Winter Everest and K2 – Progress on K2.

Shattered tents at Camp 2 on K2

With good weather, the Polish K2 team established their highest point yet this season while the Everest team is forced to sit at base camp waiting for lower winds.

See this post for full background on the K2 and Everest expeditions and the history of winter attempts on the highest two mountains on Earth. Both expeditions need to summit no later than the spring equinox on March 20, 2018, at 0:15 PKT for K2 and 18:00 NPT for Everest to meet a winter summit definition.

Winter K2 – Pushing Hard

The Polish team are enjoying low winds for a change but expect high winds to return on 25 February according to this interview with expedition leader Krzysztof Wielicki. He noted that the temperatures are higher, approx. -13 ° C in the shade, before it was below -20 ° C. They must be feeling great with all the team climbing, the route getting set, camps established. Their patience is paying off.

Today, Sunday 18 February 2018, Adam Bielecki and Denis Urubko were reported to have climbed House’s Chimney to Camp 2 near 22,110’/6700m. They used the ropes that were placed last summer. They will spend the night just below the Chimney as it is at the base of a large wall (hence the Chimney) and blocks the strong winds that usually shatter Camp 2 (see image at top of post from 2014). Tomorrow, they will climb the Black Pyramid in hopes of establishing  Camp 3 at 23,760’/7200m on this rotation. The other climbers, Marek Chmielarski, and Janusz Golab are either at Camp 1 or 2 with the intention of climbing higher and Artur Malek and Maciej Bedrejczuk returning to base camp.

K2 routes

K2 Routes: Abruzzi and Česen

Meanwhile in an excellent demonstration of respecting the mountain, Wielicki sent the Pakistani High Altitude Porters back up the Česen ridge to remove ropes and tents. Well done!

You can follow them directly on their website, Facebook, and SPOT tracker

.. more on : – http://www.alanarnette.com/blog

Autor : Alan Arnette

* source: –   Progress on K2

** see also: – National Polish Winter K2 Expedition.

Nanga Parbat: 1 Saved, 1 Lost and the Spirit of Mountaineering is Strong.

Tomek Mackiewicz Perhises on Nanga Parbat Following Heroic Rescue Attempt.

Krzysztof Wielicki : Wyścig ze śmiercią – akcja ratunkowa na K2, Netia K2 Polish Winter Expedition (2003/2004).

AddThis Feed Button


Advertisements

Winter Everest and K2 – Can They Summit?

K2 Winter base camp 2018

With about one month to go before the end of winter, it may be time to wonder if either team will make their winter summit. There was talk of a 20 February summit push but the winds seem still too high, however the forecast is improving.

See this post for full background on the K2 and Everest expeditions and the history of winter attempts on the highest two mountains on Earth. Both expeditions need to summit no later than the spring equinox on March 20, 2018, at 0:15 PKT for K2 and 18:00 NPT for Everest to meet a winter summit definition.

The Big Picture

Climbing these peaks in the winter is all about weather, specifically cold and wind, wind, wind. Both the K2 and Everest teams are coping with the cold but when the wind gusts over 40mph/65kph it gets virtually impossible. All the climbers have the skills, are strong and experienced so their capabilities are not in question. But even the strongest person cannot withstand 100mph wind gusts.

On Everest the Jet-stream sits on the summit for most of the year only relenting in late May and again in early October. Most summit pushes require a minimum of four days from base camp. On Everest, an extremely aggressive schedule would breakout like this:

  1. EBC – C2 at 21,000’/6400m
  2. C2 – C3 at 23,500’/7162m  or South Col at 26,300’/8016m
  3. Summit Bid at 29,035′ / 8850m
  4. Back to C2
  5. Back to EBC

They could climb in high winds through the Icefall but probably not above C3 around 23,500’/7162m. They did have fixed ropes almost to the South Col, but that was a couple of weeks ago and they could be buried under new snow or frozen in since then.

