Polish Expedition Leader Kryzsztof Wielecki has announced the logical conclusion to this year’s Polish Expedition to K2 citing dangerous conditions and inevitable destruction of the high camps in the last three days of bad weather. Northern regions of Pakistan were pounded by heavy rain and snowfall in the last few days where Islamabad alone received 95mm of rain over the weekend. The polish expedition recorded no less than 80ft of snow at the Base Camp and even more on high camps.
This was officially announced from the Polish Base Camp on Monday, 5th;
“Based on a deep analysis of the situation in agreement with the team I decided today to end the mountain action on K2.
The impact on the decision to terminate shares had the following factors:
1. Result of reconnaissance team Adam Bielecki and janusz pigeon today. It turns out that on the road to c1 all ropes are blocked, the tent at the base is damaged, there is also a high likelihood of destruction of c1, C2 and C3. Camps.
2. WEATHER FORECAST THAT CONFIRMS ONLY 1 short weather window approx 11.03.2018
3. No possibility of acclimatisation min. 1th team at the height. 7200 M, who would have made it back to base for a peak attack on 11.03
4. Threat of avalanche in the upper road. IN THE LAST 8 days, we have recorded over 80 inches of snow.
5. Warning from the portal portal with large rain on height. 7600 m
6. Bad forecasts for the period after 11.03.2018
The priority of the expedition is the safety of the participants.
Expedition will be now preparing for a departure from the Base Camp arriving in Skardu and taking a flight to Islamabad thereof. This was one of the heavily funded Polish National expedition equipped with custom designed gear. The expedition started off from the Cessen/Basque route in the beginning and reached up to 7200m. After the climbers received injuries due to heavy rock fall and high wind gusts, the expedition switched over to the more commonly used Abruzzi Spur
Heeding to his highly developed mountaineering instincts, Denis Urubko decided to abandon his summit bid on K2 and has retreated to Base Camp.
Reasons stated for the retreat are high winds and bad weather. Denis left the Base Camp on Saturday, February 24th without informing the Expedition Leader Kryzsztof Wielecki in an attempt to summit the Savage Mountain alone. As fatal as it may sound, Denis had full realization that any misadventure during this attempt is going to put him into a very awkward position.
Denis was talking to TVN24.pl when he announced his departure from the Polish Base Camp and the eventual conclusion of his K2 winter attempt for the year. Citing rules that he has laid himself, Denis reasoned that the end of February marks the limit of credible winter ascent and he personally believes that any ascent after February should not be considered as an official winter ascent.
Regardless of whatever standards he has set for himself, it is now more than obvious that he is not welcome in the Polish camp anymore and probably he never will be.
Without any remorse, Denis questioned the decisions made by the expedition leader Kryzsztof Wielecki.
Expressing his mistrust on Wielecki, he said;
“I do not think I have to say sorry. They are not angels either. Wielicki allowed me to enter the third camp and later he told me to come back for reasons I do not understand. Okay, we're men, climbers. This is not a situation to say sorry. Nobody apologized for their mistakes. My opinion remains the same.”
Denis, who is a born Kazak and thereby ethnically Russian, got his Polish nationality just three years ago. His unruly behavior and his betrayal has generated heated discussion in Russia and Poland but what has been professionally unreasonable is his disrespect of the mountain and underestimating a giant like K2. While preparing for the K2 Winter expedition from the North (Chinese) side 2014-15, Denis had grossly overestimated his capabilities calling the expedition
“Just another climb”.
“Do you mean my personal ability? I think that I am able to reach 9,500 meters without oxygen… but on the easy (classic) route. The crisis limit when I was younger was above 8,600m; now it is higher, I suppose. This is due to my experience.” Denis said during an interview in 2014-15.
Of all the good tidings mountaineering brings along with it, humility remains the most cherished treasure of all.
Setting off on his solo bid on Saturday, February 24th, Denis has made no contact with the base even after 36 hours. Poles are now in frenzy and have already started climbing in order to secure the summit before Denis steals the show.
