorski.pl

How are the preparations for the expedition so far?

There are many matters that need attention, questions waiting for an answer and doubts. Though we have to find a way through. Every each one of us has collected funds for their participance in the endeavor, we have solved the matters of food and equipment, set the time and details of arrival. Generally speaking – the routine stuff (laugh). But what a fascinating kind of routine this is!

Do you have a specific expedition plan yet?

We are beginning in the end of December. We will meet in Kashgar (western China) and have a few days’ time for organisational matters as purchasing equipment and food. Then we will spend two days in a car on our way to a mountain pass. There no man’s land starts and this is where we will cross the Chinese border.

You are planning to climb K2 from the north, which among the climbers is said to be quite risky…

Most climbers believe attacking K2 in winter is too risky. Well, it is true. But having analysed all the failures and tragedies I came to a conclusion that a new route from the north, through the eastern ridge is not such a bad idea. What I want to do is to hide behind the mountain from the wind, exploit the better snow conditions on our line, and to operate on a longer but much easier distance.

Did you make a workout plan designed especially for this expedition?

Naturally, just as everybody else. We have trained in the summer and autumn and are planning to train in December. You have to make long runs uphill, over big altitude differences. Another thing is completing as many rock climbing routes as possible.

In one of the interviews you claimed that keeping up a good team spirit will be harder than reaching the summit of K2 in winter. Why so?

When a group is together in a secluded place for a longer time its members grow weary of one another. Do you know how astronauts are trained and then recruited? According to their psychological profiles. It is the same here, since this will be our two months “in space”.


k2-1-mK2 Image:portalgorski.pl

Both you and Adam say that „the chances for reaching the summit are small”.

We are aware of how difficult it is going to be to the smallest details. We are optimistic, but it is countered by our common sense. The goal and conditions are really hard! Climbing this summit is probably going to be harder than all our projects in Himalayas and Karakorum so far. There we tried to achieve something that had been completed before us. K2 is not such a case.

You were at K2 in 2003 and did not reach the summit.

This story has been discussed so many times. In camp 4 at altitude of 7750 metres Marcin Kaczkan did not feel well. He had to make a descent and Krzysztof Wielicki and myself  escorted a friend.

Wielicki was in charge. How did he react for your idea of climbing K2 in winter this year?

There even was a plan to go next year from the Pakistani side with Wielicki in lead. Although that was supposed to be a Polish team, he agreed to count me in. I tried to convince him to the route from the northern side on the Eastern Ridge but to no avail. Krzysztof wanted the classical route from the south. Eventually, the Polish expedition did not happen while my friends and I have been preparing for winter 2014-2015.

Did you ask for advice from Krzysztof Wielicki when preparing this years’ expedition?

I have acquired a lot of knowledge and learned my lessons from the project of 2003. This time we will try not to make an awful lot of technical work and avoid high-factor risks when climbing.

K2 is also called the „killer mountain” – are you not afraid?

Claiming that I was afraid would be an understatement. I am well aware of the risk factor. Just like all the other expeditions I took part in.

What is your greatest fear?

Avalanches. In the winter of 2011 when climbing Gasherbrum II, the long-distance detours were very hard, we risked a lot and got under the snow once... I truly hope we can avoid such situations at K2.

It looks that you will be spending Christmas and New Year’s Eve far away from home. How do you feel about it? What does your wife say, whom you have allegedly promised never to climb K2 in winter?

Who cares we will be far away?! We will be back home in springtime which is the best season of the year. My wife is calm and knows in March we are going skiing to Italy.

You have managed to reach K2 summit and are back home. What next?

Well, I have already told you about the skiing, haven’t I? (laugh). In the spring I also plan to train youth in Sokoliki, Jura, Bilbao and Waseriano. I would also like to climb a lot and complete hard rock climbing routes. In August I am planning to travel to Caucasian mountains and try to pass the route on Ushba on the southern face. Then, Sierro Torre and Monte Fitz Roy.

Will there be a footage of your K2 expedition?

Of course! And it will contain many interesting artistic features just like the one from Kanjenjunga!.

What should we wish you before this expedition?

Good luck! And thank you for this question.

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