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K2/Chogori Winter 2003

K2 winter expedition    Struggle for second camp

On the white horse

Krzysztof Wielicki and Jacek Berbeka have not managed to set up camp II and 6600 m, although last Saturday they had been climbing more than ten hours without a break. However, by defeating the rocky barrier, they have opened up the way for the ones to follow. Wielicki had a mild accident that will prevent him from climbing for some time.

The head of the Netia K2 Winter Expedition and Jacek Berbeka have set out from camp I (5950 m) while it was still dark, at 5.30 am. Extremely weighed down by the equipment needed for setting up camp II, they reached the end of the fixed ropes (6450 m) after around seven hours.

K2’s steep slopes are covered with a layer of hard ice, on which the alpinists keep climbing with the front teeth of their crampons. From the base, we have been observing almost all the climbing efforts of our friends by means of a telescope. A strong wind was blowing. The view on K2 was partly blocked by clouds. The fixed ropes ended before the rocky barrier. “In the summer, the route leads in a different way. We are able to move straight up, nearer the Pillar’s edge, due to the snow which partly covers the rocks - explains Krzysztof Wielicki. - Now we have to choose between steep ice and pure rock.”

The head of the expedition has led a difficult ascent. - Mr. Wielicki is a true Polish count - says, with deep respect, Denis Urubko from Kazakhstan, who is following the leader’s achievements through the telescope. - He is capable of pursuing a goal against all odds. However, I’d rather he managed the expedition from the base instead of mounting a white horse, leading an army and brandishing his sword - he adds, worried.

We have not noticed Wielicki falling off the slope. He slid off merely two meters, but it was enough for the alpenstock he had fastened to his hand to hit his calf. He kept on climbing nonetheless. After 150 m, he climbed above the first part of rocks. An icy tunnel in the rocky labyrinth led to flatter snowy-icy grounds, where he wanted to pitch the tent. At this spot, they ran out of fixed ropes to secure the route. Being miles away, we observed the long and vivid discussion between the climbing partners, guessing its course from the gesticulation. Wielicki wanted to continue without security measures to the nearby bivouac spot. Berbeka refused to climb further on the steep ice without ropes. Each had their own reasons. They started to descend. Dusk fell and we stopped seeing them. We waited a long time by the radiotelephones until they reached camp I.

Jacek Berbeka decided to return to the base to rest. He reached it at 10.30 pm. That day, he was climbing and descending for 17 hours non stop. Wielicki arrived at the base on Sunday, limping. His calves are very bruised. Right now it is hard to tell how long he will not be able to climb. Apart from that, he is in good shape, since he started to tidy up the base already, telling off alpinists, to whom he amicably refers to as “moose”.

Denis Urubko, Wasilij Piwcow, Gia Tortladze and Ilias Tukwatullin are already preparing for setting up camp II. For a few days, along with a strong wind, there has been warmer weather. The temperature only falls to minus 15 degrees.

Monika Rogozińska from the base under K2

Written by Monika Rogozinska, "Rzeczpospolita"; translated by "Scrivanek".

Dispatches