Another member of the K2 Polish team was injured by rockfall. This one was more serious and he will be evacuated to Skardu. The weather watch continues on Everest and Elizabeth Revol has some harsh words for some of the organizations involved in her rescue.
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.
Big Picture – Team Dynamics
Team dynamics may be the most import part of an expedition’s expedition’s success. If the teammates turn against one another, the summit is usually lost. Being on a long expedition like Everest or K2 is filled with a lot of downtime, pressure and, at times, a feeling that everything is out of your control. All of this conspires to put pressure on relationships. Of course, people handle this pressure in different ways. Some avoid contact, others try to be the peacemaker and then some seek to control the whole group to their strategy. It’s up to the leader to maintain control through creating an open and honest environment where everyone can speak their mind while being respectful.
Winter K2 – 2 Injured, Team Unsettled
The Polish team lost a key member today. While climbing to Camp 1, rockfall hit Rafal Fronia breaking his forearm. He was able to return to base camp on his own but will be flown to Skardu for surgery and then home to Poland. This is the second loss for the team as Jaroslaw Botor also returned to Poland for personal reasons. Now down two members and with five weeks to go, the anxiety must be increasing to some degree.
Perhaps this is why Denis Uubko wrote on his blog that he doubts the team’s tactics. While written in Russian and translated awkwardly by Google, the message is pretty clear and reported by multiple outlets. He complained that he was the only one fixing ropes up high and was worried the progress was too slow, that he was forced to speak in Polish to most of the members, not venting the tents when they cook inside, are not hydrating properly, and more …
He reflects on his 2003 K2 winter attempt noting the similarities. That effort was also lead by Krzysztof Wielicki. They set a winter K2 altitude record by reaching 7,550-meters on the north side via the Chinese Pillar route. Current K2 climbers Marcin Kaczkan and Piotr Morawski were with Urubko in 2003.
Kazakstan alpinist Denis Urubko has held Polish citizenship since February 2015. See this recent interview with Urubko in Alpinsimonline. where he discussed this K2 winter effort. Urubko was the 15th person to summit all 14 of the 8000ers without supplemental oxygen.
In spite of these difficulties and with good weather at the moment, the team is moving up and down the route for acclimatization and fixing the rope. Marek Chmielarski and Artur Małek went to Camp 1 then Camp 2 allowing Piotr Tomala to overnight at C1. With such limited space at the camps, the team has to climb in tight coordination.
The plan is to establish at Camp 3 at 6,900-meters if the weather allows.
Winter Everest – Wind, Wind, Wind
Alex Txikon and the team continue to stay at base camp. They have ropes set to 7,850 meters between Camp 3 and the South Col but the recent high winds and snow have caused some of the route in the Khumbu Icefall to be rebuilt, not all that unusual as the Icefall can move a meter a day at times.
Txikon made an interesting post on Facebook where he showed this graph of winds in May compared to January. As you can see, theJetstreamm sits right on top of Everest right now creating hurricane force winds that would be deadly to any climber. They must wait for several days of winds under 30 or 40 mph before attempting the summit. They hope that breaks occur next week.
Pik Pobeda – Summit Bid is Next
Simone Moro and Tamara Lunger have reached 2,000-meters according to his Facebook post. They are back at base camp waiting for summit window where they will make a “speedy climb” He notes that it is cold, -40/45°C and there is a lot of snow. They are attempting Pik Pobeda, 3003 meters, in the Siberia’s Chersky Range region.
Nanga Parbat Reflections and Anger
Elisabeth Revol held a press conference and lashed out at the Pakistanis, Polish and French embassies claiming their delays cost Tomek Mackiewicz his life. The Polish media outlet RFM24 also reported that Revol said the Pakistan authorities “blackmailed” them when they increased the helicopter rescue fee from US$15,000 to $40,000 – all in cash. This took two more days as the Embassies didn’t have that much cash on hand. Askari Aviation, who conducted the operation, describes on their website about rescues: “All teams visiting Pakistan as per existing Government policy will be required to deposit US$ 6,000 or provide guarantee of respective embassies to Askari Aviation to clear dues within 7 days.
She went on to defend her leaving Mackiewicz as she was told to descend because the helicopter couldn’t reach them and the rescue team would retrieve him later.” The French media BFMTV quoted 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.”
She remains in the hospital receiving treatment for her frostbitten hands and feet. She is fighting to avoid amputation of her left foot. The rescue fundraiser has been redirected to benefit Mackiewicz’s wife and three children.
Memories are Everything