The defining moment has come for the resilient Poles who have been battering the tough conditions in the rugged Karakorums for more than two months now. After a heart-breaking retreat last month, Poles are now climbing for the final summit push which is likely to happen sometime in the early hours of March 5th.
Broad Peak seen from NW, from the expedition’s base camp. Green triangles indicate a low camp 1 and a low camp 3. Red triangles indicate the proper camps. Various line colors indicate various rope diameters. Green – 5 mm rope, Red – 6 mm rope, Blue – 7 mm rope, Yellow – tracers, Purple – running belay
This is part of the emergency ascent plan worked out by the renowned Krzysztof Wielicki who realised that this will be the last chance for the Poles to scale the 8,051 m Broad Peak if they ever want to bag another first winter 8000er.
The predictions called for a small weather window which will only open for four days, Poles started their ascent some two days back and all four members are now in Camp-4 at 7800m and according to the last reports, they have crossed the last decisive crevasse which has thwarted their summit push earlier. The weather is ok for the moment and the team probably have made it to the summit by now but there has been no official confirmation for the moment.
According to Polish Winter Mountaineering leader Artur Hajzer, the summit push kicked off at 5.15 am Local time and the team is still pushing for the peak.
Wielicki and Shaheen Baig are in the Base Camp while Karim Hayat is waiting at Camp-4 7400m for the team to return after scaling the summit.
Enjoying a meal at BC
Poles are now bracing up for the final showdown with the 8,051m Broad Peak for the first winter ascent of the mountain in the Karakorums in Pakistan. Earlier the team had to abandon their plans for the final summit push on February the 18th and while their plan was as invincible as ever, they succumbed to the wrath of the mighty Broad Peak and decided to go for the second attempt sooner than later.
“The expedition has entered its most difficult stage, i.e. making a crucial tactical decision.” explained the Polish winter expedition official website. “The next attack is probably going to be their last chance. Tomorrow’s dilemma (2nd March) reminds us of Shakespeare: To climb or not to climb? That is the question!"
For the moment, Poles are between the devil and deep sea as now they will have to come up with a workable strategy to summit the peak unless they are willing to leave the Karakorums empty-handed. The next weather window is being anticipated on March 2nd and will be the last chance for the Poles to summit the peak this year.
The team leader Krzysztof Wielicki who is coordinating and monitoring the expedition from the Base Camp, has devised a different attack this time around and will be going without a backup team like the previous attempt. The team will make the forward march as one unit.
“The participants are not willing to divide themselves into two teams. They claim that all four of them have greater chances to succeed”. said the Polish website. “Currently, they all brainstorming all possible ideas in the base camp. The leader faces a difficult task and does not intent to take part in the summit attempt”.
The weather window which is likely to start on the March 2nd will close on March 6th, providing an tight opportunity for the ambitious poles to make their final move.
There is also a chance of strong wind on March 3rd which will further test the mettle of the sturdy poles.
Wischnewski fixing his Kerosene stove
It is now more than evident that French solo climber Joel Wischnewski was more on a suicide mission than a solo attempt of the deadly Nanga Parbat in the middle of the dreaded winters in the Pakistani Himalayas.
The rescue team organised and executed by his agency has been scouring the probable route of the missing climber who last updated his blog on the 22nd of January and went for the final solo attempt of the 8,125m Nanga Parbat.
Heading for the mindless attempt
Apparently, broken-hearted Joel wanted to summit the peak for the first winter ascent of the same but being an accomplished climber himself, he was well aware of the fact that such a feat was a far-flunged idea given the absence of a backup Base Camp and a team which is an essential element for a successful winter ascent.
"When I look to the mountain, I don’t look to the summit and the way to get there," said Joel on January 22nd, "I just try to find a safe but brutal and technical way so that this experience will bring me peace."
Mohammad Ali, the head of the search operation explained their inability to continue the search operation in wake of the bad weather and is still waiting for the weather to improve so that they may continue their search.
"The last two days (21st & 22nd) the HAP's unfortunately haven't been able to go up because of the bad weather conditions. We can only wait and hope for the conditions to improve very soon." said Ali.
The legendary Mazeno ridge
But what has been the true reason behind Joel’s mindless attempt is still a mystery. Continuing with his last update over his expedition Joel had written,
"I just climb to try to heal my spirit’s wounds, and for nothing else. When I look to the mountain, I don’t look to the summit and the way to get there. I just try to find a safe but brutal and technical way so that this experience will bring me peace.