This is ideally the vintage climbing drama which ceased to happen for the past few decades and has reappeared on one of deadliest and most difficult mountains on earth. The betrayal has left Expedition leader Kryzsztoff Wielecki offended and heartbroken. Earlier, Marek Chmielarski and Artur Malek, who were in Camp-1, were told by the Base to engage Denis and convince him to talk to Wielecki on radio.
This proposal was declined by Denis, who later ventured further up without taking radio.
“I've known Denis for many years, we're friends. I did not think it would come to that” Wielecki was talking to tvp.info.pl. “Above all, the biggest one may not regret it, but the biggest surprise was that Denis, going up when he was stopped by our team in the first camp, because I wanted to talk to him, told his friends that he would not talk to me. And it hurt in such a personal aspect.”
There have been no updates on Denis’ blog or through his facebook posts. Also he is not carrying a radio or any other means of communication. This not only makes it exceedingly hard to trace his location it has essentially made it impossible to launch a rescue effort if anything goes wrong.
This is not the first time Denis has refused to follow the expedition leader. He complained earlier on his blogpost when he was called back to the Base by Wielecki while he was approaching Camp-3. He has complained of laid-back attitude of the Polish Expedition and questioned the seriousness of their intentions.
For the moment, the last deposits made at Camp-3 at 7200m will be the only supplies Denis is left with to continue further up.
There are no fixed ropes on the bottleneck across the Serac which makes it more or less an Alpine style push from Camp-3 onward.
This presents an extremely dangerous proposition even in summers let alone in the dead of winters.
After series of complains about the Polish Expedition that he has been part of, Denis Urubko finally decided to bid adieu to the Polish Camp on Saturday and has barged on a mindless solo winter attempt of the “King”.
Since the beginning of the expedition on the earlier Cessen/Basque route, Denis has been repeatedly complaining on his blogposts about the slow performing Polish camp and had cast apprehensions on the real “intent” of the expedition. His departure from the expedition in his bid for the solo attempt has come as a huge setback for the Polish Camp, where the rest of the climbers are definitely not pleased.
“Today, in addition to the planned exits, Denis Urubko independently, without notification to the leadership of the expedition, left the base to attempt an ascension to the top of K2 until the end of February” wrote Kryztoff Wielecki.
This was later followed by a damage control statement from the Base Camp; "Denis is a member of our expedition, and we must support his exit, despite the fact that he went AWOL," Janusz Majer
For the moment, the Polish Expedition has been successfully able to reach 7400m via Abruzzi Ridge courtesy primarily to Denis’ hardwork and relentless pursuing to open the route.
“Just imagine!, - I said to Adam. - Only five people were at such height on K2 in winter! You, Wielicki, Marcin, Petrek Morawski... well, and I again... could.
-Yes, I did this! - Adam laughed in the mask.” Denis wrote on his blog on reaching 7400m.
They have been lucky to discover good condition old Korean Ropes from the summer expedition and have utilized to cross over House's Chimney all the way to tackle the dreaded Black Pyramid.
Adam Bielecki and Denis worked hard to establish Camp 2 and 3 on the route amid fierce blizzards and snowstorms. They later pushed camp-3 to another 100m up to achieve better acclimatization and altitude gain for the team.
Denis has long insisted that an official Winter Ascent can only happen until February and a winter ascent in March should not be considered an official Winter Ascent. This issue also popped up with his former climbing partners during their endeavors on Pakistani Karakorum and Himalayas.
If he plans to summit K2, solo and in February, he is definitely short of time.
Expedition manager Krzysztof Wielicki has stopped all climbing on K2 after Adam Bielecki and Rafal fronia sustain serious injuries in a row.
Rafal who has a broken arm was airlifted from K2 Base Camp today. Evacuation was delayed due to inclement weather. Conditions have been getting worse for the last one week as the deadly Jet stream started pounding the higher altitudes of the Savage Mountain causing widespread rock fall and heavy snow.
