Death Before Failure: Wanda Rutkiewicz & The Golden Age of Polish Mountaineering.

The communist era, generally viewed as a time of suffering and oppression, was a period of liberating exploration and unbelievable feats of bravery and persistence for one group: Poland’s mountain climbing community. Dramatically, many lost their lives in pursuit of glory. What was it that drove their extreme expeditions?

One of the stories from this article is also available in an audio format. Click the player below to listen to our podcast Stories From The Eastern West about how Wanda Rutkiewicz changed the world’s deadliest sport…

A daring generation

Andrzej Zawada, photo: Bogdan Jankowski
Andrzej Zawada, photo: Bogdan Jankowski

During the 1980s and 1990s, Polish mountain climbers flocked en masse to the Himalayan mountains in the hope of scaling some of the tallest and most difficult peaks in the world. Not only were they successful, but they also came to dominate the Himalayan climbing scene for the greater part of these two decades. Many of the finest mountain climbers in history emerged from this ambitious group of Poles: Andrzej Zawada, Jerzy Kukuczka, Krzysztof Wielecki, Wojciech Kurtyka, and Wanda Rutkiewicz.

For the majority of the population that would never dare attempt a feat as dangerous as mountain-climbing, it is hard to understand precisely what drove these people to the top of the world. Why would anyone with even a rudimentary understanding of statistics purposely tread the ever-so-thin line between life and death?

Was it the thrill of being at the cruising altitude of a commercial airline? Did climbing to dizzying heights and reaching the top of the world help to satisfy one’s ego? Was it a spiritual journey, akin to that of Jesus or Buddha? Was it merely the pursuit of the freedom many of these climbers had never experienced?

Or, to put it bluntly, is it just something that the faint of heart will never fully comprehend?

Using Bernadette McDonald’s remarkable book Freedom Climbers as a basis, we try to find out.

Made for climbing

Wanda Rutkiewicz in the Pyrenees, 1969, photo: Photo Collection of the Museum of Sport and Tourism
Wanda Rutkiewicz in the Pyrenees, 1969, photo: Photo Collection of the Museum of Sport and Tourism

Climbing worked like a drug on her. She never even gave it any consideration. It automatically entered her blood and was totally absorbed by it.

Climbing came naturally to Wanda Rutkiewicz. She was introduced to the sport by one of her school friends while she attended university in Wrocław and it was apparent from the first climb that she had a gift. She climbed efficiently and effortlessly. Her body was seemingly built for it. In her journal, she wrote:

I adored the physical movement, the fresh air, the camaraderie, and the excitement.

Yet, the small crags, trees, and chimneys she climbed in her university days could not in any way satisfy Wanda’s adventurous spirit. She had grown to love climbing, but as she became more experienced, her ambitions grew and as her ambitions grew, so did the obstacles she climbed. It was only natural that she would eventually be drawn to the mountains.

Soon after discovering her knack for mountain climbing, her career began to flourish. Before long, she became one of the most well-known and talented climbers in all of Poland. At one point she was even approached by the Polish secret service, who recognised her natural talent and believed she could be of great use to the communist state. However, her strong-willed personality and fiercely individualistic worldview meant that surrendering herself to the will of the regime was out of the question.

The Pamir Mountains, photo: Bartek Tofel/Forum
The Pamir Mountains, photo: Bartek Tofel/Forum

Following her swift rise to prominence, Wanda, in addition to attracting attention from Polish intelligence, began to impress many within the Polish mountain climbing community. Poland’s most skilled climbers immediately recognised her undeniable talent and potential. Andrzej Zawada, one of the leaders of this talented generation, decided to invite her on an expedition to the Soviet Pamirs, which would be her first major expedition.

The expedition was, however, an unpleasant experience for Wanda. She loathed the abasing treatment she received from male climbers and felt as though she wasn’t treated as an equal.  Moreover, her confrontational personality and her inability to form and maintain relationships, problems that plagued her throughout her career, became apparent during this expedition.

After the Pamirs, she became convinced that her sponsors had essentially forced her to forfeit her independence. As had been shown by her encounter with the communist intelligence officials, such a forfeiture was anathema to her. She no longer wanted to participate in expeditions that caused her to lose her independence. She had to do things her way, even if that meant leading her own expeditions.

Climbing under communism

Meeting between Nikita Khruschev and Władysław Gomułka for the 20th anniversary of the Polish People’s Republic, 1964, photo by Romuald Broniarek / FORUM

Most sporting competitions and competitive pursuits during the height of the Cold War became incredibly politicised. For Poland, mountain climbing was hardly an exception.

Mountain climbing had previously suffered due to acrimonious Russian-Polish relations, but the thaw in relations in the 1960s between the leaders Khruschev and Gomułka allowed for its resurgence. This thaw in relations made travelling far easier and allowed climbers access to peaks and ranges that were previously inaccessible.

The communist government recognised the potential of its mountain climbing community. It believed the success of its climbers could be exploited and used as a political tool that could help to legitimise and bolster support for the regime.

More importantly, the government believed that the success of their climbers would bring glory to Poland. For this reason, it was incredibly supportive of the climbers and their pursuits. Over time, as the mountain climbing community grew in size, a sizeable bureaucratic apparatus formed to subsidise their increasingly expensive expeditions.

