Winter 2013 | Climbers Missing on Broad Peak

Yesterday (5th March) evening, four Poles Maciej Berbeka, Adam Bielecki, Tomasz Kowalski and Arthur Malek reached the summit of Broad Peak (8051m) - the twelfth highest peak in the world; it was previously unclimbed in winter. They started the summit push from C4 (7400m) early in the morning at 5:15AM in extremely low temperature but clear skies and mild wind. After successfully negotiating the big crevasse at 7830m they reached 7900m summit ridge at 1230PM. It was being expected that team should reach the summit between 2PM & 3PM but the ridge presented more difficulties than anticipated. After 12 exhausting hours of climb in extremely cold (-30°C), all four climbers summited between 5:30PM and 6:00PM local time - nearly at sunset. The situation wasn’t bright. Summiting a mountain is tough but getting down safely is even challenging. No climber would ever like to descend an 8000er in dark and that too in winter. But Poles on Broad Peak summit didn’t have any alternative.

Broad Peak true Summit as seen from Foresummit; Photo: Jerzy Natkański

It’s reported that Tomasz talked about breathing problem and general weakness in conversation with BC from summit. During the descent all four climbers split up. Adam Bielecki was first to reach C4 at 11PM, he was followed by Artur Malek who arrived in camp at 2AM (6th March). As weather was good, the base camp team followed the descent of climbers. Tomasz was the last one descending. He and Maciej were (exhausted and) descending extremely slowly.  The pass at 7900m which normally (in summer) takes one hour from summit was covered in 7-8hrs (Tomasz reached there at 2AM). Last communication with Tomasz took place at 6:30AM who could see Maciej in front of him. Maciej’s last communication with BC was from summit.

Maciej Berbeka. Photo by Adam Bielecki; Source

Karim Hayyat, who climbed up from BC with the climbers but stayed in C2 to assist the descent, started going up on 6th morning. He reached C4, then climbed as high as 7700m and closely observed the route till the pass at 7900m but couldn’t find any sign of Maciej Berbeka or Tomasz Kowalski. Eventually, he had to retreat to C4. It was around 2PM and after that the climbers were officially recognized as missing.

The pass at 7900 m. Photo: winter 2009

Amin Ullah Baig and Shaheen Baig were in BC on 5th March. On 6th, they started going up at 2AM. The purpose was to collect the gear from higher camps. Amin reached C3 while Shaheen stopped at C2.

In the evening, expedition leader Krzysztof Wielicki decided that Adam Bielecki should descend to BC along with Shaheen and Amin, while Artur and Karim would stay in C4 waiting for missing climbers. Artur was supposedly in a better shape than Adam.

A strong storm is approaching Broad Peak and is expected the hit the peak on 7th March noon. By then, all climbers must evacuate the mountain or at least should get down to a lower height. Initially it was decided that Artur and Karim would spend the night in C4 but late in the evening the leader Krzysztof Wielicki directed the duo to come down.

As of now, Shaheen, Amin and Adam have reached BC (arrived at 0930PM) while Artur and Karim are at 7000m. Since ropes are fixed from 7000m till the base, it can be expected that they would reach BC safely and quickly. Unfortunately, Maciej Berbeka and Tomasz Kowalski are still missing. There are several speculations about their disappearance like a fall into a crevasse, hypothermia, exhaustion and altitude related issues etc but nothing is definite yet. Chances of them being safe are minimal but miracles do happen.

Broad Peak. Polscy himalaiści mogli wpaść do szczeliny
Krzysztof, Artur Malek, Tomasz Kowalski, Adam Bielecki, Maciej Berbeka; Image

Unfortunately the winter 2013 climbing season is proving to be quite tragic. Joel Wischnewski disappeared on Nanga Parbat in February and now Maciej and Tomasz are missing.

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