Polish Climbers Heading to K2


Updated on 10/08/2018

One thing we never mentioned in the K2 article here at SilverMedals.net is that even though the mountain has been climbed many times, it has never been summited in the winter. That may not seem like much of a necessary fact for most readers, but for mountain climbers that is significant. For the most part, mountains are harder to climb in the winter, especially the 14 peaks on Earth that are over 8,000m. So far 13 of those 14 have been climbed during a winter season, with that lone outlier unsurprisingly being K2. But that may change according to this excellent article in the May 9, 2017, New York Times, titled  “Scaling the World’s Most Lethal Mountain, in the Dead of Winter“, by Michael Powell, with photographs by Max Whittaker.

The article presents a group of Polish climbers who are set on climbing K2 in the coming 2017-18 winter season. There is also some mention of the different styles of climbing involved and some of the technical challenges, but the most interesting bits involve some of the generational differences in how to approach the mountain and the general recent history of the Polish love of mountain climbing. 

Of course the article also mentions how they team will have to trudge through knee-deep snow 70 miles from the nearest village to the base of K2, before they even get their cramponed feet onto the mountain. Once they get going, for the three days they estimate it will take them to get to the top, the climbers will have to put up with hurricane force winds and temperatures dropping down to -80°F, in the prohibitively thin air. The climbers will have to put up with all that while scaling what are essentially sheer cliffs, with huge overhanging seracs, which for no particular or predictable reason can dislodge chunks of ice which will slide down these steep slopes, killing all below. 

It’s difficult for many logical flatlanders to understand why a group of rational grown men would want to risk their lives doing something as profoundly dangerous as a K2 climb in winter. One thing I liked about the article is that several of the climbers interviewed were pretty forthcoming about their reasons, along with their general thoughts toward taking on such challenges.

Hopefully by next winter, we’ll be able to update the K2 entry here with the story of these Polish climbers and their successful ascent. Of course, then the SilverMedals crew will be chomping at the bit to find out who the second team to summit K2 in the winter will be. The watch is on.