At the same time, this fervent support for mountain-climbing does seem a bit ironic. It did bring Poland glory and put them on the world stage, that much is true, but mountain climbing itself is fundamentally un-communist.

In many cases, it was an individualistic pursuit, which clashed with the lofty communist notion of collectivism. Moreover, there was a truly liberating aspect to these expeditions. Once they entered the mountains, they were no longer under constant surveillance and subject to the authoritarian laws of their government. The mountains were, unbeknownst to the regime, a veritable oasis of freedom.

Communist officials, however, were not interested in analysing the deeper meaning of mountain climbing. All they cared about was that Poland was glorified on the international stage. And these climbers, whether intentional or not, undoubtedly succeeded in bringing glory to Poland.

Triumph

The Great Himalayas, photo: Bartek Tofel / Forum
The Great Himalayas, photo: Bartek Tofel / Forum

It is hard to say exactly what led to such a talented generation of Polish climbers. Some believed that the suffering Poland endured during the 20th century had created a resilient and driven group of people. Poles, however, believed that their success in the mountains came from a tradition of nobility and bravery that was inherent to their culture. Regardless of the source of their success, it was clear that these climbers were uniquely gifted.

During the 1980s and 1990s, Polish mountain climbers were among the most successful in the world. They managed to scale some of the world’s most difficult peaks, attempt increasingly dangerous routes, and challenge the limits of possibility.

It would be impossible to include all the accomplishments of Polish climbers during this period, but here is a list of some of their noteworthy achievements:

  • In 1980, Andrzej Zawada led the first winter ascent of Mt. Everest.
  • In 1985, Wojtek Kurtyka successfully climbed the ‘Shining Wall’ of the Gasherbrum IV peak in the Himalayas, a feat which some called one of the greatest achievements of mountaineering in the 20th century.
  • In 1987, Jerzy Kukuczka became the second person to climb all fourteen ‘eight-thousanders’, the aptly-named peaks that tower over eight-thousand metres above sea-level.
  • Kukuczka also created a new route on K2, dubbed the Polish Line, which no one has repeated.
  • Krzysztof Wielecki became the fifth man to climb all fourteen eight-thousanders and the first person to climb Mt. Everest, Kangchenjunga, and Lhotse in the winter.
  • Rutkiewicz became the first woman to summit K2 and the first Polish person, male or female, to climb Mt. Everest.
  • Rutkiewicz also managed to climb eight of the fourteen eight-thousanders during her illustrious career.

It goes without saying that this was a particularly tenacious group of climbers. Not only did they scale some of the most daunting peaks in the world, they often did so in extremely difficult conditions. If a certain peak had already been summited numerous times, they looked for more challenging routes or scaled it in the dead of winter. In some cases, they even climbed alone or refused to use supplemental oxygen.

For these climbers, there would be always uncharted territory. There would always be a new record to break and a more challenging route to attempt. It was precisely this relentless determination and pioneering spirit that allowed them to be among the best in the world.

Wanda’s struggles

Wanda Rutkiewicz, Pakistan / China, 1982, during an expedition to K2 (peak in the background), photo: archives of Jerzy Kukuczka / Forum
Wanda Rutkiewicz, Pakistan / China, 1982, during an expedition to K2 (peak in the background), photo: archives of Jerzy Kukuczka / Forum

As Wanda became more popular and her achievements started to accumulate, she became increasingly isolated from the mountain climbing community. She had proved she was among the best in the world and her scaling of Mt. Everest became, arguably, her crowning achievement.

She also had led several all-female expeditions and became a trailblazer for women’s climbing throughout the world. She was one of, if not the most, recognisable mountain climbers in the world. As Rudolf Messner, arguably the greatest mountaineer in history, once said:

Wanda is the living proof that women can put up performances at high altitude that most men can only dream of.

Yet, this success does not tell the entire story. Many of these triumphs and achievements came at a significant cost to both her personal life and her relationships with other climbers.

For one, the schedule of a mountain climber can be rather erratic. Wanda’s obsession with the pursuit only managed to exacerbate this. Since she was away from home for so long her marriages suffered, her finances were in shambles, and her nomadic lifestyle was unmanageable.

The difficulties in her personal life coupled with the death of her father also made her distrustful by nature. As a result, she was wary of commitment and often pushed away those who wanted to help her. As one climber put it:

Difficult. Competing. We loved her but she didn’t seem to know that. She thought she was alone. She pushed us away. But we loved Wanda.

Unfortunately, many of these personal struggles followed her on expeditions and often manifested themselves in other difficulties. In some instances, her strong will demonstrated that she was as capable as any male climber, regardless of what they thought of her. As Krzysztof Wielecki, one of Poland’s most decorated climbers, said:

She was very calculating, tough like a bull.

Or on another occasion:

A difficult woman, an extraordinary woman.

In other instances, she became dictatorial in her leadership style, alienating many of her peers. Her determination instilled confidence in other climbers, but her leadership style, once again, hurt the relationships she frequently struggled to maintain.

It is important to add, however, that these personal struggles do not in any way diminish the significance of her accomplishments. On the contrary – when her personal struggles are taken into consideration, her accomplishments become even more admirable. They manage to demonstrate how resilient she truly was.

