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"I have to declare Maciej Berbeka and Tomasz Kowalski dead."
March 9, 2013 7:01 PM   Subscribe

On March 5 a team of four Polish climbers completed the first winter ascent of Broad Peak, one of the world's 8000m mountains. On the descent two of the climbers, Maciej Berbeka and Tomasz Kowalski, ran into problems and were forced to spend the night at 7900m. Despite efforts to establish radio contact and locate the climbers the next morning they were declared missing on March 6. On March 8 expedition leader Krzysztof Wielicki reported that Berbeka and Kowalski were dead and that the team was heading home.

According to the Polish Winter Himalaism program (link in Polish) Kowalski was suffering from fatigue and had trouble breathing, and damaged his crampons in a fall. He could see Berbeka, but his condition was unknown. A flashlight was seen on the mountain during the night, and the next morning a cook saw someone (thought to be Berbeka) near the crevasses located at 7700m. Karim Hayyat, a Pakistani mountaineer assisting the expedition, managed to climb to the crevasses but saw no signs of the climbers and was forced to turn back.

Berbeka had previously made the first winter ascents of two other eight-thousanders, Manaslu and Cho Oyu. 12 of the eight-thousanders have been summited in winter, 9 of the first ascents by teams of Polish climbers and another by a pair of climbers, one Polish and one Italian.

Two of the eight-thousanders, K2 and Nanga Parbat, remain unclimbed in winter.
posted by edeezy (20 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Pushing the envelope.

I'm not sure I understand why the climb in winter. It's not hard enough, you have to try it when conditions are the worst? Why not do it in summertime, but barefoot to make it more of a challenge?
posted by Repack Rider at 7:39 PM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Every serious mountaineer I know is either willing to die on a mountain or retired from climbing. Even when you don't make an error, sometimes your number is up.

It's true at sea level too, but your odds are better.
posted by spitbull at 7:42 PM on March 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think the purpose of climbing in winter is that there is better ice conditions.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:01 PM on March 9, 2013


In some areas, there's less precipitation in winter -- so even though it's colder, there's less chance that weather will disrupt the climb.

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posted by Slothrup at 8:09 PM on March 9, 2013


Every serious mountaineer I know is either willing to die on a mountain or retired from climbing.

My Dad, at 60-something, is one of the most serious mountaineers I know - he routinely through-hikes 30 mile hikes overnight with his 30-something climbing buddies and he is absolutely not willing to die on a mountain (thanks Dad).
posted by arnicae at 8:13 PM on March 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think the purpose of climbing in winter is that it hadn't been done before.

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Today's ascent was great! A "first winter ascent" that goes straight into the history of Himalayan mountaineering. They fully deserve all our congratulations! As does their expedition leader, the immense Krzysztof Wielicki who, among other things, has three 8000er winter ascents under his belt. The exact same number as another great Himalayan mountaineer, Maciej Berbeka, who with today's Broad Peak summit brings his tally to three, while teammate Adam Bielecki celebrated his second winter success as making the first winter ascent of Gasherbrum I last year together with Janusz Golab

Talking about statistics and Eightthousander winter ascents, only two Himalayan giants still wait to be climbed in the coldest season, namely K2 and Nanga Parbat (unsurprisingly). To these must be added an ascent of Everest without supplementary oxygen in winter entirely (on 22 December 1987 Ang Rita reached the summit of Everest without O2 but the expedition had begun in October).

posted by hot soup at 8:38 PM on March 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


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The purpose is to bag the first winter ascent. It takes a stamina and dedication that I can only dream of.
posted by arcticseal at 8:48 PM on March 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I guess (metaphorically) if it's going to happen, it's better it happens coming down the mountain.
posted by Catblack at 9:29 PM on March 9, 2013


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I've never solved whatever problem my mind is working on, but I can only mull over the idea that Aleister Crowley was a great mountaineer as well when I hear about these things.
posted by cmoj at 11:06 PM on March 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


The purpose is to bag the first winter ascent. It takes a stamina and dedication that I can only dream of.

The Poles are the absolute experts at this too with a long history of winter mountaineering and a generally upbeat approach to it all. This is by far the best group of winter mountaineers in the world, even though you don't see much of them in the English speaking media. It's a real shame this happened.
posted by fshgrl at 11:08 PM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


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posted by ruhroh at 11:52 PM on March 9, 2013


Your dad just says that. Let me rephrase: every serious mountaineer knows she *could* easily die on a mountain even if she does everything right. Most hardcore climbers I know give up the tough climbs when they have kids for that reason.

And with due respect to your dad, either he knows this or he is not doing dangerous climbs or he has decided you will be fine if he is gone.
posted by spitbull at 4:35 AM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


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posted by humanfont at 4:47 AM on March 10, 2013


"The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now you begin to understand me."
posted by overyield at 4:55 AM on March 10, 2013


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posted by oneironaut at 5:06 AM on March 10, 2013


There's an article in today's Observer about the 12 climbers who've died in Scottish mountains this winter, and those are peaks just over one thousand meters, not eight.

But winter climbing is winter climbing, and conditions in Scottish hills that get walked up in summer are those of much higher heights elsewhere in the world.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2013/mar/09/scottish-highlands-mountain-rescue


posted by C.A.S. at 6:50 AM on March 10, 2013


Maybe a better way to put it is: With the awareness that they will die some day, they would rather die doing something they love than in physical decrepitude in a hospital bed?

That would be true not just of hardcore mountaineers but of many people active in outdoor sports.
posted by ardgedee at 7:23 AM on March 10, 2013


Your dad just says that. Let me rephrase: every serious mountaineer knows she *could* easily die on a mountain even if she does everything right. Most hardcore climbers I know give up the tough climbs when they have kids for that reason.

And with due respect to your dad, either he knows this or he is not doing dangerous climbs or he has decided you will be fine if he is gone.


Oh, I'll absolutely agree with this with modest rephrasing - I know that I could die on a climb even if I do everything right. So does my Dad. This doesn't mean we make reckless choices - for that very reason, we'd never go climbing with someone who would say they "could easily die ... even if they do everything right". There is a certain recklessness to that I wouldn't want in one of my climbing partners.

I think there is a certain bravado in some elements of the mountaineering community which often is loud enough to appear to speak for the community, suggesting real mountaineers would accept only a binary of being "willing to die on a mountain or retire". I don't think that speaks for the entire mountaineering community, and it certainly doesn't speak for myself or my Dad.
posted by arnicae at 8:37 AM on March 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


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posted by doctornemo at 9:38 AM on March 10, 2013


I'm not a climber (unless you count that time I got certified to belay at the local indoor place), but I love reading about it. So much endurance and courage.

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posted by liet at 10:21 AM on March 10, 2013


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