Wischnewski (without shirt) and his friends from the agency
"And I can only find this a few steps from death. Too many painful moments; love can be very destructive. The person that did not respected me, but more important did not respected the French law, should be facing up to 5 years prison and 75.000 Euros sanction taxes to the country. "I was too destroyed to defend myself on court and choose instead to transform all this pain and violent darkness into something positive and beautiful."
Diamir Face and Diamir Glacier
"I’m glad to lay here, on Nanga Parbat, and still be alive to try to make something difficult and magical. My mind is totally ready, like if I closed my eyes and let me fall in complete trust and faith. Whatever I will find, this will be nice and positive to my soul. I never reached this level of engagement before."
Nanga Parbat entertained almost half a dozen climbing teams this year who wanted to make it to the top of the ninth highest and the second deadliest peaks in the world for the first winter ascent of the same. Nanga stands as one of the only three highest mountains in the world which have never been climbed in winters.
Alex and Jose return to Camp-2
Pakistan’s rugged Karakorums may have denied a 8000er ascent this year but all has not gone in vain. Alex Txikon and Jose Fernandez have recorded the first winter ascent of the Laila Peak, when they finally made it to the summit of the 6,097m high in the late hours of February 18th.
Laila Peak-North Face
Laila Peak is considered as the “most beautiful mountain in the world” and is well known in the climbing circles for its distinct spear shaped peak and is often the prime destination of the climbers and snowboarders in summers. Located in the Hushe valley near Gondogoro Glacier, Laila Peak has allowed only seven people in all to climb all the way to the peak while many aspiring mountaineers have either snowboarded their way down or retreated due to unstable snow at the peak.
Alex and his partner narrated their story later, regarding it as the toughest mission they have ever come across in their otherwise stellar climbing career.
“We made it back to the Camp-2 at eight and a half hours and a little light from the five and a half or quarter to six. It’s been very very hard. We are exhausted. Joseph has three fingers touched and I can hardly move. It was very very hard but we are very pleased and proud of the work we have completed, with the feel of having come to one of the most beautiful and challenging summits of our lives”. said Jose.
The team made their summit push on February 11th but had to return to Base Camp due to deteriorating weather and increasing wind speeds. They made their second attempt on 18th and started their push from Camp-2. However, this time around, Ramon Portilla decided to stay back in Base Camp due to severe frostbite and Juanjo San Sebastian also stayed back due to his aching knee joint.
Alex and Jose faced some of the most difficult challenges just before making it to the top where the temperatures dropped to a painful -35 Celsius and wind speed soared to 60km/h, piercing through their gear.
Their summit push began in the early hours but difficult weather conditions and piercing wind speeds did not allow them to reach the summit until late in the afternoon.
“We arrived at four in the afternoon. It has been hard. It has been very windy, in many areas there was lot of snow and there was very difficult stretches from the technical standpoint. We had to do twelve long more than 80m. The final stretch was very infernal. The last two, we have done with snow above the chest. We got to where we could move. The GPS showed us at an altitude of 6,100m”.
The successful winter ascent of the Laila peak marks this year’s first and probably the only winter ascent in the deadly Karakorums of Pakistan.
This year’s most experienced mountaineering team, the Polish Broad Peak Winter Expedition for this year, have now retreated but insist that they have not abandoned the mission as yet.
Led by the winter specialist Krzysztof Wielicki, the team has been gaining altitude for the past several days, making deposits and establishing camps along the way to the peak. The team announced their final summit push on February 15th and started their attack on February 18th at 5 am in the morning.
The Polish Website announced the retreat and said, “Maciej Berbeka and Tomasz Kowalski have left the assault camp at 7,400 m today at 5:00 AM. At 10:00 AM due to increasing wind they decided to terminate the attack and retreat. There is a cloud - altocumulus lenticularis - over the summit that forecasts a change in weather conditions. Visibility has decreased. Maciej and Tomasz have not reached the crack at 7,820 m. At the moment two assault teams (Adam/Artur and Maciej/Tomasz) are returning to the base camp”.
There were early reports about the exact location of Karim Hayyat, one of the High
Altitude Pakistani porters who have been part of the expedition. The Polish team however, is hoping that Karim is in the Base Camp and is not ready to declare a panic for the moment.
