Denis Urubko: On his birthday without breathing mask on top of K2

Denis Urubko
Denis Urubko

The unstoppable. According to Denis Urubko, he stood on the 8,611-meter-high summit of K2 this morning, at 7:30 a.m. local time in Pakistan. In doing so, he gave himself the best present on his 49th birthday. As with all his many previous ascents, Denis climbed without bottled oxygen on the second highest mountain on earth. “I was alone above Camp 4,” Urubko let it be known via Facebook.

Within ten days, the climber, who was born in the Russian North Caucasus, thus reached three eight-thousand-meter peaks – in a rush via the normal routes, without breathing mask, without a companion. First Urubko scaled Broad Peak (8,051 meters) on 19 July, then Gasherbrum II (8.034 meters) on 25 July, and now K2.

Oirzabal’s mark reached

The 8,611-meter-high K2 in the Karakoram (in 2004)

By his own count, Denis has now stood on eight-thousanders 26 times, always without bottled oxygen. In February, Urubko had announced that he wanted “to beat the record of (the Spaniard) Juanito Oiarzabal, with 26 ascents over 8,000m”.

It was the retirement of retirement. In February 2020, Urubko had still declared his impressive eight-thousander career over. Among other things, he had succeeded in the first winter ascents of Makalu (in 2009 with Simone Moro) and Gasherbrum II (in 2011 with Moro and Cory Richards). For his new, direct route through the Cho Oyu Southeast Face (with Boris Dedeshko), he had been awarded the Piolet d’Or, the “Oscar of Climbers”, in 2010. Urubko had already scaled K2 in 2007: with Serguey Samoilov (he died two years later on Lhotse) via the seldom-climbed Japanese route on the North Ridge.

Creativity in search of adventure and freedom

Mountaineering, Urubko told me a few years ago, is for him a form of “expressing myself, taking risks. It releases adrenalin to climb dangerous routes and stay alive” According to Denis, he is primarily looking for adventure, but he also finds freedom in the mountains. “Here I can change situations with my hands and my will alone.” His will remains as strong as ever. He proved that this summer in the Karakoram.

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