On K2, it is a similar schedule. They have reached C2 at 22,110’/6700m but have no ropes through the Black Pyramid or above. With the icy conditions, I would assume they want to put the ropes in before or during a summit push. They have found old ropes but it is exhausting and time consuming to chop them out of the ice. Their schedule might be:

  1. K2BC – C2 at 22,110’/6700m
  2. C2 – C4 at 25,080’/7600m
  3. Summit Bid at 28,251’/8611m
  4. Back to C2
  5. Back to K2BC

Winter K2 – Pushing Hard

The Polish team continues to push, even in high winds knowing the clock is ticking. Marek Chmielarski and Artur Małek reached Camp 1 and Saturday, 17 February 2018,  Janusz Gołąb, Maciej Bedrejczuk, Denis Urubko and Adam Bielecki (who was injured by rockfall, is returning to the climb) will leave K2BC. This is the most climbers they have had on K2 this season suggesting they are pushing hard to acclimatize in anticipation of a summit window. There does appear to be reasonable winds up to the 8,000-meter level for the next week.

Denis Urubko chopping out old rope on K2 courtesy of russianClimb.com

Denis Urubko chopping out old rope on K2 courtesy of russianClimb.com

Rafał Fronia, who had his arm broken by rockfall, is back home in Poland and did a radio interview. The money quote was :

If people are acclimatized and will weather window, the chance is one hundred percent. In contrast, if you run any factor, because we do not know what will happen, well, the chances are zero. This is a good team of good people who can climb and they will come up on this, but under some circumstances.

Thanks to Altitude Pakistan, this is a brief summary of the previous attempts:

During the first winter attempt in 1987/88,  the team noted that they only had 10 days of good weather during their three months expedition. Krzysztof Wielicki, the leader today, was a climber on that expedition. They didn’t reach C3 on the Abruzzi until March 6th and then harsh winds stopped them almost killing two of the climbers with severe frostbite.

The next attempt in 2002/3 was lead by Wielicki and attempted the North Pillar. It was a team of climbers from Poland, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Georgia – they didn’t get along. Denis Urubko was also on this effort and stayed with the team after others left. Marcin Kaczkan and Urubko were the only climbers to attempt the summit on 25 February but Kaczkan developed HACE and they abandoned the attempt and the expedition.

In 2010/11 a Russian team reached 7,000-meters at the end of January by the Abruzzi but again high winds forced a retreat, then one member died at base camp and the effort was called-off.

So, as you can see these winter attempts are a huge gamble, complete with deaths. They rush to establish the route during brief periods of suitable weather but spend most of their time waiting at base camp. When they do go for the summit, it has been the winds and illness that have stopped them. Of course both Urubko and Wielicki know this well as they were there.

You can follow them directly on their website, Facebook, and SPOT tracker.

.. more on : – http://www.alanarnette.com/blog

Autor : Alan Arnette

* source: –  Winter Everest and K2 – Can They Summit?

** see also: – National Polish Winter K2 Expedition.

Nanga Parbat: 1 Saved, 1 Lost and the Spirit of Mountaineering is Strong.

Tomek Mackiewicz Perhises on Nanga Parbat Following Heroic Rescue Attempt.

Krzysztof Wielicki : Wyścig ze śmiercią – akcja ratunkowa na K2, Netia K2 Polish Winter Expedition (2003/2004).

AddThis Feed Button


Pakistani Officials Weigh in on Nanga Parbat Rescue Controversy.

The rescue operation that took place on Nanga Parbat a few weeks back continues to be a source of frustration and controversy. While climbers from K2 were able to rescue Elisabeth Revol, they weren’t able to climb higher to save Tomek Mackiewicz, which has created a contentious environment to say the least. Revol has expressed her anger over how slowly the operation came together, saying more than once that Tomek could have been saved had search and rescue teams responded more expediently. She has even said the company operating the helicopter raised the price of the flight in an effort to make more money off of the situation. While that remains under investigation, Pakistani officials have responded to criticism not just from Revol but the media as well, providing some insights into their side of the story.

In a post made to the Pakistan Mountain News page on Facebook officials made four points that they thought were important enough to share. Those points were as follows:

1. First, Pakistan is a developing economy and ‘Tourism’ sector receives much less attention. Despite, it has world’s best wonders. Neither there are institutions for high-demanding-skills rescue operation on mountain nor has it modern resource and equipment.
2. Second, these mountaineers go on Nanga Parbat at very economical package. Such economical packages do not cover many essentials. It is only their bravery and audacity that make them to summit in the winter.
3. Third, Askari Aviation does not have high-tech helicopters that can hover around in inclement weather condition. As it was coordinated rescue operation, nobody could help Tomek and Elisabeth in private capacity.
4. Lastly, Poland or French official authorities did not contact State of Pakistan officially after this rescue. However, Eisabeth was given utmost care and attention. The Chief Secretary of Gilgit-Baltistan enquired after her in hospital. She did not utter a word.