And despite the obstacles she faced, both in the mountains and back home, she nonetheless remained one of the most talented climbers of her generation and in the history of women’s climbing.

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38th anniversary of the first Everest winter ascent.

February 17, 1980 – First winter ascent by Andrzej Zawada’s team from Poland: Leszek Cichy and Krzysztof Wielicki.

This was also the first winter summit of any of the world’s fourteen 8000 metre peaks.

Completed in 1980 by a team of phenomenally rugged Polish climbers, this ascent was led by … Leszek Cichy and Krzysztof Wielicki reached the summit on February 17.

wielicki-cichy
Krzysztof Wielicki and Leszek Cichy celebrate winning Mount Everest in Winter.

One might say that winter expeditions into the Himalayas were invented by Polish people, mainly by Andrzej Zawada, becouse he is considered as the originator of the idea.

It’s important to remind that first 7 of all eight-thousanders mountains were reached by Poles who became famous and British mountaineers called them “ICE WARRIORS”.

These first 7 peaks were reached by Polish climbers between the years of 1980 – 1988. That is why those times are also called “The Golden Decade” of Polish Himalaism.

You can see..

Krzysztof Wielicki – detailed diary of First winter ascent of Mount Everest, Please click the links below :

Polish winter expedition 1980: Everest – part 1

Polish winter expedition 1980: Everest – part 2

Polish winter expedition 1980: Everest – part 3

Polish winter expedition 1980: Everest – part 4

* more on –   37th anniversary of the first Everest winter ascent.

** I invite you to relationships with expeditions Polish mountaineers.

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37th anniversary of the first Everest winter ascent.

February 17, 1980 – First winter ascent by Andrzej Zawada’s team from Poland: Leszek Cichy and Krzysztof Wielicki.

This was also the first winter summit of any of the world’s fourteen 8000 metre peaks.

Completed in 1980 by a team of phenomenally rugged Polish climbers, this ascent was led by … Leszek Cichy and Krzysztof Wielicki reached the summit on February 17.

wielicki-cichy
Krzysztof Wielicki and Leszek Cichy celebrate winning Mount Everest in Winter.

You can see ..

Krzysztof Wielicki – detailed diary of First winter ascent of Mount Everest, Please click the links below :

Polish winter expedition 1980: Everest – part 1

Polish winter expedition 1980: Everest – part 2

Polish winter expedition 1980: Everest – part 3

Polish winter expedition 1980: Everest – part 4

** I invite you to relationships with expeditions Polish mountaineers.

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Himalaya 2011 climbing season, Pakistan wrap-up: K2 not over yet on either side, under the radar notes from Rodrigo, and more.

(Angela Benavides) Compared to Everest where KTM heli shuttles, food yaks, bars, and a general bustling scene of hundreds of climbers cushion the waiting game: hanging in the dark and cold BC on K2 south side is a challenge in itself. Fabrizio and Kinga have done it for two months already, still hoping for a summit chance. On the equally empty north side; the international team hopes for a final push early next week.

In other news: Rodrigo Granzotto Peron has compiled a bunch of expedition reports which passed unnoticed by most media. There’s also word from Korea, and about landslides in NW Pakistan.

K2 south

When everyone left for home after the failed summit push on Cesen last week, American Fabrizio Zangrilli and Polish Kinga Baranowska stayed behind in BC. First to arrive and last to leave, “We are alone in BC, just like in the beginning, checking weather forecasts which, unfortunately, are bad,” Kinga wrote. “We will give it another go if the weather will give us a chance in the next 10 days,” Fabrizio added noting that, “K2 is a tough nut to crack.”

K2 north

Dodging avalanches and shooting rocks, back in BC Maxut Zhumayev reports that the definitive summit bid may take place as soon as the currently strong wind recedes, by August 16.

It’s an all or nothing bet. “The next attempt will by our only chance to summit,” Gerlinde told Nachrichten.at.

Korean Gasherbrum summiteers: Cho Oyu next

South Korean Gasherbrum summiteers Kim Chang-Ho and Suh Sung-Ho will attempt Cho Oyu next, ExWeb correspondent Kyu Dam-Lee reported from Seoul. The ‘Turquoise Godess’ (Cho Oyu’s Tibetan name) could become Kim’s 13th 8000er (with only Everest left to go) and the last colective peak for the Busan Hope Expedition series. As for Suh, he has Cho Oyu, K2 and Broad Peak left to complete his 14x8000er challenge.

Dark horses: more expedition stats

Rodrigo Granzotto-Peron compiled a bunch of expedition reports which have passed largely unnoticed so far.

NANGA PARBAT + SPANTIK:

The Czech expedition made a summit bid in late July, when they reached C2 on the regular route of Nanga Parbat, but the attempt was called off on July 29 because of “steep ice and falling rocks”. Check for further info here.

On July 13, Pavel Matousek, Olga Novakova, Suzanna Hofmann, Antonin Belik, Vit Auermüller, Libor Kadlcik, Tomas Kruml and Michal Vyroubal became the first Czechs to summit Spantik (7027 m).

BROAD PEAK:

Strong winds, unfavorable weather forecasts and excess of snow on the upper plateau of Broad Peak led several expeditions to abort the summit bids and return home empty handed.

