With no fewer than five winter attempts on his belt, Artur Hjzer of the Polish Gasherbrum-1 winter expedition is one of the most experienced climbers pitching for the first winter ascent of the 8,080m peak in the bleak and hazardous Karakorum. The team has completed their acclimatisation drills and are now set for the summit push on Sunday, February 26. Pakistan-explorer.com had a chance to talk to the renowned climber from his Base Camp.
Question: How are you guys feeling? It's been over a month there, how are team spirits?
Hajzer: We are well. I am lucky to have two very good partners: Janusz Golab (a seasoned big wall winter climber,) and Adam Bielecki (my summit partner from Makalu). They are both self-motivated, technically skilled climbers. Agnieszka Bielecka is providing good support in Base Camp and further up. The team spirit is therefore very good, and I am really optimistic about the expedition's next steps on the mountain. One month is too short to lose motivation and hope, especially for me - as you know I am used to stay in BC for up to 3 months.
Question: How is everyone's health? You had a pretty tough descent from C3...
Hajzer: Our third camp (assuming it still exists), is not high enough (7,040 m) so the plan is to move it higher up - at least to 7200m. For the summit bid we will probably go in a team of 4 (us 3 Poles and Shaheen Baig). We want to climb traditionally, from one camp to the other. We will probably be forced to climb up to 7000 m in bad weather conditions in order to take advantage of the best possible conditions for the summit day. In winter, it is very rare to get more than two consecutive days of acceptable weather for a summit push.
Question: As a highly experienced team leader - what are you proud of, about your team's performance? What do you reckon is the hardest part of a winter 8000er expedition?
Hajzer: There are quite a few things I'm proud of in this expedition. The most important being:
- Our good logistics
- Our timing strategy (not starting too early)
- Our equipment (until now, without fault)
- The support of Polish Alpine Association, and our strategic sponsor Orlen (Polish oil company)
- The perfect BC cooperation with Gerfried's International Team.
Question: Any thoughts about the other winter teams who were forced to abandon this season?
Hajzer: The news about the death of the Russian team member took us by surprise and was very depressing. It made our climbing much more difficult.
Moreover, I was not exactly elated to have so many expeditions in Karakorum this winter, mainly because it creates a competition factor, which I don't like at all. With only two expeditions left in the range, much of this pressure is gone.
Simone and Denis make such a fantastic and strong team, which has had a lot of successes, so I think that one retreat this winter won't make a big difference for them. I might add that Nanga Parbat is an incredible difficult winter goal for a 2-people team. I was impressed when I knew they were going to give it a try. I would like to remind as well that our mountain of choice this winter was Broad Peak, but since Simone declared last winter (during our last days of BP expedition 2011), that he would have liked to go there, we left it free for him. Now, I would like to state that the Polish Alpine Association will attempt to climb Broad Peak in winter 2012/2013.
Regarding the Polish climbers on Nanga Parbat, they are not associated with Polish Alpine Assoc. and are neither known among the Polish climbing community. I am not aware of their skills and experience, so I would rather avoid commenting on them.
Question: Speaking of Russians, some have said that the Russians are the only ones capable of bagging winter K2. Do you agree? How about you guys?
Hajzer: It seems that, with modern technology, K2 is a mountain impossible to climb in winter without oxygen. Of course, it is our dream to do it, and we plan to attempt climbing K2 in winter someday, but not within the next 3-4 years. Unless, that is, Denis Urubko decides to change his nationality and become a Pole! Simone is also invited to do so.
Seriously speaking though: I think that Russians have the same problem as Polish - they lack a next generation of talented high altitude climbers.
The 49-year-old Hajzer has conquered six 8000ers, with three of them from a new route. He has participated in five winter expeditions to the Himalayas and Karakorums. He also conquered 8,091m Annapurna for the first time in winters and also Makalu 8,463m without the use of supplementary oxygen.