On Sunday, July 22, Polish ski mountaineer and Red Bull Athlete Andrezej Bargiel clicked into his skis at 28,251 feet (8,611 meters) above sea level. The 30-year-old skier spent weeks acclimatizing at basecamp in Pakistan's Karakorum mountains before gradually moving from K2's second base camp to third base camp, and ultimately making his summit move on a clear Sunday morning.
Bargiel is the 13th Polish climber to reach the summit of K2, but as he stood at the top of the second highest mountain in the world, he was only halfway to his goal of completing the first ski descent.
Bargiel carefully dropped in on the Cesen Route before negotiating a harrowingly exposed Messner Traverse to the Kukuczka-Piotrowski route. From there, he descended crevasse-ridden glacial ice to his primary basecamp. Upon arrival, Bargiel successfully completed the first descent of K2, making history by skiing a mountain that few thought possible, and one that has taken the lives of many of the worlds best ski mountaineers.
This was Bargiel's second attempt to ski K2. During his first try last year he was forced to turn around due to high temperatures and hazardous conditions. His support crew for this successful descent included his brother Bartłomiej, plus Janusz Gołąb, Piotr Pawlus and Marek Ogień.
"I feel huge happiness," Bargiel told Red Bull Media. "And, to be honest, it was my second attempt, so I’m glad that I won’t be coming here again."
Bargiel is no flash in the pan, as he he holds the record in the Elbrus Race, a world renown competition to ascend and descend Russia's highest peak. He has also successfully skied the Snow Leopards, the five peaks in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan that rise above 7,000 meters, in a stunning 30 days.
While relatively unknown outside of American ski mountaineering circles, Bargiel has certainly put his name on the map with the first successful ski descent of K2. And, considering he's only 30 years old, the Red Bull athlete is certainly high on the list of endurance athletes to watch for spectacular feats in the coming years.