This was the case of Altitude Junkies expedition, under leadership of Phil Crampton, and with a multinational team of six climbers and five Pakistani HAPs. The expedition was called off on July 22.

The same reasons cut short the Spanish-Argentine expedition. All four members – Javier Camacho Gimeno (Chavi) Bueno and Arturo Aparicio, from Spain, and Lito Sanchez and Heber Orona, from Argentina – more or less reached 7850 meters, on the plateau, but due to strong winds (60-70 km/h) and cold feet, they headed down. Further attempts were halted by instable weather. Check for further info here.

Mexican well-known couple Mauricio Lopez Ahumada and Badia Bonilla de Luna, self-dubbed Una Pareja en Ascenso, managed to reach 7500 meters on July 12. Later, bad weather prevented further attempts, and they headed home.

Exception was the British-Spanish expedition. On July 25, Scott Mackenzie (UK), the expedition leader, and Koldo Zubimendi (SPA) summited Broad Peak.. The British side of the team had acclimatized on Mount Damavand (Iran, 5621 m). Scott summited and skied on descent.

HUNZA PEAK

Supposed to team up with Colin Haley for a new route on Ogre II (6960 m); when the American could not participate Norwegian top climber Bjorn Eivind Artun changed plans for a solo attempt on Hunza Peak (6270 m). The spire was first climbed in 1991 by Mick Fowler and Crag Jones and news are expected soon from Artun.

Among other conquests, Bjorn has two new routes on a 1000-meter-high wall on Kjerag Mountains (Norway) and a speed ascent of the Cassin Ridge on Denali, with Haley.

TAHU RATUM

Swedish duo Magnus Eriksson and Martin Jakobsson just arrived in Pakistan to attempt the 1500-meter-high central pillar of Tahu Ratum (6651 m). “The route has never been climbed before, so we really don’t know what to expect,” Martin said. The climbers plan to summit early September Check for info here.

Landslides strike NW Pakistan – again

Natural disaster is striking Gilgit-Baltistan region again. Nearly 130 houses in Talis village have been flattened by landslides, affecting 1,200 to 1,500 people, according to AFP.

NGO’s such as Alberto Iñurrategi fundation plead for help, since the relief work done in the area since last year’s flood is destroyed. Check the story on Barrabes here.

Links to 2011 Pakistan teams:

K2 – Pakistan (south) side:

Kinga Baranowska
Fabrizio Zangrilli

K2 – China (north) side:

Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner
Ralf’s Amical
Maxut Zhumayev

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Everest & Himalaya 2010 Season’s End Chronicle, take 5: Special report – The Spring of Annapurna.

“When one thinks about Annapurna the first impression that comes to mind is danger,” ExWeb contributor Rodrigo Granzotto states.

Nevertheless, Anna was the most visited 8000er after Everest this past spring, and coped headlines as some pages of mountaineering history were written on its slopes.

Sixty years after becoming the first 8000er ever summited, the peak has witnessed three climbers finishing their 14×8000 quest on its summit (including the first female) the highest chopper rescue in history and, sadly, yet another man lost to the mountain.

Therefore it deserves a special chapter on the massive chronicle compiled by exWeb contributor Rodrigo Granzotto. Enjoy!

Everest & Himalaya 2010 Spring Season´s End Chronicle–Special on Annapurna’s Diamond Jubilee
by Rodrigo Granzotto Peron

I–The first ascent:

Annapurna just completed the Diamond Jubilee of the first conquest. On June 3, 1950, the French duo comprised of Maurice Herzog and Louis Lachenal stood at the top of an 8000er for the first time. Sixty years has passed and again Annapurna was the main stage of the Season. Several expeditions showed up, including five Spanish, two South Korean, one North American, one International, plus other climbers, such as Amir Hossein Partovinia from Iran, with an unprecedented amount of climbers on the regular route.

II–Danger level:

“When one thinks about Annapurna the first impression that comes to mind is danger.” This can be further exemplified by quoting some of the top climbers:

“It is not one of my favorite mountains, I must confess. It is dangerous due to avalanche risk on the North Face…” (Iñaki Ochoa de Olza).

“Annapurna is not too difficult, but dangerous.…” (Ivan Vallejo).

“Annapurna is on my mind all the time. It´s hard and dangerous.” (Silvio Mondinelli).

“Annapurna is beautiful and it looks big and dangerous” (Simone Moro).

“Annapurna isn’t the toughest summit, but there is always danger when someone climbs the mountain.” (Ueli Steck).

“Annapurna has the most dangerous standard route of all 8000ers.” (Reinhold Messner).

In spite of the risk level, the danger level has been dropping over the past years. It reached the maximum point in 1985, with almost 91% (bordering a suicide), then lowered to 62% in 1991, 49% in 1996, 43% in 2002, 40% in 2005, and, after the present season, now we have 183 ascents and 61 fatalities. This results in about 33%, which is almost one-third of the 1985’s ratio. If considering only the occurrences of the 1990’s and 2000’s, then there were 124 ascents and 22 deaths, on a level of 17%. Focusing only the last ten years, just 10%. So, Annapurna is dangerous, but not “that” dangerous anymore.

