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.