In the afternoon on 10th, Krzysztof Wielicki posted on the expedition website;
“Today, around 14 local time during approach to camp C1 (5900 M) spontaneously
A falling stone hit a Rafal fronię in the forearm causing a fracture. When he gets down to the base and medical supplies, he's waiting for a helicopter evacuation to the hospital in skardu
He will return to the country in the next few days.
Just a couple of days earlier, Adam was also hit with a huge rock which came flying from the top and hit his helmet. Adam suffered a broken nose and a lot of blood loss. He returned to Base Camp for stitches under supervision of the expedition doctor.
In another notification today, Wielicki informed that expedition will now follow the Abruzzi route to the top instead of the earlier adopted Cessen/Basque route which has become prone to rock fall and lashing winds.
“Due to the suspension of the mountain action on the Basque road for security reasons, on 11/’02/2018, we start the action on the way through the Abruzzów Rib.
Despite the fact that This year’s Polish expedition to K2 was well funded and equipped, they also had some of the best winter alpinists onboard, yet the progress on the Cessen route has been excruciatingly slow. In contrast, the Russian Expedition to K2 in 2011-12 was able to reach 7200m on the Cessen by February 7th.
In a month’s time, the expedition was not able to establish Camp-3 at 6700m. They are now in direct impact of the Jetstream which is slightly delayed this year. The expedition members were artificially acclimatized before reaching the K2 Base Camp which could have been utilized as an “unfair advantage”.
Switching over to the Abruzzi route after fixing ropes and making deposits on the Cessen Route for a month is more or less the end of the tunnel for this expedition.
Abruzzi, though slightly less inclined and relatively better shielded to raging winds, is considerably more prone to avalanches even in winters.
Given the fact that all successful winter ascents must be made before March 25, This Polish Expedition will now have to move fast if they have any chance of the first winter ascent of K2
Elizabeth Revol revealed some startling details of the high drama on Nanga Parbat that ended with the sad demise of Polish climber Tomek Mackiewicz.
She was speaking with Agence France-Presse (AFP), the French News agency, after she was evacuated from the Nanga Base Camp on January 28th in a joint rescue operation of Polish elite climbers and Pakistan Army.
She was flown to Islamabad and later to Switzerland.
Severely frost-bitten, Revol is currently under examination by the French doctors whether to carry on amputations or wait and watch the progress on her limbs.
Revol revealed that she was convinced to leave Tomek at 7200m and to lower her altitude so that chances of her rescue can possibly improve. Both climbers were returning to their high camp after a successful summit attempt when Tomek complained of a blackout.
“Tomek told me‘I can’t see anything anymore,’” said Revol
“He hadn’t used a mask because it was a bit hazy during the day and by nightfall he had ophthalmia (an inflammation of the eye). We hardly had a second at the top. We had to rush to get down.”
Bracing high winds and catastrophically low temperatures, Tomek huddled on Revol’s back where she carried him down to 7200m.
“At one point, he couldn’t breathe,” Revol said. “He took off the protection he had in front of his mouth and he began to freeze. His nose became white and then his hands, his feet.”
Revol and Tomek spent the night in a crevasse trying to protect them from piercing wind. By the morning Tomek’s condition had deteriorated further and he was now spewing blood-a critical sign of High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE). She had been trying to send distress messages but many of the messages were not transmitted.
Eventually she received message from the rescuers asking her to leave Tomek and lower her altitude for a possible evacuation.
“They told me,‘If you go down to 6,000 metres, we can pick you up, and we can get Tomek at 7,200 metres.’”
She added: “It wasn’t a decision I made, it was imposed on me.”
Her last words to half-conscious Tomek were ““Listen, the helicopter will arrive late afternoon. I must go down, they’ll come to get you.”
Revol dropped all her supplies for Tomek and started to descend fast. She had to spend another night in a crevasse in order to protect herself from the wind.
she suffered from hallucinations- another of the high altitude challenges which occur due to the lack of oxygen. In her half-awake dreams she exchanged her shoe for a hot cup of tea and remained barefooted for five long hours.
