Polish climbers prepare for historic wintertime attempt on K2

Polish mountaineers Janusz Golab walks at the Piec Stawow valley in Poland on Dec 12, 2017.
Polish mountaineers Janusz Golab walks at the Piec Stawow valley in Poland on Dec 12, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS
Polish mountaineer Janusz Golab walks down after a training in Piec Stawow valley as he prepares for the expedition to scale K2 in the winter at Tatra Mountains near Zakopane, Poland on Dec 12, 2017.
Polish mountaineer Janusz Golab walks down after a training in Piec Stawow valley as he prepares for the expedition to scale K2 in the winter at Tatra Mountains near Zakopane, Poland on Dec 12, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

ZAKOPANE, Poland (REUTERS) - Polish climbers hope to pull off a mountaineering first with a wintertime ascent of the world's second highest peak, K2, the only one of the 14 exceeding 8,000 metres not to have been conquered at the most testing time of the year.

After months of training and organisation, the team - run by Krzysztof Wielicki - are completing their final preparations before leaving Poland on Dec 29 for the six-day journey to base camp at 5,030 metres.

From there they will monitor the weather on the notoriously challenging mountain, waiting for a moment to attempt the summit.

"We are mentally prepared to stay there even to the end of the winter to have 'weather window' to scale K2," team member Janusz Golab told Reuters.

First conquered by Italians in 1954, K2 is in the Karakorum mountains along the border between China and Pakistan and is notorious for high winds, especially steep and icy slopes and high fatality rates among climbers.

In winter months, scant snowfall means the summit approach can turn into bare ice.