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K2/Chogori Winter 2003

The K2 Winter Expedition is over Wielicki wants to try again

Humbleness towards the mountain

Krzysztof Wielicki has made the decision to end the expedition. The latest events have shown that only him and Denis Urubko are capable of attacking the summit. According to the head of the expedition, an attempt to reach the summit of K2 at this point in time would be a sign of irresponsibility.

All alpinists have safely returned to the base. Marcin Kaczkan did not only descend unaided from camp I, but also left his two rescuers behind and arrived almost an hour earlier. At camp I, he was given water, food and oxygen. He arrived at the base in excellent shape. When asked why he had given up on the idea of taking along an oxygen cylinder for a possible attack on the summit, he said: "I didn't want to take any additional load along. Two cylinders, a mask and a reducer weigh around 10 kg. I don't know if I'd have been better off wearing this on my back in addition to the 15 kilograms I already had."

Marcin does not seem to know that he was in mortal danger due to deterioration, which is a term describing the destroying influence of altitude on the organism. He trusted Denis Urubko, who told him to descend to camp IV (7630 m). "Only a few more hours and Marcin would have never gotten out of there", says Denis.

During the solemn dinner at the last Thursday before Lent, Krzysztof Wielicki announced his decision to end the K2 Winter Expedition. This caused a distinct feeling of relief among those present. Only Urubko was disconsolate. He had counted on one more attempt at attacking the summit, as agreed before with Wielicki. The last days' events have shown that both of them are in excellent shape. After two nights spent sleepless due to gales, during which he was trying not to fly away along with the tent at camps II and III, at an altitude above 7000 m, the head of the expedition was almost running up to give a helping hand to Marcin Kaczkan.

"Tough luck, Krzysztof is my general during this expedition. I have to comply with his decisions", said Denis with resignation. We managed to dissuade him from, popping out, to camp IV for his equipment which he had left there. "Theoretically, it is still possible to attack the summit", said Wielicki. "The rescue operation has shown, however, that only I and Denis are capable of going up. I guess it has also made everybody aware of the fact that none of our friends is capable of reaching camp II (6780 m) anymore, even if it is about delivering an oxygen cylinder for life saving purposes. The return caravan is scheduled for March 6. Carrying down the equipment from the upper base is going to take several days. The weather forecasts say that the present gales, blizzards and clouds will last until March 3. In this kind of weather, one can reach camp II or III at the most. We are running out of time. If I decided to attack the summit with Denis, there would be no-one at the foot of the mountain waiting for us. We wouldn't have any backup. Thus we would deny the point of all the things we have done so far, it would show that our own ambition is more important to us than responsibility and prove our arrogance towards the mountain. This is not a mountain for two people. We are leaving, but this does not mean that we are running away from the challenge. To be honest, even though this expedition is not over yet, I'm already thinking about the next. All we have to do is take a more careful look at the young alpinists, select a team physically and mentally resistant enough to extreme conditions that is prepared to go out in bad weather, for whom frost, wind and blizzards are conditions to act, adversities to overcome. I think that during this expedition some of our fellow alpinists have learned to tell the difference between real exploration and another summer trip to an 8000er. I'm pleased that some of them liked it. I will be looking for similar people at home and abroad, most certainly in the East once again.

An expedition to K2 should start in December and last three months. The experience shows that after 60 days of not even climbing, but only being in such conditions, the organism gets exhausted. People have chilblains and are mentally burned out. I'm even thinking of exchanging the team during the expedition, dividing it into people preparing camps up to 7000 m and an assault group. It goes without saying that all of the above requires money. I will keep on looking for a patron who whishes to write the history of alpinism with us. I want to return here as quickly as possible", says Krzysztof Wielicki.

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