"Probably Karim is with them, simply there's no news about him from BC, but no alarm." says Jan Komorowski.
Earlier, the team had been facing numerous gruesome challenges to reach high altitude camps and make the necessary deposits. Adam Bielecki (last year’s G-1 summiteers) and Artur Małek failed to make it through the crack at 7,820m and returned to C-3.
Polish team is one of the most experienced team visiting the rugged Karakorum this year, among several expeditions to the Nanga Parbat, the Laila Peak and the Broad Peak, many of which have already given up in face of the deadly wind and freezing temperatures. Poles are eager to bag the second consecutive first winter ascent of the remaining three 8000ers which have never been climbed before. All three of them are in Pakistan.
The Polish attempt is likely to continue in a week’s time, when they are hoping to get another weather window.
Deposit at C-2 shreded by a hungry Ibex
Apparently another mountaineer has succumbed to the merciless heights of the treacherous Nanga Parbat and reports are coming in that a rescue operation has been underway in search of the French High-Altitude snowboarder and climber Joel Wischnewski.
The solo climber was out to attempt the dreaded Rupal Face via the Trashing Valley and his last blog update came on February 6th and there has been no information regarding his location since then.
Wischnewski’s closing message on his blog read, "Moving up. The central pillar and the wall are too dry. I’m going to try the S-E pillar. I’ve got 3 days. Bye, take care and thanks for following.”
Wischnewski training with his dog and a 65-kg backup,
However, for all the missing climbers in the world of mountaineering, Wischewnski’s story is a different one. Suffering from recurring internal bleeding in his intestines, the Frenchman was apparently on a suicide mission never to return.
“Today, I’m losing blood from my intestines. It’s great… But I’m used to (luckily? or sadly?), so I can mentally handle it and this is not a problem. I take everything easy, stay positive and simple, eat rice and try to get drunk with tea. When I was losing blood 2 years ago, I could barely walk at sea level, with a constant acid feeling in my belly. Damned, what a good souvenir! xD Don’t worry about me, I would continue to climb with my intestines in my hands. I don’t care anymore. Only engagement is important”. said Wischnewski in his earlier posts.
It comes as a surprise that the government of Pakistan extended permission to him to attempt the mindless solo climb on one of the deadliest mountain on earth, without making arrangements for an anticipated rescue operation. Wischnewski’s guide and the head of the operating agency started the rescue operation on his own, following the SOPs set between the two parties.
Wischnewski with his brand new pair of snowboards
Earlier the operating agency started the lookout for the Frenchman and said,
"He had experienced problems with his satellite phone before and while picking up a spare battery in Rupal village he took extra food supplies with him. When after several days there still hadn't been any news from Joel and in order to establish contact with him, our guide Fida has gone up in the night to try and contact Joel while making light signals by flashing with a torch as had been discussed by Joel and Fida in case he couldn't be reached by phone."
Avalanche near SE couloir
Wischnewski was also suffering from acute illness as he ascended the mountain in Pure alpine style with no ropes, no O2, no fixed camps, no porters, no altitude porters, no staff. Only the mandatory Liaison Officer for security concerns. Transport approx. 150kg. 2 snowboards that he can use as a pulka for the trek.
The tour guide has launched a rescue operation on his own and is currently not being supported by the government to search for the missing climber.
Wischnewski trying to fix his Kerosene stove
The managing director of the agency further stated, "Meanwhile I have moved three highly experienced high altitude porters from Skardu (who have climbed several 8000 plus peaks and did several successful rescue mission in Baltoro region led by Kazim Sadpara the younger brother of Nisar Hussain Sadpara who disappeared along with Gerfried Goeshl and Cedric Hahlen on March 09, 2012 while climbing G 1) with full climbing equipment to reach Rupal valley as soon as possible and search for Joel on Rupal wall by climbing up to 7000 meters."
The polish attempt of the Broad Peak is taking final shape as the team is gradually closing in on the 8051 m peak which has never been scaled in winters before. Under the supervision of the renowned Krzysztof Wielicki, the team is edging up the rugged peak slowly but surely.
According to the last reports Adam Bielecki and Artur Małek have already made it to the camp-3 and will be spending the night there despite of an unfavourable weather forecast. This is part of the plan charted out by Wielicki earlier and the team is hoping to accost better weather conditions in the next few days.
