The winter climbs of K2 and Everest were progressing normally but with the recent rescue on Nanga Parbat, the activity paused to help out. Now that Elisabeth Revol is recovering in a hospital and the Polish K2 rescue team is back at base camp, the on-mountain activity has picked back up. 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 K2 and Everest are not “easy” anytime but in the winter the challenges are amplified. This past week has shown how the best plans are often stopped by the weather – high winds to be precise. Currently on Everest winds are a sustained 160 kph/100 mph and on K2, slightly lower but still high.
I can tell you from personal experience that these winds can easily toss you around like a piece of paper. A well-known story of deadly wind gusts comes from the 1995 death of Alison Hargreaves and five teammates on K2. They summited in good weather but it deteriorated quickly as a storm approached. The next day, climbers who had turned back fearing the storm found her jacket, boot and harness. A body, presumed to be her, was spotted near Camp 4. It was assumed all six were blown off the mountain during the storm.
The Polish team is now back together but once again hit by high winds on K2.
The members who went to Nanga Parbat caught a small break in the weather that allowed the helicopter to fly from Skardu to K2 base camp. Late in the week, other team members, Marek Chmielarski and Artur Małek, slept at Camp 1 and Camp 2 keeping the Česen Route aka Basque Route open and acclimatizing. This is a good video showing Marek and Artur climbing between C1 and C2 on the Česen Ridge.
Elisabeth Revol continues to receive treatment for frostbite on her hands and feet in a Swiss hospital. She gave a complete interview to AFP this week revealing that they did summit and Tomek Mackiewicz got in trouble almost immediately on the descent.
She said he became blind and suffered frostbite on his feet, hands, and face. When they couldn’t reach any of the high camps, they took refuge in a crevasse for the night. At sunrise, Mackiewicz was worse and Revol saw blood streaming from his mouth – a sign of altitude sickness and the only cure is a rapid descent but he was now immobile.
Revol was told by the rescue team to descend to 6,000-meters due to limitations of the helicopter, weather and lack of a suitable landing spot higher. She said leaving Mackiewicz was not her decision.
She spent another night out, again in a small crevasse but began to hallucinate. She saw people giving her tea and she gave them a boot as payment thus exposing her foot to the harsh temperatures for five hours. This is when she began to develop frostbite on her hands and feet but continued to climb down the mountain. Eventually, she met up with Denis and Adam.
The fundraiser has been redirected on behalf of Mackiewicz’s wife and three children.
Other Winter Climbs
There are a couple of other climbs this winter:
- A small team of Pakistani climbers is attempting the first winter summit 7200 meter Masherbrum West Peak aka Masherbrum 2. Lead by Maaz Maqsood.
- Another big winter climb is by Simone Moro and Tamara Lunger on a very northern peak in Siberia, Pik Pobeda, 3003 meters, in the Chersky Range region. They have arrived at the peak but there is little information.
Memories are Everything