By the time she had reached 6800m she had lost all strength to go further down and decided to stay and wait for the rescue team. Until late in the night, there were no signs of any rescue operation when Revol finally started losing hope.
“I started to question whether I would survive”,
she ultimately gathered all her strength to descnd further to 6200m with wet gloves and shoe-less on one foot. At 3.00am in the morning she saw two flickering lights coming from the headlamps of Adam Bielecki and Denis Urubko.
“And then I saw two headlamps arriving. So I started to yell. And I said to myself,‘OK it’s going to be ok"
“It was incredibly emotional”.
Revol describes her decision to leave Tomek “terrible and painful”, but it was most certainly the decision which saved her life. This was Revol’s fourth attempt to scale Nanga in winters.
There is no official confirmation of the summit claim, but if true, Revol will be the first woman to climb the “Killer Mountain” in winters.
Tomek Mackiewicz is the third climber in the season who has been presumed "dead and missing" on Nanga Parbat in attempts to reach the top of the Killer Mountain. Nanga is the ninth highest and one of the deadliest mountains in the world after Ananpurna and K2 and it has lived up to its notorious reputation this year.
Tomek’s climbing partner Elizabeth Revol has been safely evacuated from an altitude of 6200m over the Kinshofer route in a daring rescue operation jointly conducted by Pakistan Army Aviation and Polish climbers Adam Bielecki and Denis Urubko.
Early this year, Spainiard Alberto Zerain and Argentinian climber Mariano Galvan were declared dead and missing after the rescue operations were suspended on June 28th, 2017.
Considered two of the most accomplished technical climbers in the world, Zerain and Galvan were attempting the Mazeno ridge to the top of the 8,125m peak.
Alberto’s last contact to the Base complained of bad weather and wet conditions.
“It’s snowing continuously, its snowy snow, because it’s not really cold, so it gets wet. It’s a very uncomfortable wait”.
The duo was making gradual progress till 23rd when they crossed 6000m mark. On 24th, the tracker gave a location of 6270m but an hour later it relayed an altitude of 6110m and stopped working presumably on Auto-off mode. It was not turned on after that moment.
Search and Rescue operation was launched traversing the last location marked by the tracker. Romanian climber Alex Gavan who was working on the Kinshofer Route on Diamir side, volunteered to carry out the rescue mission.
Reportedly, Galvan and Zerain were swept away in an avalanche near the top of the Mazeno Ridge. Their bodies were not recovered.
Before the first successful attempt of Nanga in 1953 by Austrian Herman Buhl, Nanga had already claimed 33 lives earning her the title “Killer Mountain”.
A Miracle is unfolding-strong hope for Eli and Tomek as the Rescue team makes rapid progress: News Update
Dropped at 5000m at 4.50pm PST at Camp-1 on the Kinshofer, Adam Bielecki and Denis Urubko have moved with lightning speed to get on top of Kinshofer wall to reach 5900m. This feat has been accomplished with no fixed ropes possibly making use of the hard blue ice axing their way up.
They have surpassed a near vertical technical wall of 400m in terribly cold and possibly windy conditions to dramatically increase the chances of Eli’s rescue. This is also the first time that Kinshofer wall has been climbed in alpine style in winters. Denis and Adam made perfect use of the acclimatization they have built on K2 reaching up to 5900m during the last few days.
In a few hours or possibly by the time this update is published, Eli will be roped down to the bottom of the wall where Jarek and Piotr will take her to the safety of the Base Camp while Adam and Denis will swiftly move up another 1400m to rescue Tomek. They have only few hours before weather deteriorates to zero visibility and wind speeds up to 100kph. Eli has been relaying messages through her SAT phone giving exact coordinates of her location contrary to Tomek who is bracing extreme cold and wind for the last 36 hours hungry, sleepless, blinded and sick.
The search and Rescue operation is unprecedented given the fact that the rescue team has overlooked all weather predictions and has moved to an altitude of 6000m on the Killer Mountain in winters and in a pitch black night.