On the other hand, the mountain showed all her wrath in 2010. It was the seventh year straight with fatalities registered on the mountain, taking the life of Tolo Calafat, who died at 7,600 meters, probably due to AMS (his death was the first on the regular N Face route of Annapurna in almost three years).

Also several climbers had close encounters with the major avalanche concern on Annapurna. Xavi Arias broke two ribs on an avalanche; Amir Hossein was carried down for 200 meters after one; Kang Ki-Seok was hit and injured a leg; Nick Rice was hit by fallen ice and suffered bruises. Other incidents were reported by nearly all the teams.

III–How to race on the tenth highest mountain:

The danger level explains why almost all racers save Annapurna for the last steps in the pursuit for all 14.

None of the 22 climbers who completed the race started on Annapurna. The mountain was among the five last peaks of 15 racers who completed all (68% of them). And six racers let Anna for the last: Juanito Oiarzabal (SPA), Alberto Iñurrategi (SPA), Ed Viesturs (USA), João Garcia (POR), Piotr Pustelnik (POL) and Oh Eun-Sun (S.K.).

Of those active collectors with seven 8000ers or more, these are the people still needing Annapurna:

Abele Blanc (ITA)
Alberto Zerain (SPA)
Alexey Raspopov (KAZ)
Carlos Soria (SPA)
Dachung (CHIN/TIB)
Jean Troillet (SWZ)
Jyabo (CHIN/TIB)
Kazuyoshi Kondo (JAP)
Kim Chang-Ho (S.K.)
Kim Jae-Soo (S.K.)
Mario Vielmo (ITA)
Nives Meroi (ITA)
Osamu Tanabe (JAP)
Oscar Cadiach (SPA)
Radek Jaros (CZE)
Romano Benet (ITA)
Serguey Lavrov (RUS)
Taro Tanigawa (JAP)
Waldemar Niclevicz (BRA)
Zdenek Hruby (CZE)
Zsolt Eross (HUN)

IV–Regular route:

The classical, standard route of Annapurna, is the French (N Face). But in recent times, two more routes from the South Flank, emerged as “regulars” as well. The British Route (1970) and the East Ridge Route (1984) have become quite popular. By the British Route eight climbers summited recently and the East Ridge conducted two climbers to the summit in 2002, four in 2006 and one more in 2008. But after the deaths of Iñaki Ochoa de Olza (SPA) and Martin Minarik (CZE) in the past two years it is possible that the “East Ridge fever” might slow down a little bit.

V–2010 Spring Season:

What a memorable season on Annapurna!

Two very early summit waves, the first on April 17. According to Himalayan Database, this was the earliest ascent of Anna this spring. The second, ten days later, resulted in the record of 26 summits–the most successful season ever!

Several records were broken: 

1. Spain is now the nation (excluding Nepal) with the most summits

2. This was the first time that three different climbers ended the race on the same mountain (Garcia, Pustelnik and Oh)

3. The oldest person to summit was Ruediger Schleypen, 54, (GER), in 1991. In 2010 three climbers passed this mark and thus became the oldest. Third place, Piotr Pustelnik, 58, (POL). Second place, Serguey Bogomolov, 59, (RUS). And the oldest person to summit Annapurna is Evgeny Vinogradsky, 63, (RUS). Now Annapurna is the 12th 8000er to be summited by a sexagenarian. Only Gasherbrum I and Kangchenjunga have not yet been conquered by someone 60 years or older.

4. Horia Colibasanu is the first Romanian to top out

5. Edurne Pasaban is the first lady climber from Spain

6. Peter Hamor (SLK) is the first western climber to summit Annapurna twice and the first from both sides.

NOTE: It is important to mention that some “summits” are being contested, and still investigated. For example, in descent Juanito Oiarzabal (SPA) and Carlos Pauner (SPA) were airlifted by chopper from C4 (c6,900m). There are also strong rumors, reported by Kinga Baranowska in an interview to website rp.pl on May 21, that Serguey Bogomolov (RUS) and Evgeny Vinogradsky (RUS) did not actually reach the highest point.

VI–Feminine Invasion:

Summits by women were very rare on Annapurna. Only six until the beginning of the season: Irene Miller and Vera Komarkova (1978), Wanda Rutkiewicz and Ingrid Baeyens (1991), Ji Hyung-Ok (1999), Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner (2004). In 2010 three more names were added to the list: Oh Eun-Sun, Edurne Pasaban and Kinga Baranowska. Like Kangchenjunga and K2, Annapurna was like a forbidden territory for women, but in the last few years things are changing for these peaks.

VII–The second summit wave on Annapurna:

On April 27, seventeen climbers made it to the top of Annapurna. The sequence was like this:

10:00AM: Jorge Egocheaga (SPA) and Martín Ramos (SPA)

1:30PM: Piotr Pustelnik (POL), Peter Hamor (SLK) and Horia Colibasanu (ROM)

1:45PM: Kinga Baranowska (POL)

2:30PM: Evgeny Vinogradsky (RUS) and Serguey Bogomolov (RUS)

3:00PM: Oh Eun-Sun (S.K.), Jung Ha-Young (S-K), Nha Kwan-Joo (S.K.), Dawa Wangchuk Sherpa (NEP), Pema Tshering Sherpa (NEP) and Sonam Sherpa (NEP)

4:00PM: Carlos Pauner (SPA), Juanito Oiarzabal (SPA) and Tolo Calafat (SPA)

After all the joy of so many successful ascents, including TV footage on the conquest of Oh Eun-Sun, the descents were very rough. In the words of Dr. Morandeira, it was an “uncontrolled retreat on summit night, with each participant fighting for his own life.” In particular, the last summits by the Spaniards were very late and problems started to appear on the way down. Calafat could not move on at about 7,600 meters and sadly died. Pauner and Juanito were airlifted from C4. The Russians also suffered greatly on descent, with Peter Hamor helping both Serguey and Evgeny.

