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Krzysztof Wielicki sheds light on what happened to the fateful Polish climbers who lost their lives during the summit attempt

PictureMaciej Berbeka

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.


PictureWielicki addressing the press conference

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.


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“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).” 

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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. 

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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. 

PictureThe Gilkey Memorial

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
02-593 Warszawa
BIC/SWIFT CODE : BIGBPLPWXXX
IBAN: PL 04 1160 2202 0000 0000 5515 5611


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