Departing immediately after Christmas celebrations, straight into the heavy winter conditions besetting the Karakoram Range in Gilgit-Baltistan province near the Pakistan/China border, The North Face® three-man expedition team – Simone Moro (ITA), Denis Urubko (KAZ) and Cory Richards (CAN) – aim for the snow-laden summit of Gasherbrum II (G2) to attempt the first successful winter ascent of an 8,000m peak in the Karakoram – without sherpas, porters, and oxygen.
The journey to reach the 5,000m base camp by the second week of January 2011 will be aided by military helicopter, since hiring local, high altitude porters is not possible. A favourable summit bid, in a pure alpine, light, fast style, is fully dependant on a minimal weather window between end of January and March 2011. Enveloped by severe snow storms, treacherous winds and extreme cold, the conditions will force Moro, Urubko and Richards to be camped in tents for numerous weeks until the elements turn favourable for the seasoned climbers to pursue their goal.
Leader of the expedition is renowned Italian alpinist and The North Face® athlete, Simone Moro, who, with over 40 expedition achievements to his name, including ten in winter, has paved the alpine history books with the first winter ascents of Cerro Mirador (1993); Marble Wall (2001); 8000m Shisha Pangma (2005); and, the historic summit of the 8,481m Nepali peak, Makalu (2009).
Accompanying Moro is decade-long climbing partner and mountaineering stalwart, Kazakh Denis Urubko. Urubko, who partnered Moro in Makalu, Shisha Pangma and Marble Wall, has summited each of the world’s fourteen 8000m peaks without oxygen, including opening new routes. Urubko recently joined The North Face® athlete team.
Offering a unique perspective to the expedition, is experienced Canadian climber, The North Face® team mate and outdoor photographer, Cory Richards. Richards will not only climb alongside Moro and Urubko, but aims to capture the expedition’s key moments digitally. In 2009, he was part of a team who opened up new route ‘Cobra Norte’ to Kwangde Shar in Nepal.
Located in the Gilgit Baltistan province in Pakistan, near the Chinese border, Gasherbrum II, also known as K4, is the 13th highest mountain in the world and the third highest peak of the Gasherbrum Massif in the Himalayan Karakoram range. First climbed by an Austrian expedition, Fritz Moravec, Josef Larch and Hans Willenpart, on July 8th 1956, G2’s time-line of ‘first’ ascents and descents number less than ten. None include a successful winter ascent, as yet. The five non-ascended 8,000m peaks in winter are all located in the Karakoram, Pakistan and remain unclimbed despite 16 attempted winter expeditions since 1987.