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K2/Chogori Winter 2003

Dispatch 2/13/03: Nobody has been any higher

Denis Urubko and Piotr Morawski have established camp IV at 7630 m. It is for the first time that climbers have reached such an altitude on K2 in winter.

?Hi, greetings from ?number four' ? we heard the voice of Piotr Morawski during the evening communication with the base. ? We are 100 m above the place where we installed fixed ropes yesterday. We pitched our camp on a little rock, exactly on the spot of the Russian base, and the base of Poles and Italians from 1996. Our little tent sits on another, older one. We are sitting in it and shivering with cold.?

Whenever the clouds did not block out the vision, Krzysztof Wielicki tried to direct Denis and Piotr to the place of the camp he had established himself less than seven years ago. Back then, he set out to the summit from a tent sitting 200 m higher. He had reached the summit at night already. On the way back, he went through a dramatic bivouac and the rescuing operation of his frostbitten and exhausted partner.

The Japanese alpinists, who in the summer of 1982 were the first ones to conquer K2's Northern Pillar, did not manage to return to the highest camp before dark, either. Both the first four-person team and the second team consisting of three alpinists were forced to bivouac during their descent; they did not use any oxygen cylinders. One of the Japanese (Yukihiro Yanagisawa), exhausted after a night spent without a down jacket or sleeping bag, fell down the following day and died.

From the present camp IV to K2's summit (8611 m), one has to cover an altitude difference of one kilometer. And then return. ?The one who's going to try to reach the summit ? said Denis from camp IV ? has to be well-adjusted and has to have a strong psyche.? There will not be any more fixed ropes above. And the way leads mostly on the glacier, and then on a rocky ridge. The last 300 m are not visible from the base from the northern side.

The tent of camp IV sits on a safe spot. It is protected from strong western winds by a high ridge. The alpinists still want to establish the last 300 m of ropes. Another team should do this, however. Urubko and Morawski have already spent their fourth night above 7000 m. (Marcin Kaczkan has returned to the base today.) They are very tired.

The present expedition has already broken the altitude record that man has ever achieved in winter on K2. During the former, first winter expedition in history from the southern, Pakistani side that was headed by Andrzej Zawada at the turn of 1987, Krzysztof Wielicki and Leszek Cichy reached 7100 m.

Monika Rogozińska from the base under K2

Written by Monika Rogozinska, "Rzeczpospolita"; translated by "Scrivanek".