In 2018, Andrzej Bargiel made history by being the first person to ski down the summit of K2 without any extra oxygen supply. 

K2, located on the border of Pakistan and China, is the second-highest mountain in the world (8,611m above sea level) and is one of the most technical summits to climb. So, to do this grueling climb without oxygen and then ski down is an incredible achievement. This remarkable project has seen mountaineers around the world amazed that this was at all possible.  

Bargiel’s K2 attempt can be watched in his feature documentary on Redbull TV called ‘K2: The Impossible Descent’. The film depicts his upbringing and has real-time footage of him taking on K2.  

The use of drone technology is a big factor in this modern-day climb. One scene sees his brother, fly the drone to a fellow crew member to deliver medication due to altitude sickness. A rescue mission that was simply avoided due to drone technology.  

K2: The Impossible Descent

In the world of adventure and action sports, we rarely see the precautions and dedication to each achievement. ‘K2: The Impossible Descent’ gives a close look at the way Bargiel had to encounter challenges and danger during his incredible descent down K2. A must watch for any ski touring enthusiast!  
Ski Club’s Peter Davies was fortunate enough to talk to Bargiel about the K2 descent and how he takes on incredible mountain projects around the world. 

Peter Davies: Was it always your aim to take on K2 without oxygen?   

Andrzej Bargiel: “This has always been my dream! I felt very happy and very special when I finally took on K2. To get there I had to take on a long process of preparation. It took many years of training and it was a huge accomplishment for me.   
“Regarding the oxygen, I never actually tried it without oxygen, so I don’t know the experience. I think I chose to do it without oxygen because I felt I had more control over my body.”  

PD: What was the process of planning the K2 project from start to finish? 

AB: “I saw the main wall of K2 for the first time in 2015. I’ve seen it from a very interesting perspective because I’ve seen it from another mountain. This mountain was also over 8000m high. Mainly from Broad Peak and I skied from there.  
“I looked at K2 and at first I thought it was just impossible. I spotted some snow trails and I thought that somebody would eventually do it. At this point, I was too scared to try it. Then I thought it was not right to do it yet.  After that experience on Broad Peak, I came back to Poland. 
“The next time I attempted K2 was 2017 because I felt I had the skills and experience to finally try it. I thought this was a very important moment and I could now try it. I always thought you can’t do it accidentally or on the fly, you have to prepare well for it. I care a lot about safety. I wanted to do it in a safe way, not in a crazy style. On my first attempt, I actually failed and didn’t make it. 
“I came back again in 2018 and it seemed a lot more realistic. I guess I have been thinking about the main project for about 1 and a half years. In the meantime, I was preparing for it and analysing it. Then eventually in 2018, I completed it.”  

PD: How did you mentally prepare for the challenge?  

AB: “In the beginning, it was very difficult, and I was scared to tell anybody about the project. A few people actually knew about it because I was scared to say it aloud. I know many people would be afraid, especially my family members and friends. It was something out of the scope of my imagination. It was very crazy at the beginning.   
“My approach is always having a view of what I want to do from a distance. I always try to be reasonable in what I do. I analyse a lot and I try to take a step-by-step approach. So, I plan a lot and prepare for it mentally. There are no tricks to prepare for it. My way of preparing for it was simply spending a lot of time in the mountains and being exposed to what's out there.   
“I didn’t have full control of what was going to happen, but you have to adapt to different situations. When you really get scared, this is when solutions appear.”  

PD: In the film, it shows that you have a close relationship with your family and your project team, does it help having people you can really trust in your team?

AB: “First of all, you have to know I have a big family. It definitely helps, my family helps me survive all the stages of the process. When I’m in the mountain and when I’m really afraid my brother supports me a lot.  
“This support is really difficult. In the mountains, it’s really difficult to cooperate. The fear and level of complexity are very high. So sometimes it doesn’t help because I’m not only afraid for my own safety but also for others who are with me. It’s not always straightforward to cooperate with people around me in these conditions.   
“As for my family, a lot of them are scared of my ideas, especially my mum. In the case of my mum, I try to shorten the process by telling her ‘I’m going somewhere’ or ‘I’m just going on a trip’. I know it’s difficult to understand the things I do because they are not conventional. They are not what people associate themselves with as normal.   

PD: Do you have any advice for people who want to start ski touring?   

AB: “My advice to anyone who wants to ski tour is - don’t take short cuts. First of all, use the advice of people who know how to do it and can take care of safety. Secondly, definitely take avalanche training, then you know the risks you are going to encounter.   
“Take your progress slowly to adapt your skills and don’t choose too difficult terrain at the beginning. Remember that this sport may be dangerous at times. Try to read nature and choose the safest way through difficult conditions. “   

Ski Club Mountain Safety Episode 1: Terrain


PD: Has Covid-19 affected your training for future projects? 

AB: “Covid definitely affected me. I had to postpone many projects. It’s more difficult to get to the mountains. Not only this, but I'm afraid for the people who accompany me on the trips. We do not know how the combination of the virus and high altitude will affect people’s health.  
“The pandemic meant I had to stay at home for six weeks, so that was difficult for me to train. I had to undergo 12 covid tests which affected my mental health too. It is what it is. I’ll be going to the Alps to do some training there. I will be training in Tatra, the Tatra mountains in Poland. Let’s hope in spring I can go to higher mountains too.” 

PD: Do you have any future projects or goals you want to achieve?   

AB: “My next project is to ski down Laila Peak, it’s a peak located in Pakistan. It’s an outstanding mountain and it’s truly mesmerizing. I know three years ago that a group of skiers has already descended this mountain. This mountain is my next project because it is very special to me. The next project after that is Denali in Alaska.    

PD: Thank you for your time speaking to Ski Club and good luck with your future mountain projects! 

AB: “It’s great to be able to talk to the Ski Club of Great Britain and I hope we can all meet in the mountains soon!”