Urubko abandons Gasherbrum I winter expedition after crevasse fall

Denis Urubko in the icefall on Gasherbrum I
Denis Urubko in the icefall on Gasherbrum I

It could have turned out worse. Denis Urubko wanted to climb up to Camp 2 at 6,400 meters on the eight-thousander Gasherbrum I in Pakistan at the weekend. However, at an altitude of 5,500 meters, Denis says he fell into a six to seven meter deep crevasse in the icefall. After an hour, his Pakistani climbing partner Hassan Shigri managed to help Urubko out of the crevasse. By this time, it had started to snow. “We spent a bad night and descended to base camp,” Urubko told the Spanish mountaineering portal desnivel.com. “I have frostbite on my fingers and can’t continue the expedition.” I’ll spare you the less than appetizing picture of his fingers. It shows that climbing is out of the question for Denis for the time being.

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Winter expedition on Gasherbrum I: Denis Urubko crosses the icefall for the first time

Denis Urubko on Gasherbrum I
Denis Urubko on Gasherbrum I

After the Spaniard Alex Txikon and his companions on Annapurna I in western Nepal abandoned their expedition and returned home, Denis Urubko is the only remaining mountaineer still hoping for success on an eight-thousander this winter: on Gasherbrum I, also known as Hidden Peak, in the Karakoram in Pakistan.

Together with his Pakistani companion Hassan Shigri, the 50-year-old climbed through the icefall above the base camp towards Camp 1 (5,900 meters) and deposited equipment. Urubko reported to his partner, the Spanish climber Pipi Cardell, that he had had to break trail through a 30 to 80 centimeter high layer of snow. Denis plans to continue climbing alone from Camp 2 at around 6,400 meters.

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Alex Txikon abandons Annapurna winter expedition

Alex Txikon at Annapurna I
Alex Txikon at Annapurna I

“I cannot afford to expose my companions any further,” writes Alex Txikon on Instagram today, “and so, after discussing and meditating all morning, we have decided to say yes to life, leaving behind our pretensions of continuing to try.”

On Thursday, Txikon’s team had abandoned the ascent towards the summit of Annapurna I at Camp 3 at 6,400 meters and returned to base camp. In the days before, it had stormed heavily on the 8,091-meter-high mountain in western Nepal. The material deposited in Camp 3 a week earlier had been blown into a crevasse.

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40 years ago: Berbeka and Gajewski achieve the first winter ascent of Manaslu

Maciej Berbeka on the "True Summit" of Manaslu on 12 January 1984 (Photo: Ryszard Gajewski)
Maciej Berbeka on the “True Summit” of Manaslu on 12 January 1984 (Photo: Ryszard Gajewski)

“Over there, the altitude, plus the temperature, plus the wind, plus the exhaustion make us fight for every step,” said Maciej Berbeka after his return from the eight-thousander Manaslu in western Nepal. “It’s simply a nightmare.” On 12 January 1984 – 40 years ago today – the Polish climber reached the summit of the eighth highest mountain on earth with his compatriot Ryszard Gajewski. It was the first winter ascent of Manaslu and the first ascent of an eight-thousander without bottled oxygen.

Incited by Messner

Expedition leader Lech Korniszewski, a 47-year-old doctor and mountaineer from Zakopane, the highest town in Poland, had gathered a young team around him. The average age of the climbers was 31; Berbeka and Gajewski were 29 years old. The two had been friends since childhood, their fathers worked together at the mountain rescue service in Zakopane. The team chose the so-called “Tyrolean route” through the South Face, which Reinhold Messner had opened in spring 1972. Messner had incited the Poles with his words that he did not believe that the route he had first climbed was possible in winter.

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Annapurna winter expedition: rotation or summit attempt by Alex Txikon and Co.

Annapurna massif (Annapurna I on the left)
Annapurna massif (Annapurna I on the left)

The Spaniard Alex Txikon and his team set off from the base camp of Annapurna I this morning Nepalese local time. In strong winds, they reached Camp 1 at an altitude of around 5,000 meters. According to Txikon’s media team, they had to pause for an hour on the way due to a strong avalanche.

This is the climbers’ third so-called rotation on the eight-thousander in western Nepal. The main aim is to acclimatize further. On the last round a week ago, the team brought equipment up to Camp 3 at around 6,700 meters. Due to stormy gusts in the summit area, the climbers did not continue their ascent but returned to base camp.

Even before the new ascent, the team kept the possibility of a summit attempt open. “We’ll see the weather forecast,” said Italian Mattia Conte in a video posted on Instagram yesterday. “Slowly, slowly, without stress!” The winter weather is expected to be relatively calm over the next few days. After that, it should snow again.

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