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.