The team attempting a first winter summit of the world’s second highest mountain has turned back.
After two months of subfreezing temperatures, gale-force winds, and dramatic twists, a team of elite Polish mountaineers is abandoning its historic attempt to summit K2 in winter. The week of March 5, 2018, expedition leader Krzysztof Wielicki officially declared the expedition to be over. His team began dismantling their base camp in a remote corner of northeast Pakistan, and the following Sunday they began their arduous 60-mile trek through the snowy Karakoram Range back to the closest road.
In the end, it wasn’t the threat of ferocious winds blowing the climbers off the mountain that spelled the end of their expedition but rather the threat of being buried under tons of snow.
I had been able to reach Wielicki by satellite phone as he was weighing his decision whether to continue the expedition. He explained that there had been more snow than on previous winter expeditions, which made the risks much higher. “Avalanches have swept away Camp 3 in the past, and we must be extremely careful.”
“There is still hope,” he said. “But if it doesn’t stop snowing, it will become impossible.”