While some will probably look at this list and see a set of excuses, these are all very important things to keep in mind. Pakistan is indeed a developing country that doesn’t have the resources of some other nations when it comes fountaining these kinds of operations. It is also true that Tomek and Elisabeth’s expedition was a low-budget affair, leaving little room for error and not much in the way of a safety net if things went wrong. Unfortunately, things went very wrong, and they also didn’t have the resources for a rescue.

Askari Aviation is the company that has received a lot of venom for not reacting quicker and potentially trying to bilk more money out of the operation. But it is also probably true that they don’t have very sophisticated helicopter designed for use in the high mountains.

In other words, there are always multiple sides to a story and it is clear that we understand all of the variables at play. Clearly this is a complicated situation with a lot to think about. Sadly, Tomek lost his life, and because of that this will likely be a divisive topic for a long time to come.
Autor : Kraig Becker

* source: – Pakistani Officials Weigh in on Nanga Parbat Rescue Controversy

** see also: – National Polish Winter K2 Expedition 2017/18.

Polish famous climbers – The golden decade of Polish Himalayan mountaineering.

AddThis Feed Button


Nanga Parbat: Appreciation, Finger Pointing and Lost Hope.

The echo of Tomek Mackiewicz’s death and Elisabeth Revol’s rescue continues to haunt Nanga Parbat, and in some ways the Pakistani mountaineering community.


Denis Urubko -Elisabeth Revol -Adam Bielecki

Mackiewicz’s wife, Anna Antoinette Solska, posted on his Facebook page a classy and emotional thank you to all involved in the search for her husband. It began:

I would like to express my profound gratitude to Elisabeth Revol for staying with Tom as long as possible, for bringing him as low as possible, for taking immediately a fight to save him, for words of comfort for me, which in such a dramatic situation both for Tom and her alone was able to direct me to tell me that he was doing everything he could to help him. She did everything in her power to that moment where she had to continue to fight to save her life too. We are unable to imagine the dramatic situation in which she found herself or the moral tragic choice she had to make. We have no right to judge. I’m with her all my heart to get better. Thank you for her love giving tomek to children, for her willingness to support children and Tom’s family. Eli, thank you.

Please read her entire post.

After Elisabeth Revol’s angry press conference where she lashed out at the Pakistanis, Polish and French embassies claiming their delays cost  Tomek Mackiewicz his life, she is now blaming the press for getting her story wrong. However, the French media BFMTV quoted the French climber, Revol, “I have a lot of anger in me, she continues. We could have saved Tomek had there been real relief made on time and organized.”

Her Facebook post starts:

Started by Messner, this path was to be the culmination of our physical and mental preparations, with tomek, we knew that the summit would not be easy.

Fifteen days we separate from this epic story widely reported by the press… reported, but also distorted, words extirpées, out of context.. I don’t want to report the facts, but rather tell you what, today , count to my eyes…

Please read her entire post.

Finally Pakistan Mountaineering News defended Pakistan on their Facebook with a series of four points (highlights only, please read entire post):

  1. First, Pakistan is a developing economy and ‘Tourism’ sector receives much less attention. Despite, it has world’s best wonders. Neither there are institutions for high-demanding-skills rescue operation on mountain nor has it modern resource and equipment.
  2. Second, these mountaineers go on Nanga Parbat at very economical package. Such economical packages do not cover many essentials. It is only their bravery and audacity that make them to summit in the winter.
  3. Third, Askari Avidiation does not have high-tech helicopters that can hover around in inclement weather condition. As it was coordinated rescue operation, nobody could help Tomek and Elisabeth in private capacity.
  4. Lastly, Poland or French official authorities did not contact State of Pakistan officially after this rescue. However, Eisabeth was given utmost care and attention. The Chief Secretary of Gilgit-Baltistan enquired after her in hospital. She did not utter a word.