For the moment, they have decided to reach and stay as high as possible fighting the unfavourable weather conditions. Wielicki is staying back in the Base Camp, guiding and coordinating with the team climbing their way up. The Poles are hoping to bag the peak somewhere in the early hours of February 18th.
“Maciej Berbeka, Tomasz Kowalski and Karim are in C2 and are going to spend a night there”. said the Polish Mountaineering official website.
“Amin and Shahin set off for a reconnaissance above C3 and at the moment are coming back, but is still is not known where they will spend a night - whether it is going to be C3 or a lower camp. Weather during the day has been extremely bad, but it has not been an obstacle to fulfill the plans; weather forecasts for tomorrow leave some hope for improvements. The plan for tomorrow includes establishing camp 4 (Adam and Artur), so that they may set off towards the peak on 18th February”.
The polish team is planning an out-of-the-box strategy where a backup team comprising of Maciej Berbeka, Tomasz Kowalski and Karim Hayyat will be waiting in Camp-2 in case the summit attempt meets a failure and a fresh contingent can replace the earlier team for a second attempt.
Broad Peak is the 12th highest mountains in the world standing at 8,051m above sea level. The mountain was first summited by an Austrian mountaineering team in the summers of 1957. It has never been climbed in winters.
Latest news are pouring in from the Jhal Magsi Desert Challenge Rally and the host and past winner of the same event, Mir Nadir Khan Magsi has yet again soared to the top winning the “Category A” challenge with his Toyota Land Cruiser. Nadir Magsi has won the Jhal Magsi Desert Challenge several times in the past and is one of the well known motorists in the country.
Final round of the 7th Jhal Magsi Desert Car Rally began on January 13th In Jhal Magsi town of Balochistan where 55 drivers including Lebanese drift champion Abdo Feghali participated in the desert car rally comprising on 220 kilometers distance.
In the qualifying round defending champion Nadir Magsi remained on top, while Asad Khoro and Ronnie Patel finishing at second and third place.
Oraganised in the undulating desert of the Jhal Magsi, Jhal Magsi Desert Challenge is known to be one of the pioneer motorsport events in the country.
Speaking on the occasion, the organizers of the JMDC reiterated their mission to promote motorsport in the country and said,
“Talking about motorsports in Pakistan, we seriously believe that the driving talent in Pakistan is ample. Through Jhal Magsi Desert Challenge Rally, drivers can also stand a chance to participate internationally. “Jhal Magsi Desert Challenge Rally”, since 2005 is striving each year very hard to make this annual event healthier and thrilling. Every year JMDC provides its drivers with a challenging terrain for the test between MEN AND MACHINE”.
The event is held under the auspices of “EMSF” (Emirates Motor Sports Federation) and strictly follows the rules of the FIA (Federation International de Automobile) local ASN Rules and regulations. All safety measures both for the drivers as well as the spectators are followed to ensure good turnout of the local and international tourists from all over the world.
The organizers further added:
“Jhal Magsi Desert Challenge Rally” is also focusing on introducing international drivers to come and participate in the rallies so that they can also enjoy the beautiful off-road terrain and thrilling motorsports in Pakistan. “Jhal Magsi Desert Challenge Rally” is also planning to jointly hold rallies with “EMSF” (Emirates Motor Sports Federation) in Dubai, in doing that it will provide Pakistan’s drivers to expand their horizons from national to international level.
Jhal Magsi Balochistan Pakistan”.
To contact JMDC
UAN: 111 - 947 - 111
Landing at the bleak and unimpressive Islamabad International and starting off a journey on the dusty Karakorum Highway, crisscrossing the traditional bazaars of Northern Pakistan, it must come as a forewarning of the gigantic surprises which awaits the aspiring mountaineers heading up north.
The journey, which is in total contrast to the bustling mega airports and cities around the world, proves to be a prelude of the monsters that stand tall in the rugged Karakorums, waiting and calling the ambitious climbers from all over the world.
Italian Danielle Nardi, may not have been a stranger to all this as he revisits the country to conquer the mighty Nanga Parbat in the dead of winters, still he is making sure to get a taste of all that rests in the foot of the 8,125 m peak, often considered as one of the deadliest in climbing circle.
