Many outdoors enthusiasts dream of one day completing a mission beyond the reach of most people. Trekking to Everest Base Camp, for example, or surfing Pipeline on Oahu. An epic adventure that leaves you standing in the footprints of the greats, as proud as you are exhausted. But all of these monumental accomplishments had to once be done by some crazy intrepid adventurer first. Now, you can add skiing down the second tallest mountain in the world to the list of conquered missions.
In late July, Polish extreme skier Andrzej Bargiel became the first person to complete a full ski descent of the world’s second highest peak. Bargiel climbed to the top of a couloir near the summit of Mount Godwin-Austen, better known as K2, and managed to ski a technical line down the couloir and eventually to the base of the mountain thousands of feet below. A hall-of-fame worthy feat in itself, but Bargiel topped it off by completing both the ascent and descent of K2 in what’s known in mountaineering speak as “alpine style” — that is, he didn’t use supplemental oxygen for either the ascent or descent. He climbed the peak, reaching an elevation of 8,611 meters (28,251 feet) and skied down unassisted.
“I talked to many experienced high altitude climbers and riders and they all said the same thing,” snowboard mountaineer Jeremy Jones said of Bargiel’s descent via his Instagram account. “You can climb it without oxygen but riding it will require oxygen.” Jones himself has traversed the globe climbing and riding down many of its most daring lines. “My time in the Himalaya confirmed that riding down is way more taxing on the lungs then hiking up and I agreed with the theory that riding the really high peaks requires oxygen for skiing/riding. Fast forward to last week and @andrzejbargiel climbed the peak, alpine style (unsupported, no oxygen) and then skied it without oxygen!”
Bargiel’s oxygen-free descent of the peak wasn’t the only first that took place on the mission. The feat was caught on video by Bargiel’s brother, and this drone video of the expedition broke a world record for filming that high at 29,000 feet. The footage circles above the skier as he picks his way down a mind-numbing ridgeline and eventually drops into a wider expanse of terrain and works his way towards the base — surrounded by death-defying cliffs requiring nothing shy of perfectly executed turns, of course.
To top it all off, the snow conditions look solid — at least if the video is any indication.