Mackiewicz’s father was desperate to put together a team to retrieve his body. He found the money and the climbers, but the Pakistani Government said no – too much risk. I suspect they are weary of the criticism.

With Nanga over, time to focus on K2 and Everest. My best to all the climbers on all these teams.

.. more on : – http://www.alanarnette.com/blog

Autor : Alan Arnette

* source: – K2 Progress, Everest Dancing, Tomek’s Wife Thanks Everyone

** see also: – National Polish Winter K2 Expedition.

Nanga Parbat: 1 Saved, 1 Lost and the Spirit of Mountaineering is Strong.

Tomek Mackiewicz Perhises on Nanga Parbat Following Heroic Rescue Attempt.

Krzysztof Wielicki : Wyścig ze śmiercią – akcja ratunkowa na K2, Netia K2 Polish Winter Expedition (2003/2004).

AddThis Feed Button


Winter Climbs 2018: K2 Progress, Everest Dancing.

Polish Winter K2 on Abruzzi

The Polish K2 team continues to fight the weather, but now over on the Abruzzi route. On Everest, they are dancing at base camp! Both teams are eying February 20th as a potential summit date.

See this post for full background on the K2 and Everest expeditions and the history of winter attempts on the highest two mountains on Earth. Both expeditions need to summit no later than the spring equinox on March 20, 2018, at 0:15 PKT for K2 and 18:00 NPT for Everest to meet a winter summit definition.

The Big Picture

Is climbing a team sport, or a team of individuals? In the old days of true National Teams, members were selected for their skills and experience. They didn’t know if they would have a chance to summit as that was decided by the leader after they had worked together to get camps set up and perhaps fixed rope on the route. Every leader had their own selection criteria but mostly it came down to who was strongest to make the summit. Remember in the “old days”, if one member summited, the entire expedition was called a success.

This winter season we have seen many examples of how teamwork goes in modern times. On K2, there is a clear split between Denis Urubko and the rest of the team. He is even going so far as to taunt them in the media. On Everest, Txikon and crew seem to be working well together even posting videos of them dancing and having fun. And on Nanga Parbat, it was the worse of all worlds with a close partnership to make the summit, then death and now an ugly time of finger pointing.

To be clear, climbing these high peaks – in winter – is an almost impossible task – just look at the success rate. It takes a strong team of climbers, complete with strong egos, to break trail in deep snow, put in fixed ropes, establish camps, fight the wind and stay focused and motived during long periods of downtime. But the real test comes when they go for the summit. That is when they need to be working as a closely knit team supporting each other with a shared purpose and understanding of the risk profile. If one member wants to be more aggressive than the others, they will waste precise energy arguing over continuing or turning back.

With summits window emerging for next week, now is the time to gel as a team.

Winter K2 – Fixing the Abruzzi

The Polish team has completed a few reconnaissance climbs to inspect the condition of the Abruzzi and determined they will need fixed ropes. They found some old ropes that are encased in ice, but will need to bring more up. Keep in mind, they are already familiar with the route as many of the team was on it this summer for training and knowledge with no attempt to summit K2.

K2 CampsPolish climbers, Piotr Tomala and Marcin Kaczkan wanted to fix the route to Camp 1 around 20,000’/6100m yesterday but the weather tuned bad so they left a cache of supplies just below C1. The plan for today, 14 February was to send  the High Altitude Porters (HAP), Saddik and Jalal, to complete the route at least to C1.

Denis Urubko continues to criticize the team and methods on his blog. This time he does a “told you so” series of rants saying they should have climbed from the east side of K2 and they never should have attempted the Česen or be on the Abruzzi now. And today he does interview with RussianClimb showing him hoping to reach Camp 3 on the Abruzzi but stopped by weather. He did reach 6500-meters, alone, with more rope. But once again, he criticizes his teammates and leader but obeys orders to return to a lower camp when weather moves in. Its makes for an interesting read (link). He ends his post with a hint that 20 February might be a good weather day and then adds “opps”. He is certainly focusing the attention on himself.

K2 Routes courtesy of exweb

K2 Routes courtesy of exweb

You can follow them directly on their website, Facebook, and SPOT tracker.