VIII–Numbers:

In 2010 there were registered 26 ascents of Annapurna by climbers from eight different countries. Nine summiters from Spain, seven from Nepal, three from South Korea, two from Russia and Poland, one from Romania, Slovakia and Portugal. Now, Annapurna has 183 ascents at all, by 178 climbers!

With the three lady summiteers, Annapurna has now nine ascents by women. Before the beginning of the season, women made up 3.8% of all summiteers–now almost 5%!

Tolo Calafat was the 61st victim of Annapurna. Fatality rate of the spring season was 3.8%.

ExWeb Note, Aug26: Juanito’s summit of Annapurna is valid according to mountaineering tradition and Explorersweb. The views expressed is the author’s only. Check a related story here.

NOTE: This Chronicle is based on preliminary data and is under analysis. Some numbers will be revised in the following months, with possibly a few corrections made by then.

* Previous story :

Everest & Himalaya 2010 Season’s End Chronicle, take 4: Serial summiteers, lower peaks, new routes, rescues and Sherpa racers.

Everest & Himalaya 2010 Season’s End Chronicle, take 3: Firsts, records and 14x8000ers happy endings.

Everest & Himalaya 2010 Season’s End Chronicle, take 2: The final chapter of the women’s race.

Everest & Himalaya 2010 Season’s End Chronicle, Take 1: 8000er Collectors, Everest Serial Summiteers and Lost Climbers.

* Related Links :

StatCrunch: ladies of thin air – beyond Wanda’s footprints.

Oh Eun-Sun summits Annapurna – becomes the first woman 14x8000er summiteer!

Edurne Pasaban the first European and second woman in the world to complete the 14x8000ers.

Piotr Pustelnik summits Annapurna – bags the 14x8000ers!

Veikka Gustafsson completes the 14×8000ers list!

Andrew Lock completes the 14×8000ers list!

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Himalaya 2010 climbing season, Karakoram and Himalaya wrap-up /26/ – Week in Review.

Swedish sky-skier lost and a flood affecting more people than ever: the final chapter of the 2010 Karakoram climbing summer offered little joy. Austrian skyrunner Christian Stangl bagged the only K2 summit this season in a lonely 70 hours-long push up the Abruzzi Spur.

In other news: Check out interviews, Solo North Pole flight photos, the Amazon walker who is finished after more than 2 years though the jungle, plus 14-year old Laura Dekker who has set sail on the first leg of her sail around the world. Alberto Zerain and a massive Everest & Himalaya 2010 Season’s End Chronicles are kicking off the Himalaya fall season and on the tech side – CONTACT Augmented is the next step.

Everest north side: Alberto Zerain acclimatizing at 6,000m Already at the foot of Everest, Alberto Zerain has reached 6,000 in a first acclimatization trip. The Basque climber was forced to set up BC at 5,500 – ABC is out of reach for yaks due to heavy snow on the glacier. Alberto is alone on the Tibetan side of the mountain for a solo attempt of the Supercouloir.

Pakistan: K2 climbers devastated by the loss of Fredrik Ericsson The amazing Swedish sky-skier fell to his death while on summit push in the Bottleneck with Gerlinde. Maxut Zhumayev and Vassiliy Pivtsov, Fabrizio, a devastated Gerlinde – all except for Stangl finally aborted their own attempts. Rain soaked K2 BC as they paid tribute to Fredrik; meanwhile fresh floods enlarged the path of destruction along the Indus river banks.

Pakistan floods update “I have seen nothing like this,” UN chief Ban Ki-Moon said. “It’s the worst flood I’ve witnessed in my life,” ExplorersWeb Pakistan correspondent Karrar Haidri agreed. “It’s a disaster,” American Fabrizio Zangrilli confirmed from Skardu end last week.

Christian Stangl K2 summit pic and report: “It was not fun at all” Austrian skyrunner Christian Stangl bagged the only K2 summit this season on Aug 12th, at 10:00am, in a lonely 70 hours-long push up the Abruzzi Spur. He is the only climber who has reached K2 summit this season. “If mountain climbing were as the last 70 hours here at K2, I would immediately stop,” he said back in BC. Check out his report and summit pic at ExWeb.

ExWeb special report on “impossible” K2 & BP double-headers – American Chris Warner: “It is so alluring, that goal!” Year after year, a handful of Karakoram climbers try the Broad Peak and K2 double-header – only to return with one summit at best. Why is that? ExWeb asked around some seasoned climbers.

