Two years ago, on the 22nd of July 2018, Polish ski mountaineer Andrzej Bargiel clicked into his skis at an altitude of 8,611m and set out on a journey that would make history – to descend K2 on skis. Today Red Bull Media House unveil a feature-length documentary on Red Bull TV, revealing the incredible story of Bargiel’s world-first mission.
A seemingly impossible challenge, never done before or since, Bargiel’s mission saw him ski from peak to base without removing his skis. Ascending K2 is known by mountaineers and adventurers across the globe as an extraordinary achievement, with one in four people attempting the challenge not making it out alive. Following an ascent without supplemental oxygen, which took approximately 60 hours, Bargiel’s historic route down the second highest mountain in the world, involved skiing from the summit to the shoulder at 8,000m as quickly as possible, to escape the notorious ‘death zone’, where the body is literally dying by the minute.
Bargiel’s extraordinary and hair-raising journey down, included having to dodge ice falling at the speed of bullets to reach the treacherous Messner Traverse, a barely-climbed narrow route with deep caverns on either side, and on to the crevasse-filled Kukuczka-Piotrowski route back to base camp. Only Bargiel’s team, including his brother Bartek, knew how perilously close the mission came to failure when his climbing partner Janusz Gob became sick. A drone flown by Bartek was used to carry up emergency medical supplies that stabilised Gob and left Bargiel free to continue to the 8,611m summit.
A second drone rescue captured in ‘K2: The Impossible Descent’ details the extreme challenges of high-altitude ski mountaineering, when British climber Rick Allen slipped from an ice cliff on the nearby Broad Peak, he was reported dead by his teammates, but spotted by Bartek who used the drone to guide the lost mountaineer back to safety. The drone came into play again, flying up to check the weather when clouds created a whiteout as Bargiel was attempting to pick his way through the technical descent.
Bargiel commented on the descent:
“This terrain is really complicated, and you need to ‘read’ the mountain well. Take a wrong turn and I could fall several hundred metres. To be in the right place at the right time, you need all the data.”
Now, on the second anniversary of Bargiel’s success, this new Red Bull Media House feature-length documentary reveals the super-human physiology and mind-set that made Bargiel perfect to complete the feat. The film was Directed by Slawomir Batyra and its Executive Producers were Tom Fish and Michal Zamencki. Told from Bargiel and his team’s perspective, the film features added comments from experts including Free Solo film co-director and ski mountaineer Jimmy Chin.
Chin said: “There has been a generational shift in the use of technology to assist in doing very difficult objectives in the mountains. You want to use everything in your advantage to achieve your goal.”
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