.. more on : – http://www.alanarnette.com/blog

Autor : Alan Arnette

* source: – K2 Progress, Everest Dancing, Tomek’s Wife Thanks Everyone

** see also: – National Polish Winter K2 Expedition.

Nanga Parbat: 1 Saved, 1 Lost and the Spirit of Mountaineering is Strong.

Tomek Mackiewicz Perhises on Nanga Parbat Following Heroic Rescue Attempt.

Krzysztof Wielicki : Wyścig ze śmiercią – akcja ratunkowa na K2, Netia K2 Polish Winter Expedition (2003/2004).

AddThis Feed Button


Winter Climbs 2018: Poles Make a Change on K2, Summit in Siberia.

While it has only been a couple of days since I posted my last update on the major winter expeditions that we’ve been following so far this year. There has been a steady stream of news over the weekend that makes it worth of yet another update. Things are happening quickly right now, and the fate of these climbs is hanging in the balance.

On K2, the Polish Ice Warriors team has made the jump from the Česen Route over to the Abruzzi after yet another climber suffered an injury, this time serious enough to send him home. Last week, you’ll recall, Adam Bielecki was struck by a falling rock, breaking his nose and opening a cut that required six stitches to heal. Over the weekend, Rafael Fronia also was hit be a falling rock, this time breaking his arm. This was enough of an injury to send him packing for home, and convince the team to switch to what they hope will be a safer route.

While conditions have been cold and windy on K2, there hasn’t been a lot of snowfall, making rockslides much more common. Frozen snow and ice helps to keep that kind of debris in place, but a lack of it has created unsafe conditions. The hope is that the longer, less-steep climb up the Abruzzi will help mitigate some of these issues.

Meanwhile, the team has had some internal problems it seems as well. Denis Urubko posted some blistering thoughts about the progress so far, blasting his teammates to a degree. Urubko took umbrage with the fact that he was the only one installing ropes at higher altitude, and was critical of the other climbers for not staying hydrated and using their cooking stoves inside tents that aren’t ventilated properly. Are these messages signs of discontent amongst the group or just his frustration on the lack of progress thus far? We’ll have to wait to see, but perhaps the change of route will be good for morale all around.

Continue reading

K2 Teams Stops, and Starts Back Up.

K2 House Chimney

The Polish K2 team halted climbing on the Česen and switched to another route believed to be safer. The Everest team continues to wait meanwhile there has been a summit of extremely cold Pik Pobeda.

See this post for full background on the K2 and Everest expeditions and the history of winter attempts on the highest two mountains on Earth. Both expeditions need to summit no later than the spring equinox on March 20, 2018, at 0:15 PKT for K2 and 18:00 NPT for Everest to meet a winter summit definition.

Winter K2 – Switch to the Abruzzi

The Polish team planned to climb the Česen Route aka Basque Route because it was shorter, steeper and somewhat faster than the Abruzzi or other routes on K2 from the Pakistani side. However the winter of 2017/18 has been a low snow year allowing dangerous rockfall on the ridge. Two climbers had already been injured, Rafal Fronia with a broken forearm and Adam Bielecki with a broken nose and gash to his face. Adding to the dynamics, Kazakstan alpinist Denis Urubko  who has held Polish citizenship since February 2015, publicly criticized the team and methods on his blog. As a result, expedition leader Krzysztof Wielicki halted all climbing, brought his team back to base camp to regroup and consider alternatives.

There are multiple routes on K2 but the two most commonly climbed are the Česen and the Abruzzi. It now appears they will attempt the Abruzzi. I summited K2 in 2014 by this route. While a bit longer than the Česen, it has very similar issues – exposure to wind and objective dangers. It requires climbing House’s Chimney, a 50-meter/150 foot off-width crack rock climb just below Camp 2 (22,000’/6700m) and up the Black Pyramid, a section of highly loose rock for almost two thousand feet to Camp3 at 24000’/7300m. This route will not be any easier, or safer in my opinion.

Down Climbing K2 Black Pyramid

K2 Black Pyramid in 2014 by Alan Arnette

The Česen and Abruzzi merge at Camp 3 so they would have had the same issue on the upper mountain regardless of route selection. They had reached 6,300-meters on the Česen.

Continue reading