Nardi landed at Islamabad International soon after the festivities of Christmas and celebrated his New Year night among the young Islooites in the streets, a little bedazzled but a lot bewildered to find out that the New Year can be a matter of celebration among the young Pakistanis.
Treading the treacherous Karakorum Highway, the team comprising of Fredrico-the cameraman for the climb, Frenchwoman Elisabeth and Nardi along with their logistics guide Ali Muhammad, reached the Base Camp via Chilas.
The team is experiencing extreme cold weather at the deserted Base Camp for the moment and is hoping to engage warmer weather in a few days.
“We are at the base camp and its cold absurd. We arrived yesterday and ran to mount the first tents, the table and the kitchen. This night we slept in our tent with 13 degrees below zero to 20 below zero grazed out and I do not think we are at the peak negative aspect of our research of suffering. In the coming days I hope we will be able to run the "warmer" to raise the temperature a little.” said Nardi.
He further added that the team is only able to get two hours of sunshine when they get a chance to recharge their batteries. For the moment, Nardi and team is settling down for the acclimatisation rigors that they have planned for the days ahead.
“The emotions that are difficult to describe, again here in front of this majestic mountains, watch continuously to browse for something familiar, retrace projects designed, comparing them with those who are our capabilities here to see if they are really applicable or only theory . Two carriers have left this morning to the town of Chilas below. He added.
Nardi also spoke of the good times he have had with the locals.
“Here are the mountains I want to climb and people are so personable, friendly and work together in these strange Western lead up to their peaks. I wonder if one day they realize truly the wealth of history that we are leaving to climb. Sooner or later they too will be ready to make the history of, for now it's our turn to win the useless. Inshallah”.
Once known as the fastest Alpinist in the world, the 62-year-old Krzysztof Wielicki has climbed all the 14 eight thousanders for no fewer than 15 times in his stellar career. He has two winter peaks, The Everest 1980 which was a jaw-dropping epoch in the history of mountaineering for being the first 8000er ever climbed in winters.
He later summited the 8,516m Lhotse in 1988 to become the only alpinist in the world to have two winter summits on his belt. He was later superseded by Italian Simone Moro in 2011.
The Polish ace climber now returns to summit the difficult Broad Peak in the Karakorum-a mountain range which offers some of the greatest challenges in the world of mountaineering.
Polish Alpine Club has already picked a five to six-member team for this year’s Winter Broad Peak Expedition 2012/2013. The team is likely to reach Islamabad soon to address a press conference before leaving for Skardu.
Arrangements are already underway where the Base Camp is currently being set on the Godwin Austin Glacier near the West Wall of the 8,051m Broad Peak at an approximate height of 4700m above Sea Level.
The race to bag the remaining three 8000ers for the first winter ascent is already in full throttle as the Poles and Italians are vying to scale these summits. Wielicki probably knows the mountain better than anyone else for having summited the peak for the first ever record breaking attempt of any 8000er in one day.
The 62-year-old Wielicki recalls the moments of his thrilling success with a big grin.
“In the summer of 1984, Wojtek Kurtyka put me on. Together with Jurek Kukuczka, we were together on an expedition to Broad Peak (8047 m). We were climbing in order to adjust and Wojtek noticed that I'm walking very fast. I was always there 2-3 hours before the others. He said, since I'm moving so fast, maybe I could reach the summit in one day. So I gave it a try, at first in secret, at night. I reached 7200 m. It was foggy. I didn't see where I was, I got scared. You walk alone, without a rope, without fixed ropes marking the route, around a mountain crack. I withdrew. After a week I did it again. I headed off to the north. I managed to reach the summit in 16.5 hours and to walk back in less than 6 hours, so I made it in a day. This has been mentioned in the world press as a record”.
An Electric Engineer by profession, Wielicki has proved to be one of the amazing survivors of the risks thrown his way in the sport of Mountaineering. He acknowledges that he has been far more fortunate to have survived those moments where many of his friends and fellow climbers perished in a blink of an eye.
Broad Peak, one of the 12th highest mountain in the world, has a total height of 8,051m ASL. The mountain was first summited by an Austrian team in June 1957.
Broad Peak is known to be one of the comparatively easier 8000ers in the world for it is overshadowed by the gigantic K-2 in the neighbourhood, partially protecting it from direct impact of wind at high altitude.
It has never been climbed in winter.