K2, in Pakistan’s Karakoram, is the world’s second highest peak at 8610 meters. The Kazakh team’s ascent marks not only the latest date in the season the peak has ever seen an ascent, but also the first ascent of the north side of the mountain in eleven years. 281 people have summited the peak, but only 32 from the north side.
A Kazakh team comprised of top alpinists Denis Urubko and Serguey Samoilov has summited K2’s (8610m) North Ridge, making the latest season ascent of the peak in history. The pair initially intended to climb a new route on the peak’s north face but was stymied by increasingly deteriorating conditions. After finding their intended route menaced by growing avalanche danger, they traversed onto the normal North Ridge route, which was pioneered by a large Japanese expedition in 1982, and proceeded to ascend it using no fixed ropes, oxygen, or pre-stocked camps.
The pair arrived in base camp in late August. After several acclimatization climbs on K2’s North Ridge and Northwest Ridge, reaching 8300 meters on the former route on September 16, they returned to base camp to rest. The team intended then to climb a new, direct route to the summit that led the left of the North Ridge Route on a shallow spur.
On Friday, September 28, after climbing part of their new route, the team was pinned by a blizzard. After several hours of waiting, the team decided that the avalanche danger they faced on the north face was too great. They traversed onto the 1982 Japanese Route on the north ridge of the mountain and climbed to Camp 2 by Saturday.
On Sunday, September 30, climbing through “very bad weather”, the team reached Camp 3. With a brief weather window of “clear, but windy and cold” conditions, they reached Camp 4. There, the weather took a turn again, but the Kazakhs climbed on, reaching the summit and returning to the high camp on Tuesday.
Previously, the latest autumn ascent of K2 was made in 1978, when an American team reached the summit on September 6 and 7, via a route combining the Northeast Ridge and the Abruzzi Spur. The North Ridge of K2 has not been summited since 1996.
Urubko and Samoilov have become one of the best teams in the Himalaya in recent years. On May 8, 2006, the pair climbed a new route on the northeast side of Manaslu (8163m). A few days earlier, they’d reached the top via the normal route, making the first ascent of the peak in three years. In 2005 Urubko and Samoilov opened, onsight, an alpine-style route in very bad conditions on the previously unclimbed southwest face of Broad Peak (8047m).