|View from camp
II. The K2 Glacier is visible below.
They want to appear
from the base under K2
Cameras are aimed
at the alpinists, but there would be no expedition
if it were not for the people in the background. An
expedition is like a hand. Each finger is necessary
and only the cooperation of all brings results, says
our cook, Lachhu ("Lackchew") Bahadur Basnet from
Nepal, showing his work-worn hand.
Lachhu is a walking
piece of history of himalaism. Though he is only 43,
he has already participated in 37 expeditions. He
worked with Poles for the first time two decades
ago, as a cook boy, during the expedition to Ganesh
II in the Gharwal Himalayas, headed by Janusz Majer,
when Krzysztof Wielicki, the head of our present
expedition, reached the summit. Then, already being
a cook, he cooked for Wielicki, when the latter was
conquering the Crown of the Himalayas, Makalu,
Dhaulagiri, Manaslu, Annapurna, Gasherbrum I and II.
He also participated in the last expedition of
Wanda Rutkiewicz to
He found out that the Polish climber has gone
missing in Pakistan only, because in accordance with
his contract, he had left that expedition earlier in
order to aid Wielicki once again. He has been
supporting commercial expeditions to Mount Everest,
organized by Russell Brice, for the last ten years.
He regrets that he learned too late about the Polish
winter attempt to reach Makalu two years ago. His
brother was the cook then.
He has lived
through some difficult moments during the present K2
Winter Expedition. At the end of December and the
beginning of January, when the temperatures fell
below -30 deg. C, his big toe was frostbitten. He
could not sleep from the pain. Usually smiling, he
cursed the winter and the idea of reaching the
summit under such difficult conditions. He descended
to the Chinese base, with the intention it would
seem of returning to Katmandu. And yet he has not
left us and has returned after a few days.
For Birbala, the
cook's aid from Nepal, this expedition is his second
one in winter that he supports with his patience,
good humor and imaginative cooking. The first one
was Annapurna, when Jerzy Kukuczka and Artur Hajzer
climbed the maiden summit in winter, and Wielicki
took the ill Wanda Rutkiewicz down to the base.
Birbal remembers very pleasantly the head of the two
other summer expeditions to the southern slopes of
Lhotse and Annapurna. He shows me a big face, which
stands for a beard, and the big belly of Janusz
Majer, a fairly largely built man.
Birbal does not
know his age. He looks young, though according to
his passport he should be 42. Lachhu explains: In
our country, we get our identity cards at the age of
18. Someone without such an ID can't get a passport,
insurance, he can't work in the field of tourism or
with expeditions. That's why parents overstate the
age of their children. We all try to appear older.
A team of excellent
guides and mountaineers from Hunza in Pakistan does
an unrewarding job here. They have been sent by
Nazir Sabir, our great friend and owner of a tourist
agency in Islamabad, one of the most outstanding
alpinists in his country. The Hunzas task is to
deliver the expedition's equipment on the K2 glacier
to the upper base. They arrive loaded, with frozen
beards, then they rest a while, eat some soup, drink
some tea and immediately descend to the intermediate
base, where they live in tents. Always polite,
obliging and caring.
The oldest of them,
46-year-old Aslam Khan, always walks around in a
blue polar sweatshirt, regardless of the
temperature, wrapping his face with a scarf. For 20
years he has been a member of Pakistan's special
units. He was the bodyguard of Prime Minister
Benazir Bhutto, he would fly as part of Pakistani
Airlines security and spent three years in his
country's embassy in Stockholm. After taking early
retirement, he began working in tourism, using his
knowledge of the mountains where he used to be a
Sarwar Khan (45)
reached the summit of the 8000er Broad Peak and
missed the summit of Gasherbrum I by a mere 50 m in
a blizzard; he participated as an alpinist in the
expedition to Mount Everest. He aids many
expeditions to Karakorum and the Himalayas as an
alpine porter. Six years ago, he aided the
expedition during which Krzysztof Wielicki reached
the summit of K2 on the Northern Pillar. Sarwar
would arrive with the equipment at camp II. It was
on Sarwar Khan's back that I had the honor of
crossing the icy Shaksgam River on our way to K2.
While I was profoundly embarrassed, the Pakistani
calmed me down and said that during summer trekkings,
one of his duties is carrying customers. Japanese
female tourists seem to like that particularly.
Doulat Amin (26) is
very strong. He is a guide and alpine porter,
usually aiding American expeditions. In the year
2000, he was on K2's Northern Pillar with Americans,
who left behind them bags of nutrients, soups, bars
of chocolate, powdered drinks and other strange
kinds of candy enriched with vitamins, all of them
buried in the snow.
Rehmat Ali (31)
know Poles well. He participated, among others, in
expedition to Broad Peak. He mainly guides tourist
groups, however, including Polish groups. He asked
to give his regards to all those he has taken care
of so far.
The Hunzas have
lost weight, have pined away during our expedition,
but they still keep on running persistently on the
stony K2 glacier. We realize that you have
undertaken the great mission to reach the summit of
K2 in winter, they say. And thanks to our
work, we can at least partly participate in this
unusual task, they say unanimously.
The fight goes on
from the base under K2
The alpinists do
not seem to pay any attention to bad weather.
There's no such thing as bad weather, they say. We
have to work on the mountain. Today, Denis Urubko,
Piotr Morawski and Marcin Kaczkan went to camp I.
Tomorrow, they are climbing higher.
The distances they
have to cover are longer and longer, they leave the
base for more and more days. It takes three days now
to reach camp III. Bartek Duda and Jacek Jawień, the
team carrying ropes and food, sets off behind them.