Miraculously, the weather has been favorable with very less wind at lower altitudes although there are reports of intermittent snowfall.
For the moment, Eli’s rescue is more or less imminent and for the first time in three days, there is strong chance that Tomek will also be rescued from approx. 7200m where he has been patiently waiting. Pakistan Army aviation also undertook considerable challenge to shuttle the rescue team from Concordia to Diamir in less than three hours, although they have now called off any more heli flights presently due to darkness and tomorrow possibly due to bad weather.
This is truly a miracle unfolding!
Pakistan Army Aviation helicopters have already reached Diamir and are now contemplating the first and final pitch to latch-up Elizabeth from Camp-3 on Kinshofer. According to reliable sources, this will be the final attempt to save Eli before the search will be called off in wake of rapidly deteriorating weather conditions at Diamir.
This also means that all ground rescue will be put on hold until the weather clears up, leaving little or no chance of Tomek’s rescue and survival.
Weather report predicts heavy snowfall and blazing winds for the next two days which will effectively render all rescue operations null and void.
Polish rescue team may wait three days at the Base Camp in hopes of clear weather so they can attempt ground rescue via the Kinshofer. Adam and Denis will lead the rescue charge climbing light and fast while the rest of the team will stay as the backup support.
Tomek has little chance of survival while Eli’s rescue depends solely on the helis attempt to airlift her from 6400m.
In a few hours, Pakistan Army Aviation helis will take off from Skardu to pick four Polish climbers from K2 Base Camp ferrying them to Diamir side of Nanga Parbat. Helis were not dispatched on Friday despite the approval from the concerned government sections citing nightfall and darkness.
Rescue team comprises of Adam Bielecki, Denis Urubko, Piotr Tomala and Jarek Botor all specialized Technical climbers who have decent experience of Diamir Face. They are all set and waiting for the helis to carry them to Nanga.
"Our rucksacks are almost packed” Adam relayed this message via Instagram. “Helicopters should be here tomorrow in the morning. At least 4 of us are flying towards Nanga Parbat. Denis and I are going up light as soon and as high as possible. The rest with heavy luggage will safeguard the rear. Keep your fingers crossed for us and the weather."
Eli goes for help Leaving Tomek behind
Meanwhile, there is substantial evidence to prove that Eli has left Tomek possibly at 7000m tucked up safely in a snow cave and has moved fast to lower her altitude to 6600m on the Kinshofer. Going further down on the Kinshofer wall without fixed ropes is close to impossible. Eli’s old trusted partner Daniele Nardi has shared further info claiming Eli has come down to Camp-3 on Kinshofer and she will now wait for the helis for a possible airlift attempt.
“Everything is in correct way finally”. Wrote Denis via sms. “Tomorrow morning rescue team will fly to Diamir. We will try to go by Kinshoffer route as soon as possible. Adam and me are in head-team, going light style. Will be necessary to climb, sure, because old ropes shall be into the ice. Our group can be 4-6 members finally……We'll try to do our best.”
Bad Weather ahead
News from the weather front is not encouraging. There is just a small weather window which will allow the rescue team to carry on the reconnaissance of the route through helis. By early afternoon, helis are likely to go off-service due to high winds and overcast. There are also predictions of Jet stream finally entering the region likely to increase wind speeds up to 100-150 Kph, rendering all rescue efforts null and void.
Sickness report and a possible Summit success
According to assorted information, Tomek is suffering from snow-blindness, frostbite and possibly hypothermia. Both Eli and Tomek have been sleepless and have been facing excruciatingly tough conditions on high altitude.
Tomek’s blindness also indicates a possible summit success where he was pounded and thrashed by a blizzard pouring in from the Rupal side at the top. Also as per the Base Camp crew, they were last spotted at approximately 8000m moving up the trapezoid. If this information is accurate, there is possibility that Tomek would have thrown –in everything to stand at the top. There is also possibility that Eli refrained from attempting the peak citing dangerous conditions which is probably why she is in better physical condition. There is however, no confirmation of the summit success.