Everest & Himalaya 2010 Season’s End Chronicles It’s that time again: Himalaya fall season is kicking off. Meanwhile, ExplorersWeb’s contributor Brazilian Rodrigo Granzotto has done a massive job compiling the spring season:

Part 1 covers 8000er Collectors, Everest Serial Summiteers and Lost Climbers.
Part 2: The final chapter of the race between Edurne Pasaban and Oh Eun-Sun for the first female 14x8000ers ascent.
Part 3: Climbers joining the 14x8000er summiteers’ club, historic records, other “firsts” achieved in spring 2010 plus the controversies (Ed note/correction: Juanito’s Annapurna summit is valid unless the community changes rules for descents.)
Part 4 finally covers serial summiteers, lower peaks, new routes, rescues and Sherpa racers.

HumanEdgeTech presents: Contact Augmented Augmented reality mixes real-world environment with virtual reality features. CONTACT made lightweight satellite communication possible. CONTACT Augmented is the next step and Tom Sjogren at HumanEdgeTech explained all about it.

ExWeb interview with Sean Burch Known for his super-fast ascents, American Sean Burch is about to cross Nepal on foot from India to Tibet on the Great Himalaya Trail. He will be climbing and running at altitudes over 20,000 ft during 10-15hr shifts per day. Sean will be dispatching over CONTACT A and told ExplorersWeb that the fly-in software rocks.

Laura Dekker sets off on her circumnavigation 14-year old Dutch sailor Laura Dekker set sail August 21 on the first leg of her sail around the world. During the last two weeks Laura did some preparations in Portugal but set out from from Gibraltar to avoid press attention.

North Pole Yacht Race: Neck to neck Norwegian explorer Børge Ousland and his crew has just sailed in to the Laptev Sea in the North East Passage. A little bit further southeast the Russian expedition Peter 1st battling it out with the ice.The Russians have had a substantial lead. But not anymore.

ExWeb’s Oceans Editor Jon Amtrup about sailing around Svalbard: “Safety is a state of mind” Norwegian Skipper Jon Amtrup set sail around Svalbard on ‘Explorer North’ an Ovni 435. She is in aluminum, insulated, has a lifting keel, an ideal boat for these waters, says Jon. He tells ExWeb about a first encounter with a polar bear, the remoteness and the promising ice conditions that could change 24hrs.

Lipton Cup Sailing Challenge about to start in Cape Town Sailors from Southern Africa are competing in the Lipton Cup Challenge, which is being sailed in Table Bay from Sunday, August 22. Teams from Namibia, South Africa and Mozambique challenge against each other in L26 yachts. The youngest sailor is 13 years old.

Solo North Pole flight photos American Wayne Maynard made a 1,844 nautical mile solo flight from Resolute Bay to the North Pole and back in a Cessna 350. He sent through some photos to ExplorersWeb that he took enroute. Some of the pics are of his navigation equipment showing the variation and the effect of the Magnetic North Pole.

ExWeb Interview with Sarah McNair-Landry, “The North Pole is a race against the clock” In March-April 23-year old Sarah McNairy-Landry followed her parents by guiding a ski expedition from Canada to the North Pole. She told ExWeb about the race against the clock, the challenging navigation at the end, plus some about her current canoe expedition in Mongolia and Russia.

Eric Brossier and his hybrid-motorboat in Greenland Captain Eric Brossier and France Pinczon du Sel from Vagabond fame are in Greenland with a hybrid-motorboat equipped with diesel and electrical engines, 10 square meters of solar panels, two wind turbines and three sails. To complete the crew their 3-year old and 5-month old daughters are accompanying them.

Greenland update: Eide and team skiing towards DYE II Christian Eide crossed the Icecap in May. He is back with another team for what was originally planned as an autumn crossing on the same route, from east to west. Too much meltwater on the west caused the closure of the route and Christian is curious how the conditions compare to his 3 previous autumn trips.

Trans-Kalahari adventure run in Botswana kicked off Greg Maud, Kirsi Montonen and Jukka Viljanen started their 1000 km adventure run across the Kalahari in Botswana, Southern Africa.

Kenya run update: Over halfway Chris Rhys Howarth who is attempting a 1,100 miles (1,770 km) run across Kenya reported incredible views while running in the shadow of Mount Kenya.

Extreme Mountain biking: 6000m up a volcano Germans Frank Hülsemann, Markus de Marees and Andre Hauschke challenged themselves to cycle from sea level to above 6000m up the volcano Ojos del Salado in Chile. Altitude sickness forced two cyclists down but Andre Hauschke made it to 6085m without carrying or pushing his bike.

Two around-the-world cycling speed attempts finished Alan Bate (45) finished his around-the-world cycle speed attempt in Bangkok after 114 days. He nearly collapsed during the last leg in Thailand because of food poisoning. Four days before Alan another Brit, Vin Cox (35), finished his around-the-world speed attempt, which he completed in 164 days.

Daydreamed himself to the longest rivers Adventurer Mark Kalch is making the final preparations for his next big thing. He has daydreamed himself in to a massive undertaking called the “7 rivers, 7 continents” project – an attempt to make human-powered descents of the longest river on every continent.

Amazon walker: It is finished after more than 2 years though the jungle “The cynics have been silenced – it is possible to walk the Amazon – we’ve just done it,” wrote Ed Stafford after finishing the 28 month challenge. He and teammate Gadiel “Cho” Sanchez finished at the sea on the east coast of Brazil after starting from the source of the Amazon.

