Polish ski mountaineer Andrzej Bargiel has made the coveted first ski descent of K2 (8611m) in the Karakoram range. This was Bargiel's second attempt at a descent; a feat which has long attracted the world's best ski mountaineers without success, often ending in tragedy. Bargiel descended via a combination of the normal route (Abruzzi), the Basque route to camp 3, then traversed via Messner's variant to the Polish route and skied down to base camp - all without removing his skis.
Bargiel had soent a few weeks acclimatising in the Karakoram before attempting the climb and descent. Beginning on 19th July, he ascended to the 2nd base camp. The following morning Bargiel and his team moved to 3rd base camp at 7000m, before leaving for and reaching the summit on 22nd July at 11:30am local time.
Not wishing to hang around, Bargiel promptly set off on his ski descent. He managed to link snowy sections the entire way down, on what is widely regarded as the most technical and dangerous peak in the world.
From the summit, he descended along the shoulder towards the Cesen Route, passing below huge seracs, then along the Messner traverse, and the arête on the Kukuczka-Piotrowski route. Crevasse-ridden snow fields were the next obstacle to negotiate. Bargiel made one abseil around 50 metres above the Bottleneck and was forced to wait in Camp 4 as clouds cleared and visibility improved. He arrived at base camp around 7:30pm local time.
Bargiel was supported in this project by his brother, Bartłomiej - whose drone skills recently helped rescue Scottish mountaineer Rick Allen on Broad Peak - Janusz Gołąb, Piotr Pawlus, Marek Ogień and a team of Sherpas.
Other notable ski descents made by the 30 year-old include Shishapangma's Central summit in 2013, Manaslu in 2014 and Broad Peak in 2015. In 2016, Bargiel aborted a ski descent on K2 due to high temperatures and risky conditions.
K2 Ski Descent attempts - via Planetmountain.com
- 1998 - Edmund Joyeusaz of Italy skied from around 7000m
- 2001 - Italian Hans Kammerlander skied circa 400 metres down from the summit before abandoning his attempt to save a fallen Korean climber.
- 2009 - American David Watson skied the Bottleneck
- 2009 - Italian Michele Fait fell to his death while skiing from Camp 2 with Fredrik Ericsson
- 2010 - Fredrik Ericsson died after a fall from the Bottleneck while climbing, with the intention of making a ski descent
- 2011 - Luis Stitzinger skied from 8050m to base camp.
Watch a video of Andrzej climbing to the summit: