HIMALAISTS ATTACK K2 IN WINTER
ascend and to come back
call K2 the Mountain of Mountains. Some due to its beauty, others
because of the terror it causes among mountaineers. On December
16, the Netia K2 Polish Winter Expedition will set out for
K2. It is going to be a historical event - no-one has ever tried
spending the winter on K2's northern slopes (8611 m) - the Earth's
second highest summit. The expedition is headed by Krzysztof Wielicki,
one of the most outstanding mountaineers of the world. The base
is to be established on New Year's Eve, the struggle to reach the
summit may last until the end of February. "Rzeczpospolita"
correspondent MONIKA ROGOZINSKA will be accompanying the expedition.
lies in the Karakorum mountain range that is parallel to the Himalayas,
on the border of China and Pakistan. Its form reminds one of a pyramid,
equally hard to conquer from all sides. Swept with winds, it grows
600 m ahead of the nest of four 8000ers.
history of conquering K2, long and dramatic, remains in the shadow
of Mount Everest, which is higher then the former by merely 237
m. Though the names of Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, the
first people to set foot on the highest summit, are widely known,
only mountain lovers know about Achille Compagnoni and Lino Lacedelli.
Those two Italians conquered in the summer of 1954 the then maiden
K2, for which they had paid a high price - their chilblained fingers
had to be amputated.
successes and tragedies
say a lot about the difficulties concerning that mountain. Up until
today, less than 200 people have reached the summit of K2. Only
two mountaineers did it twice (the summit of Mount Everest was reached
1500 times in total by around 900 people). Every seventh person
descending from K2 does not reach the base. This might be the reason
why a mountaineer's rank is determined not by climbing Mount Everest,
the five women who set foot on its summit, Wanda Rutkiewicz was
the first. Alison Hargreaves was the last. In a poll announced by
the world's largest mountain newspaper, the Internet portal www.Everestnews.com,
to emerge the alpinists of the century, it was they who have won.
A Briton, the only woman not to use oxygen from a cylinder there,
did not survive the descent - the wind tore her off the slope and
threw her into a precipice.
alpinists have many achievements on this mountain in the summer
season. The decision not to use the help of height porters, taken
in the year 1976 by the expedition headed by Janusz Kurczaba, was
a sensation. On their new route, the unaided alpinist team missed
the victory by a mere 200 m. Poles have marked or finished four
of the nine routes leading to the summit, among them the legendary
one, called by Reinhold Messner the Magic Line, as well as the one
daringly marked by Jerzy Kukuczka and Tadeusz Piotrowski on the
southern slope, called the Polish route since then, for which they
paid a horrible price - the death of Piotrowski.
this mountain, we have also lost other wonderful mountaineers: Halina
Kruger-Syrokomska and Wojciech Wroza. At the foot of K2 lies the
buried body of Dobroslawa Miodowicz-Wolf. Those tragedies were intermixed
with beautiful moments. It was here that Piotr Pustelnik earned
the Fair Play Award of the Polish Olympics Committee.
the struggle for K2 made Jerzy Kukuczka express an opinion, which
had moved the international mountaineering circle. He compared Western
and Polish expedition to cars: the former, being luxurious, turn
out to be useful on good roads, while the latter, old and less showy,
joggle along persistently also on bumpy roads. Presently, many himalaists
consider this division to be true for mountaineers from the West
and from the East.
from the first Poles, Mount Everest was conquered in winter only
by Japanese, Koreans and Sherpas from Nepal. Today it seems that
the mountaineers ready to take any risk come from Russia and the
countries that came into being after the break-up of the Soviet
winter expedition is the bumpiest road imaginable. It is not without
reason that the American Space Agency NASA, preparing a manned expedition
to Mars, tests the endurance of men on the slopes of the highest
mountains and in the Antarctica, with extreme conditions and a landscape
similar to the one on Mars. In winter, winds are raging around 8000ers.
Climbing at that time is comparable to cosmic alpinism.
seven of the fourteen 8000ers were conquered in winter. Polish expeditions
achieved that goal first in the eighties.
Krzysztof Wielicki, head of the expedition
there a few alpinists - in Poland as well as abroad - ready to risk
that much, when the chance of success is so uncertain. The goal
of the beginning expedition is to conquer K2 in winter through the
Northern Pillar, on a four kilometers high ridge growing out of
the northern slope - one of the most dangerous precipices of the
Wielicki reached the summit in the summer of 1996. It was his fourth
expedition to K2. In a poll carried out by www.Everestnews.com,
52-year-old Wielicki was deemed one of the two most outstanding,
living alpinists of the century.
The verdict stressed that he still takes up difficult challenges
and does not rest on his laurels. Although he could. He is the fifth
man to win the Crown of the Himalayas - fourteen 8000ers. He often
did it pioneer style. Three of them, including Mount Everest, he
climbed in winter as the first. He climbed on Lhotse alone on the
night of New Year's Eve, in a corset he was wearing after injuring
his spine in the mountains. He "ran up" Broad Peak alone
in one day (which was the first climb on an 8000er within a day).
