Kazakhs Climb K2's North Ridge


K2's north side: The red line marks the route that Serguey Samoilov and Denis Urubko had hoped to attempt. Although the red line is labeled “North Ridge” in this photo, that name is usually given to the 1982 Japanese Route, shown in green. Samoilov and Urubko summited via the 1982 route on October 2.

After abandoning their dreams of an alpine-style new route on the North Face of K2 because of continuing severe weather, Serguey Samoilov and Denis Urubko succeeded on the rarely climbed North Ridge of the 28,250-foot peak on October 2. The Kazakh climbers' rapid ascent, in very difficult conditions and with no supplementary oxygen, marked the latest date in the year that K2 has ever been climbed.

After arriving at base camp in late August, Samoilov and Urubko acclimatized on K2's Northwest Ridge and North Ridge, reaching 8,300 meters on the latter route on September 16. Back in base camp, they rested for their attempt on a direct route up a shallow spur on the North Face, left of the North Ridge route. But persistent poor weather loaded the face with snow, creating dangerous avalanche conditions.

The two climbers approached the face on September 27, but a blizzard that night scrubbed any hope of an attempt on the new route. Instead, they traversed to the North Ridge, reaching Camp 2 on that route on September 29 in poor weather. They next day was clear, though windy and cold, and they continued to Camp 3, and on October 1, despite a new storm, they climbed to Camp 4. On October 2, they reached the summit and returned to high camp.

The Chinese side of K2 is rarely climbed. The North Ridge was first ascended by a large Japanese expedition in 1982 and has seen only a handful of repeats, the most recent in 1996. Until now, the latest autumn ascent of K2 was a 1978 American team's summits on September 6 and 7, via the Northeast Ridge.

Samoilov and Urubko have formed one of the most powerful Himalayan teams in recent history. In 2005, they climbed a new route on Broad Peak in pure alpine style, and in 2006 they did the same on Manaslu.

Date of Ascent: October 2, 2007

Sources: Russianclimb.com, K2climb.net, American Alpine Journal

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