June 2002 Contents
Super Achievers & Success
at Every Alien Door'
Page 3 of 3
A WINTER EXPEDITION TO K2
By Andrzej Zawada
[Translated by Ingeborg Duubrawn-Cochlin]
When I proposed the K2 project to the Polish Mountaineering Association, I made it more attractive by suggesting that there was a possibility of an attempt on Broad Peak at the same time . Both these peaks can be climbed from the same base Camp. Because of the complications when applying for permission to climb the K2, it had been advantageous not to mention additional plans for Broad Peak. Later at the end of February, Aleksander Lwow approached me asking if he could make a solo attempt at Broad Peak. Since I knew Aleksander very well, I did not take his suggestion very seriously. But later when Maciej Berbeka announced his willingness to join Lwow to climb together, I knew their decision was a responsible one. I agreed to allow them provided we obtained permission.
During the next phase of organizing the expedition, I experienced problems in including Lwow in our team - because he was facing disciplinary action for twice breaking the rules by climbing Lhotse and Chouyu without permission.
I turned for help to the Polish Ambassador Mr. Jan W. Piekarski, who managed to obtain permission from the Pakistani authorities in just eighteen hours.
Berbeka and Lwow attacked Broad Peak in alpine style. Loaded with very heavy rucksacks, they left Base Camp on 3rd March climbing the icy slopes very carefully . They established their first bivouac at 6,000m, the second at 6,500m and the last one at 7,300m on the edge of the ice fields under the summit dome. From here without their loads they started for the summit on 6th March. The weather that day was exceptionally beautiful. We followed their every move through binoculars. They gained height very quickly. At about 3:300 p.m., when they were near the col, Lwow came on the walkie talkie and told us he had decided to turn back because he was exhausted. While he made his descent, Berbeka continued alone towards the summit. We watched him on the rocky ridge climbing quickly and confidently. Then he disappeared from view as the ridge flattened out at this point. After about half an hour we heard his voice over the radiotelephone saying: " I am on the summit, the wind is blowing very hard. If I do not reach the tent before nightfall I shall bivouac in a snow hole.
We could not see anything anymore. The weather started to change rapidly and clouds covered everything. Darkness came. The wind was blowing harder by the hour. All night long we listened on the radiotelephone but Berbeka Maciek spoke only once to tell us that he was sitting in a snow hole under the col.
The following day, the weather was appalling. Maciek spoke to us from time to time with great effort to let us know what he was doing and how he was. He was unable to find the tent in the thick mist and he was starting to loose sensation in his toes. Night was approaching. Just before darkness, the visibility improved, and it became clearer for a few moments . Maciek spotted the tent and started to descend towards it, but again a thick mist closed in and covered everything. He started to shout and Lwow heard him. In the meantime, Dasal, Gardzielewski and Wicklicki had started out from the Base Camp to help. They met the two climbers coming down slowly. Maciek was rescued.
When he had reached the summit, Maciek was convinced that he stood on the main peak on the long ridge of Broad Peak. On the basis of the picture he had taken, the experts later stated that he had reached the slightly lower summit called the Rocky Summit or Rocky Broad Peak at 8035m - just 11 meters short of the top.
What does that really mean? Only a few meters difference on the very long ridge of Broad Peak after seven dramatic days exposed on Broad Peak in winter?
Failure is very bitter but it makes you reflect more on the situation than the euphoric state of victory.
From those tense, exhausting weeks when we were idle at Base Camp struggling against those constant, devastating hurricanes, we learnt respect for our partners, who in spite of these life-threatening conditions were able to preserve their spirit with a smile or an encouraging word which meant so much at times like that. The pressure of desperate situations and dangerous conditions reveal a personís real character. The weak blame others for their failure and become heroes only when they return to the safety of their own homes.
With good partners it is easier to accept defeat. The important thing is to experience together the adventure and unusual atmosphere up there in the high mountains which brings us together and which will be remembered in years to come long after we have lost the ability and strength to rope ourselves together anymore.
Incidentally, it is good that the mountains still teach humility to human beings particularly in this day and age, when people think we can conquer nature completely. K2 in winter still remains a challenge.
(Courtesy Belgravia House Publishing)
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