Witness to his lone climb on Nanga Parbat, one of the biggest slopes
of the world, were only Pakistani shepherds, watching his feat from
knows K2 from all sides. He participated in four expeditions to
this mountain. Only during the last one, in the summer of 1996,
his perseverance was rewarded - he reached the summit through the
Northern Pillar with two Italian alpinists. Pictures from the summit
make a ghastly impression on everyone knowing how dangerous this
mountain is - they were already made in complete darkness. After
a bivouac not far from the top, the descent changed into a rescuing
mission of the extremely emaciated Italian, which had a happy end.
year, we have the fiftieth anniversary of conquering Mount Everest,
which is to be a grand celebration - says Wielicki. - It's a good
time to set the crossbar higher in the highest mountains".
30 people are going to participate in the expedition. The hard core
will consist of 14 alpinists: Krzysztof Wielicki - head of the expedition,
Roman Mazik - physician, Bogdan Jankowski - communications, Maciej
Pawlikowski, Jacek Berbeka, Jerzy Natkanski, Dariusz Zaluski, Jan
Szulc, Marcin Kaczkan, Piotr Morawski, Gia Tortladze (Georgia),
Denis Urubko (Kazakhstan), Wasilij Piwcow (Kazakhstan), Ilias Thukvatullin
will be joined by five Pakistani porters and several young Polish
alpinists (supporting group), needed to transport the equipment
on the glacier to the base which will be two days away from its
front, two Nepal cooks and a Chinese liaison officer with his personal
by TV reporters
novelty and an interesting experiment will be the participation
of a Polish Television crew consisting of six people who want to
make transmissions to a specially organized studio of Channel 1
in Warsaw. The members of the TV crew will not be climbing, however.
Almost every alpinist has his own digital camera. Disks with the
saved video signal will be carried down to the base, edited in the
tent, which will turn into the highest located TV studio in the
world, and then sent to Poland by means of a satellite phone. The
expedition's third media sponsor - apart from "Rzeczpospolita"
and TVP - will be the Internet portal Onet.pl.
December 16, the expedition will fly to the capital of Kyrgyzstan,
Bishkek (known in the times of the USSR as Frunze). From there,
the expedition will go by trucks to China, and then through Kashgar,
a bazaar-like city located on the Silk Route, to the settlement
of Mazdar, where they will change to camels. The travel to the front
of the K2 glacier will last six days. Further than that, to a base
at 5100 m, all the equipment has to be carried on the backs.
Zawada, originator of winter himalaism, during his last expedition
(Nanga Parbat 1997/98)
expedition was Andrzej Zawada's greatest dream. As originator of
winter himalaism and boss of the first victorious winter expedition
to Mount Everest, he headed at the turn of 1987/88 the only international
expedition until know, whose purpose was to conquer K2 in winter
from its northern, Pakistani side.
years ago, he started preparing the present expedition. In February
2000, he was to go to a reconnaissance - it was necessary to check
whether it was possible to reach the foot of K2 from the north at
all in that time of year. The day before the trip, physicists discovered
a dangerous illness consuming him. Instead of to China, Zawada went
to a hospital. Even when he was in a serious condition, he was making
plans of conquering the Himalayas in winter. He made the reconnaissance
happen, however - somebody else went. It seemed that an operation
could save Andrzej's life. He died 6 months later.
All Souls' Day, I visited Andrzej's grave at the Warsaw Powazki
Cemetery. Somebody put a white piece of paper torn out from a notebook
behind the plate. It said, "Rest in peace there. We're going
to K2. Your team".
8000ers conquered in winter
among the fourteen 8000ers located in Nepal, Pakistan and Tibet,
half have been conquered in winter so far. All first winter climbs
were made by Polish alpinists.
r. MOUNT EVEREST (8848 m) - Leszek Cichy and Krzysztof Wielicki
reach the summit; the Polish national expedition was headed
by Andrzej Zawada.
r. MANASLU (8156 m) - Maciej Berbeka and Ryszard Gajewski; while
installing handlines, an avalanche gust kills Stanislaw Jaworski;
the expedition of the Zakopianski Klub Wysokogorski was headed by
r. DHAULAGIRI (8167 m) - Andrzej Czok and Jerzy Kukuczka; the
expedition of the Gliwicki Klub Wysokogorski was headed by Adam
r. CHO OYU (8153 m) - Maciej Berbeka and Maciej Pawlikowski,
three days later, Zygmunt Andrzej Heinrich and Jerzy Kukuczka
reach the summit; the Polish-Canadian expedition was headed by Andrzej
r. KANGCHENJUNGA (8598 m) - Jerzy Kukuczka and Krzysztof Wielicki;
Andrzej Czok dies in camp III, probably as a result of a
pulmonary edema, the conqueror of Dhaulagira (in winter) and Mount
Everest, Lhotse and Makalu in spring/fall seasons; the expedition
of the Gliwicki Klub Wysokogorski was headed by Andrzej Machnik.
r. ANNAPURNA (8091 m) - Artur Hajzer and Jerzy Kukuczka (head of
1988 r. LHOTSE (8511 m) - Krzysztof Wielicki reached the summit
alone on a night of New Year's Eve; the Belgian-Polish expedition
was headed by Andrzej Zawada.
those summits are located in Nepal.
unconquered in winter
Nepal: Makalu (8481)
Shisha Pangma (8027)
K2 (8611 m), Gasherbrum I (8068 m) and Gasherbrum II (8035 m), Broad
Peak (8047 m), Nanga Parbat (8125 m)
- English translation: "Scrivanek"