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K2/Chogori Winter 2003

K2 Winter Expedition. Camp III is ready - the sun is shining

A childish question

Krzysztof Wielicki, the head of the expedition, and Jacek Berbeka have established camp III (7200 m) on the Northern Pillar. Wielicki has to give up climbing for some time due to his renewed leg injury.

On a sunny day - the first after a long period of wind, frost and clouds - we were observing the now perfectly visible slope. There was some traffic on it. At first, Krzysztof Wielicki climbed the rocky pillar from camp II (6780 m) to the big, ice-snow gallery where camp III is located, using old fixed ropes. His partner Jacek Berbeka stayed in the tent at camp II due to a shoe crampon that broke the day before. He performed quite a feat, climbing from camp I on icy, hard frozen fields practically on one leg.

Afterwards, Wielicki and Berbeka carried the equipment necessary for establishing the camp onto the snow platform at 7200 m and pitched a tent there. "It's a very windy place - said the head of the expedition through the radiotelephone - but we've dug the tent as deep as we could and camp III looks solid. It can be reached in three and a half hours from camp II. Unfortunately, I have to return after the night due to my renewed leg injury. Jacek can't do anything here alone, so we are returning together".

Even the best team of alpinists needs support on such a difficult mountain in winter. 26-year-old Jacek Jawień and 25-year-old Bartek Duda, the two young mountaineers from the so-called forwarding group, showed off a daring feat on the slope. They have been waiting for this moment a long time. Both of them proudly carry around 16 crooked little crosses, as if they were medals, marked with a felt-tip pen on their down jackets. This is how they marked each of their passings, which lasted many hours, with the expedition's equipment on the K2 glacier from the extended base, where they would stay, to the upper base and back. They have been patiently covering this very same route for a whole month. All in all, each of them has marched 100 hours, carrying 350 kg of equipment on his back. Only after fulfilling this task, have they been dubbed as mature expedition participants and have taken up residence in the main base. Although they are members of alpine clubs, are entitled to mountaineer and have already participated in a number of expeditions, they have never been to the highest mountains in winter.

When asked whether he should take along young people as part of such a difficult mountaineering expedition, Krzysztof Wielicki keeps on reminding us that his first 8000er he reached in winter was Mount Everest, and that he was admitted to that historical expedition from a reserve list.

On Monday, Jawień, Duda and Jerzy Natkański set out to camp I before dawn, packed with ropes and bivouac equipment needed for establishing camp III. They were climbing the icy fields with great dexterity, from time to time asking those who were observing them through the telescope questions through the radiotelephone that are typical for children on an exhaustive trip: "How far is it still?" They reached camp II, left the equipment and returned to the base, where they appeared around 8 pm, tired, but visibly pleased with the task well accomplished. These young people had to partly pay their expenses to be able to come to this place. Jacek Jawień had sold his car to be granted the honor of such hard work.

Today, Maciej Pawlikowski, Dariusz Załuski and Jerzy Natkański are staying for the night in camp II. The following day, they are to bring ropes, sleeping bags and food to camp III. Pawlikowski has not yet decided whether he should join them, making his climbing dependent on weather conditions such as temperature and wind; the doctor thinks that his frostbite might get worse.

I went on a hike with Piotr Morawski from the base to K2's northern slope. Piotr insisted on searching for his sack with personal belongings, which was swept away by a strong gust of wind at camp II a few days ago. Indeed, over two kilometers below, at the foot of a gigantic precipice, he did find the sack. It was empty. All the objects fell out when the sack was falling down. Lying nearby was only an empty box of chocolates, which they had eaten high above.

Translations are running a little behind again, as you can see Camp 3 is set up and being stocked. Next Camp 4, see the route here. Note camp 2 is lower than what they wanted. Camp 3 is higher than expected at approx. 7100 meters. The view down from Camp 3 is below.

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