Ski K2 Peak to Base? Mission Impossible or possible? Watch How Andrzej Bargiel achieved a world first

The new feature length documentary is called The Impossible Descent but when ski mountaineer Andrzej Bargiel skied down from the peak to the base of K2 it was actually Mission Possible as he became the first to descend from 8,611m without removing his skis...

Released on 22nd July, the feature length documentary of Red Bull TV shows the incredible ascent - and descent on skis - by Polish ski mountaineer Andrzej Bargiel as he achieved a world first. See his descent, below (warning contains vertiginous content!). 

On the second anniversary of Bargiel's success, the 65 minute documentary, K2: The Impossible Descent (scroll down for the link to view), reveals how he completed the challenge through remarkable mountaineering and skiing skills, sheer determination plus the essential aid of a support crew and, as it turned out, lifesaving drone technology.

This seemingly impossible challenge had never been completed before nor since. The ascent of K2 alone is an extraordinary achievement as one in four people who attempt it never returns.

The over 60 hour ascent up K2 without oxygen assistance followed by the immense challenge of skiing down, involved descending 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.

He then had 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.

At the time, only Bargiel's team – including his  brother Bartek – knew how perilously close the mission came to failure when his climbing partner Janusz Gołąb became sick. A drone flown by Andrzej's brother Bartek was used to carry up emergency medical supplies that stabilised Gołąb and left Bargiel free to continue to the 8,611m summit.

That wasn't the only drone rescue captured in 'The Impossible Descent', which 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.

"This terrain is really complicated, and you need to 'read' the mountain well," said Bargiel. "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." 

The story of this world first ski descent of the Himalayan mountain was made by Red Bull Media House. 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.

Watch The Impossible Descent here.

Main Image: Marek Ogień / Red Bull Content Pool