The goal is clear, to install fixed ropes on the
part of the pillar in the direction of camp IV as
far as possible, which is to be established at 7850
m. The fight is supposed to last for quite some
time. Krzysztof Wielicki has just ordered the return
camel caravan for March 4th. The return to Poland is
expected for the middle of March. Today, however,
everyone still wants to fight. Despite frostbites
At first, fright
trains were going over us, then fast trains, and
finally we felt as though we got on a crazy roller
coaster in an amusement park. said Jerzy Natkański
about the night spent in camp III at 7200 m. We
didn't sleep a wink.?
The wind squeezed
snow inside the tent. The steam of their breaths
froze on their down suits and sleeping bags,
covering the interior with white frost. Natkański,
Maciej Pawlikowski and Darusz Załuski brought ropes,
food and equipment to camp III, passing en route
Krzysztof Wielicki and Jacek Berbeke who were
returning from the camp. The former replaced a part
of the fixed ropes, but did not manage to climb
above camp III. The next morning, on Thursday, they
set off downwards, to the base.
forecast announced on this day in the evening
stronger winds, clouds and snowfall during the next
two days. Meanwhile, Jacek Teler has set out on his
own to camp II. The 35-year-old alpinist is an
extraordinary figure. Being a theologian and
philosopher, he has the soul of a social man,
complemented by enthusiasm towards everything he
does. He helped create a homeless shelter in
Częstochowa, he looked after drug addicts and street
children, held the position of a warden at a court.
He loves the Siberian Altai, Thien-Shan and Pamir,
where he became involved in various rescue missions.
He became part of the supporting group in the
present expedition. He would run for a month on the
K2 glacier, delivering supplies. He has earned the
nickname, Robocop, which is understandable for
anyone who has seen him marching upwards like a
machine. Once his toes were frostbitten on Mont
Blanc, because he gave his partner the medicine that
could have protected him against it. At the
hospital, he was told that he was going to lose all
his toes. He decided to treat himself. He went home.
After some time, when the borderline between the
dead and the healthy part was established, he took
one of the toes out of the joint himself, cutting
another one with a scalpel at the appropriate spot.
It didn't hurt says Teler. I saved the three
remaining toes instead.
A month ago, his
feet were frostbitten on the K2 glacier. He made
bandages and kept on carrying the equipment. Finally
there came the time when he was able to touch the
slope of K2, which he received with the kind of
enthusiasm which is characteristic of him.
On Thursday, he
reached camp II (6780 m) at night, since he left
camp I too late. He communicated with the base,
unsure of the way. Fixed ropes led him to the tent.
And as soon as we breathed a sigh of relief that he
was safe, the wind started to blow. The mountain
started to howl with a sound resembling airplane
engines warming up at an airfield, which is typical
of winters in the Himalayas. I would like to
congratulate my friends who have secured the tent. I
thought that I was flying off only twice, said Teler
in the morning over the radio.
The night must have
been very tough. At the base, when the rumble of the
fluttering tent drowns out all other noises, even
the sound of a falling avalanche, the table in my
tent starts moving by itself, and the computer, the
satellite phone and other electronic devices are
falling on my head while I am trying to sleep. Such
were the conditions on the night from Thursday to
Friday, when Jacek Teler was the only person on the
slope of K2.
On the second day,
being told by the head of the expedition that his
bravery and effort had been in vain, since he
managed to carry up only one rope, he packed more
ropes into his rucksack that were stored at camp II
and carried them halfway to camp III.
At the moment I am
finishing this report, he is returning to the base
in the fog. Night has fallen. It is snowing lightly.
He is going to make it, Robocop is indestructible .
Expedition Weather is getting worse
Silence at the
The weather is
making the situation of the expedition more and more
difficult. The wind has pressed the fixed ropes into
the snow, they have to be pulled out, it has buried
the camps, which have to be dug up, and has made the
ice cracks invisible.
Bartek Duda fell
into one of them on his way to camp I, before he
could reach the fixed ropes. I fell up to my chest.
My rucksack stopped me. I crawled out with
difficulty, digging my heels in, using my legs and
my back. That was a fearsome experience, he said
when he was safe. After the night spent at camp I,
Bartek returned on Sunday to the base. He realized
that he is in too much pain in order to be able to
climb with the heavy rucksack. Jacek Jawień remained
alone at camp I. He was supposed to accompany Bartek,
delivering equipment to the higher camps.
- Jacek should not
go alone, warned Denis Urubko at camp II on Sunday
morning. The ropes are so icy that the safety
devices slide on them. Jawień takes a rest at camp
I. On Sunday, the mountain was smoking with snow,
blown off by a strong wind. Denis Urubko, Piotr
Morawski and Marcin Kaczkan have reached camp III.
The tent has endured the wind. At this altitude, the
temperature is minus 35 degrees. The wind was
blowing strong and it's terribly cold, says
Piotr Morawski over the radio. We measured the
altitude of the camp with the GPS. It is 7150 m.
Denis is worried that this is very low.
- The poles are
holding, only the tent's envelope is torn. Somebody
has walked over it with crampons, reported Denis
Urubko. Wind permitting, we'll try to climb higher
tomorrow and establish fixed ropes as far as
possible. But the three of us won't work any
wonders. We need support. We need strong teams,
carrying equipment, bringing equipment to the camps,
taking care of the tents and creating bases of
supply, who will then replace us.
We listened to
Denis' word at the base in the evening. The wind was
pulling at the tents. The penetrating chill would
not let us rest.
- Who's going up
tomorrow? asked Krzysztof Wielicki, the head of the
expedition. He was faced with a wall of silence. I
can't force anybody. All I can do is appeal. he
asked. Everybody was starring at their plates.
from the base under K2
Written by Monika
translated by "Scrivanek".