Vitaly Gorelik, a known and popular Russian climber who previously had successfully climbed K2, died today in an attempt to climb the same summit during the winter.
K2 is the second-highest mountain on Earth after Mt. Everest. It is also known as the Savage Mountain, due to the difficulty of its ascent, with a peak elevation of 8,611 meters (28,251 feet). K2 is part of the Karakoram Range, and is located on the border between Baltistan in Gilgit-Baltistan of Pakistan-administered Kashmir and the Taxkorgan Tajik Autonomous County of Xinjiang, China.
According to initial information received at Islamabad, Vitaly was frostbitten on the team’s latest climb above 7,000 meters, two weeks ago. Together with Nick Totmjanin and Valery Shamalo, Vitaly carried gear to 7,000 meters and fixed ropes further up for 4 days, until a fresh 3-man team (Iljas Tukhvatullin, Andrew Mariev, and Vadim Popovich) took their place. By February 2, however, all team members were back in BC, ready to wait out a forecasted spell of bad weather.
Vitaly Gorelik returned with frostbitten fingers in both hands and heli-evacuation was demanded by the team. However, current weather did not allow the heli to reach that point. The mountain has been wrapped in a fierce storm since then, preventing the badly-needed rescue chopper to reach BC.
The reason indicated for death indicated, as given by a team member at base camp, is heart failure. Gorelik and partners Valery Shamalo and Nicholas Totmyanin made it to a high point of 7,200 meters on the South-Southeast Spur, and descended to base camp by February 2, with bad weather in the forecast and frostbite on both of Gorelik’s hands.
An accomplished Russian mountaineer, Gorelik was nominated for the Piolet d’Or for his 2009 route on Peak Pobeda’s north face. Gorelik and partner Gleb Sokolov climbed in alpine style for more than seven days to establish this difficult, 2,400 meter route up Tien Shan’s highest peak.
Two years earlier, Gorelik summited K2 as part of a large Russian expedition that put up the direct route on the west face over the course of two-and-a-half months in the summer of 2007. The route remains one of the most difficult on the mountain.
While further details are expected, the team leader Viktor Kozlov has decided to call the attempt off altogether. “The expedition is over,” he reported, “All members at base camp are preparing to head down. We’ve ordered a helicopter to airlift Vitaly’s boby, but the chopper is grounded due to bad weather conditions – a wind and snow storm.”