ExWeb interview with Roger Chao and Megan Kerr (final) “Be aware of cultural and religious traditions” As a woman she had to keep a low profile in strict Muslim areas, Megan told ExWeb. During their journey in Central Asia there were times that they felt unsafe, Roger added, but most people were nice. Read about the tension between the different ethnic groups and how to stay out of trouble.

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K2 and Broad Peak Polish Expedition 2010 – relacje, cz.5.

Wyprawa : K2 and Broad Peak Polish Expedition 2010.

19 czerwca rozpoczęła się polska wyprawa na drugi szczyt świata K2 (8611 m). Jej oficjalna nazwa brzmi: „K2 and Broad Peak Polish Expedition 2010”.

W skład wyprawy wchodzą: Bogusław Ogrodnik (kierownik), Anna Czerwińska, Dariusz Załuski, Kinga Baranowska, Tamara Styś, Marcin Miotk i Tomasz Kobielski. Ponadto w wyprawie udział wezmą: Rosjanin Jurij Jermaszek oraz lekarka Patrycja Jonetzko.

W planach ekspedycji jest wejście na K2 drogą Basków (zwaną też czasem Drogą Česena). Być może alpiniści aklimatyzować się będą na sąsiednim Broad Peaku (8051 m), stąd również ten szczyt znalazł się w nazwie wyprawy.

Uczestnicy wyprawy lecą do Islamabadu. Następnie do Skardu, skąd udadzą się karawaną poprzez lodowiec Baltoro do bazy pod K2.

Polish K2 Broad Peak Expedition 2010: relacje – cz.5.

Siedzimy wszyscy już trzeci dzień w bazie. Wokół okropna pogoda, pada deszcz ze śniegiem! Deszcz powyżej 5 tysięcy metrów, dziwne zjawisko na tej wysokości, ale ponoć w Karakorum nie takie rzadkie. Jedyną wątpliwą zaletą jest fakt, że nie zasypuje nam bazy świeżym śniegiem, tylko wszystko od razu topnieje.

Mamy nad nami jakiś ciepły front, który skutecznie psuje pogodę w rejonie K2. Według prognoz może poprawi się po 3–4 sierpnia, więc cierpliwie czekamy, nic innego nie jesteśmy w stanie zrobić.

Jeszcze kilka dni temu wszyscy byliśmy podekscytowani próbą ataku. Podzieleni na dwie grupy, które wyszły z bazy 24 i 25 lipca zmierzaliśmy w kierunku szczytu. Pierwsza grupa miała atakować 27 lipca, w niej Kinga, Tamara i Darek. Reszta ekipy, z przystankiem w obozie trzecim planowała atak 29 lipca, już po zejściu pierwszej trójki. Niestety już 26 było wiadomo, że ewentualne szanse ma tylko pierwszy zespół. Prognoza rokowała tylko na wejście 27, później pogoda gwałtownie się zmieniała. Zapowiedź silnego wiatru i opadów na 29 zatrzymała drugi zespół w połowie drogi w górę. Zeszliśmy do bazy i obserwowaliśmy poczynania Kingi, Tamary i Darka. Niestety 26 dotarli z powodu wiatru zbyt późno w rejony obozu czwartego. Rozstawili namioty w tzw. niższej czwórce, około godziny przed ramieniem K2. Podjęli decyzję o zejściu następnego dnia. Pogoda nie była taka, jak mówiła prognoza, wiec próba wejścia na szczyt mogła być zbyt ryzykowna. Liczymy, że pogoda niebawem się poprawi. U góry pada śnieg i oblepia skały. Jeśli będzie tak jeszcze przez kilka dni, może skończyć się to poważnym zagrożeniem lawinowym na naszej drodze. Droga do jedynki po opadach to zawsze loteria. Trzeba będzie poczekać dzień, dwa, aby spadły lawiny i dopiero można będzie działać. Liny poręczowe znów pod śniegiem do wyrywania lub do naprawy, droga na nowo do przetorowania. Łatwo nie będzie, ale duch w zespole ciągle jest!

Pozdrawiamy,
K2 Broad Peak Polish Expedition 2010

* Źródła: PZAhttp://www.e-gory.pl/

[3 sierpnia 2010, Marek Karnecki; ostatnia modyfikacja: Krzysztof Walasek]

*Poprzednie posty o wyprawie :

K2 and Broad Peak Polish Expedition 2010 – relacje, cz.4.

K2 and Broad Peak Polish Expedition 2010 – relacje, cz.3.

K2 and Broad Peak Polish Expedition 2010 – relacje, cz.2.

K2 and Broad Peak Polish Expedition 2010 – relacje, cz.1.

K2 and Broad Peak Polish Expedition 2010.

* Zobacz też :

Nanga Parbat i Gasherbrumy 2010: Powrót lodowych wojowników, relacje – cz.5.

Artur Hajzer: POLSKI HIMALAIZM ZIMOWY – Plan rozwoju.

HiMountain winter expedition to Broad Peak – 2008/09 – part 21. HiMountain wyprawa zimowa Broad Peak – 2008/09 – cz.21. /Version english and polish/

* Polish Himalayas – Become a Fan

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** zapraszam na relacje z wypraw polskich himalaistów.

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