Krzysztof Wielicki sheds light on what happened to the fateful Polish climbers who lost their lives during the summit attempt
It was the winter of 1988 when Maciej Berbeka decided to scale the Broad Peak for the first winter summit. Young and agile, brimming with confidence, he was able to reach 8,000 m on the jagged granite structure but had to retreat due to impending weather conditions.
That eventful day was March 6th, 1988.
25 years later, he overpowered his nemesis and successfully reached the top of the mountain in the late hours of March 6th, 2013. Although this time around, Berbeka never made it back to the base camp.
The accomplished mountaineer lost his way during the descent. Tired and exhausted, he probably gave into hallucinations following the silhouette of Tomasz Kowalski as per the sketch drawn by Krzysztof Wielicki who remained in contact with him on the radio.
The Polish Mountaineering team held a press conference explaining and investigating the unfortunate circumstances where the two Polish climbers lost their lives after a successful first winter summit of the Broad Peak.
“Maciej and Tomasz climbed together.” said Wielicki addressing the press conference. “It is not clear if even for a moment, they descended side by side. Maciej went down in front, and Tomasz had seen him a few times (according to what he said to Wielicki, but he was in very bad shape then, so we cannot say for sure that he have seen was Berbeka or it was just his imagination as it happens in these circumstances).”
The team further explained the circumstances of why the helicopter was not utilised for the Search and Rescue Operation as the weather conditions and the probable site of the disappearance both were out of reach for a helicopter rescue. Wielicki also elaborated the other rescue attempts which were conducted by the Pakistani High Altitude Porters (HAPs) who were part of the expedition. Karim and Shaheen reached the height of 7,700m but were not able to detect any signs of the lost climbers.
Polish Winter Expedition for the Broad Peak reached the top of the mountain after a gruesome summit assault which lasted for 12 hours. The team of four climbers started their attack at 5 O’clock in the morning of March 6th and finally made it to the top at 6 O’clock in the evening. This was their second attempt of the peak during this expedition.
Kowalski was unmarried and had no family while Berbeka is survived by 14 years old Jasiek and 23 years old Franek and their mother.The Jerzy Kukuczka Polish Mountaineering Support Foundation has started to raise funds for Maciej Berbeka’s family. Those who are willing to contribute can donate through
Bank Millennium SA
ul. Stanisława Żaryna 2A
BIC/SWIFT CODE : BIGBPLPWXXX
IBAN: PL 04 1160 2202 0000 0000 5515 5611
Search and Rescue called off! Two missing Poles have now been officially declared as “Lost and Dead”
Poles’ amazing feat of conquering the Broad Peak for the first winter ascent, has now concluded on a catastrophic note where the two missing climbers Maciej Berbeka and Tomasz Kowalski have now been officially declared as lost and dead.
Announced by the team leader Krzysztof Wielicki today from the Base Camp, the expedition has now been declared as over and the search operation for the two missing climbers has been aborted.
"Having regard to all the circumstances, the identified conditions, my experience and the history of Himalayan mountaineering, as well as knowledge of high altitude physiology and medicine, and even after additional consultations with doctors and co-organized expeditions in Poland, we must conclude that Maciej Berbeka and Tomasz Kowalski are dead." Wielicki said through an official email.
He further added, "Given the time that has elapsed since the last contact, the height at which it happened, the state in which they already were, the current appalling weather conditions and all the other factors I have decided to end the expedition."
The gigantic Polish expedition met success in the late hours of March 5th when four climbers scaled the 8,047m Broad Peak for the first time in winters, earning laurels from all over the world. Their ascent, which was smooth and trouble-free, was followed by a treacherous descent where two of the experienced climbers Kowalski and Berbeka were reported missing as the rest of the two climbing mates Artur Małek and Adam Bielecki reached camp 4 at 7400m. Later they received news that Kowalski and Berbeka bivouacked without a tent and will descend sometime later. Base Camp never heard from the missing climbers again.
On March 6th, the rescue operation kicked off as Pakistani High Altitude Porters (HAPs) Shaheen Baig and Karim Hayat started climbing the mountain in search of the descending climbers. Soon the weather completely went wayward when dense fog and continuous rain engulfed Concordia, leaving little chance of an organized S&R Operation.
Kowalski and Berbeka, like the rest of the climbers were equipped with SPOT Locator and GPS tracking devices but these gadgets have known to malfunction at such high altitudes.
Karim and Artur reached the height of 7,700m in search of the two climbers but they had to make a quick descent in face of the deteriorating weather.
The Poles have started their journey back to Skardu from where they will fly to Islamabad and later to Warsaw.
"We pack the base and began our descent down. The march through Baltoro Glacier will take about 5 days. Back to Poland occurs around March 20." Wielicki added, "Due to the lack of power sources from now on we can be in contact no more by phone or e-mail and there will not be any news from us until about March 15."
This is the second tragedy that has occurred during the winter season where three renowned climbers have laid down their lives trying to attempt the mindless.
Pakistan Explorer would like to pay tribute to these Ice Warriors for their unflinching courage and mighty hearts. We would like to extend our condolences with the aggrieved families.
Broad Peak surrenders to the Polish Ice warriors! Polish Winter Himalaism team 2010-2015 captures Broad Peak for the first winter ascent
It has now been confirmed that the Poles have reached the top of the 8,047m Broad Peak in the Karakorum of Pakistan pulling yet another feather in their already blistering cap of winter summits in the world.
The team, which started its summit push in the earlier hours of March 5th, made it to the top at around 1700 to 1830 local time. All four members of the attack team reached the top and are now returning to the Base Camp to be greeted by their jubilant captain Krzysztof Wielicki.
This is the second consecutive 8000er summited by the Poles after their successful bid on the Gasherbrum-1 last year. Adam Bielicki, who proved to be elementary in last year’s G-1 summit, was also part of the team who scaled the notorious Broad Peak. This was also his third Pakistani 8000er after scaling K-2 in July, and G-1 in March last year.
Pakistan Explorer would like to congratulate the Polish team for their meteoric success!
Summit push in progress! Poles soon to become the first nation to step on the 8,051m Broad Peak for the first time in winters
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.
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.
“To climb or not to climb? That is the question!” Poles all set to utilise the tight weather window on March 5th for the final summit push of Broad Peak
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.