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.

Insurance not activated

Denis Urubko with Hassan Shigri (r.)
Denis Urubko with Hassan Shigri (r.)

The mountaineer, who was born in the Russian North Caucasus, has to make his way back to Skardu on foot. The reason: his insurance was not activated for the winter expedition. Denis would therefore have to pay for an evacuation with a Pakistani military helicopter entirely out of his own pocket. The 50-year-old had wanted to climb Gasherbrum I – according to his personal interpretation – for the first time in winter. For Urubko, winter ascents only count as such if they are successful before the end of the meteorological winter at the end of February.  The only summit success to date on Gasherbrum I in the cold season was achieved by the two Poles Adam Bielecki and Janusz Golab on 9 March 2012 – in the calendar winter.

The main thing is to survive

Urubko has already stood on eight-thousand-metre peaks 27 times, always without bottled oxygen. He achieved two first winter ascents of eight-thousanders: of the 8,485-meter-high Makalu (in 2009 with the Italian Simone Moro) and the 8,034-meter-high Gasherbrum II (in 2011 with Moro and the American Cory Richards). Denis was relatively relaxed about the fact that his attempt on Gasherbrum I ended prematurely. “It was very unlucky to miss this opportunity, because the conditions were good. But I survived,” he wrote to desnivel.com.

This means that this winter season on the eight-thousanders will probably come to an end without a summit success. Before Urubko on Gasherbrum I, the Spaniard Alex Txikon and his team had also abandoned their winter expedition on Annapurna I in western Nepal.

Denis Urubko at the hospital in Skardu
At the hospital in Skardu

Update 31 January: Urubko reached Skardu today and went to the military hospital to have the frostbite on his fingers treated. “Fingers are good, all vitals are superb. He will fully recover,” his team says.

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