28 February 2003


Humbleness towards the mountain

Krzysztof Wielicki has made the decision to end the expedition. The latest events have shown that only him and Denis Urubko are capable of attacking the summit. According to the head of the expedition, an attempt to reach the summit of K2 at this point in time would be a sign of irresponsibility.

All alpinists have safely returned to the base. Marcin Kaczkan did not only descend unaided from camp I, but also left his two rescuers behind and arrived almost an hour earlier. At camp I, he was given water, food and oxygen. He arrived at the base in excellent shape. When asked why he had given up on the idea of taking along an oxygen cylinder for a possible attack on the summit, he said: "I didn't want to take any additional load along. Two cylinders, a mask and a reducer weigh around 10 kg. I don't know if I'd have been better off wearing this on my back in addition to the 15 kilograms I already had".

Marcin does not seem to know that he was in mortal danger due to deterioration, which is a term describing the destroying influence of altitude on the organism. He trusted Denis Urubko, who told him to descend to camp IV (7630 m). "Only a few more hours and Marcin would have never gotten out of there" - says Denis.

During the solemn dinner at the last Thursday before Lent, Krzysztof Wielicki announced his decision to end the K2 Winter Expedition. This caused a distinct feeling of relief among those present. Only Urubko was disconsolate. He had counted on one more attempt at attacking the summit, as agreed before with Wielicki. The last days' events have shown that both of them are in excellent shape. After two nights spent sleepless due to gales, during which he was trying not to fly away along with the tent at camps II and III, at an altitude above 7000 m, the head of the expedition was almost running up to give a helping hand to Marcin Kaczkan.

"Tough luck, Krzysztof is my general during this expedition. I have to comply with his decisions" - said Denis with resignation. We managed to dissuade him from "popping out" to camp IV for his equipment which he had left there. "Theoretically, it is still possible to attack the summit - said Wielicki. - The rescue operation has shown, however, that only I and Denis are capable of going up. I guess it has also made everybody aware of the fact that none of our friends is capable of reaching camp II (6780 m) anymore, even if it is about delivering an oxygen cylinder for life saving purposes. The return caravan is scheduled for March 6. Carrying down the equipment from the upper base is going to take several days. The weather forecasts say that the present gales, blizzards and clouds will last until March 3. In this kind of weather, one can reach camp II or III at the most. We are running out of time. If I decided to attack the summit with Denis, there would be no-one at the foot of the mountain waiting for us. We wouldn't have any backup. Thus we would deny the point of all the things we have done so far, it would show that our own ambition is more important to us than responsibility and prove our arrogance towards the mountain. This is not a mountain for two people. We are leaving, but this does not mean that we are running away from the challenge. To be honest, even though this expedition is not over yet, I'm already thinking about the next. All we have to do is take a more careful look at the young alpinists, select a team physically and mentally resistant enough to extreme conditions that is prepared to go out in bad weather, for whom frost, wind and blizzards are conditions to act, adversities to overcome. I think that during this expedition some of our fellow alpinists have learned to tell the difference between real exploration and another summer trip to an 8000er. I'm pleased that some of them liked it. I will be looking for similar people at home and abroad, most certainly in the East once again.

An expedition to K2 should start in December and last three months. The experience shows that after 60 days of not even climbing, but only being in such conditions, the organism gets exhausted. People have chilblains and are mentally burned out. I'm even thinking of exchanging the team during the expedition, dividing it into people preparing camps up to 7000 m and an assault group. It goes without saying that all of the above requires money. I will keep on looking for a patron who whishes to write the history of alpinism with us. I want to return here as quickly as possible" - says Krzysztof Wielicki.

Monika Rogozinska Feb. 27, 2003


Denis Urubko wrote:

Hello, Lena!

This happened yesterday in the last camp at 7750 m. Marcin could not feel anything. He saw nothing around him, was unable to speak and to understand. Only few primary instincts. We spent the night in small tent, which we brought with us, since our previous tent was swept by wind. We slept in one slleping bag, without mats. Before this we had three hard days of climbing in harsh weather with heavy load.

We woke up and I was sure that we'll continue the climb, but in a half an hour I understood that Marcin is really sick. I decided to go down immediately, since he was unable to do anything and could understand my words only after 2-3 times. You can imagine how much I was frightened! I almost started to panik. This guy have a wife and a newborn baby in Poland... If he will be unable to descend himself right now, I will have to die here. No drugs, nobody, who is able to really help us. Only unacclimatised Krzysztof with leg injury in Camp 3.

It is better not to recall my attempts to force him to move. But in 2 hours we were ready to descend. There was an amazing event: this night wind blew away one of my crampons! I've put them at the tent entrance and in the morning I found that one of them is absent. Thanks God, it was only 15 meters below on the rocks and I managed to get it.

When Marcin was getting out of the tent he felt several times. I thought that it is the end... But at this moment he showed himself as a real man. He managed to raise and, with my help, he reached fixed ropes five meters away. This was a great deal. While I was packing the tent he waited for some 10 minutes. Apparently, this made him more consious. I made a belay, but he moved along the fixed ropes by himself. The first 100 meters of descend took 40 minutes. These moments were terrible for me. Wind, snow, I'm terribly hungry and thirsty. But next 100 meters we covered in just 25 minutes. Big progress! Marcin began to look normally and I removed the belay. We were moving very slowly, but everybody by himself. Only sometimes I helped him to do something and was talking to him, talking, talking....

We met Krzysztof above the Camp 3. He brought only some tea for Marcin. Even I got 30 grams. And we continued to descend from this huge mountain. We met other people only close to the Camp 1 and at 1930, in complete darkness, we reached it. Marcin got oxygen and water and stayed there. Me and Kshishtof came to ABC at 22-30.

Now Marcin is OK. He descended to ABS and feels good. Me too :))

Denis, Feb. 27, 14-14

Sponsors of Denis: MANARAGA, SALICE, CSCA of Kazakhstan