Winter 2013 | Rest In Peace Maciej & Tomasz

"Considering all the circumstances, conditions, my experience, history of Himalayan mountaineering, knowledge regarding physiology and high-altitude medicine as well as consultations with doctors and co-organizers of the expedition in Poland, I have to declare Maciej Berbeka and Tomasz Kowalski dead.
Taking into account the time that has passed since the last contact, altitude where it took place, their condition, current weather conditions and all other factors, I have to claim openly that both climbers are dead.
The expedition has come to an end. We are packing the base camp and start to descend. March via the Baltoro Glacier will take approximately 5 days. We will come back to Poland on approximately 20th March. Due to lack of electricity, we will not have any possibilities to maintain contact via telephones or e-mails and thus, the will not be any information about us till approximately 15th March."
 - Krzysztof Wielicki, the leader of the winter expedition of Polish Mountaineering Association to Broad Peak
Maciej Berbeka, Tomasz Kowalski, Adam Bielecki and Artur Malek reached the summit of Broad Peak on 5th March. The summit of this 8051m high mountain was reached for the first time in winter. The topography of Broad Peak summit is interesting and quite deceptive as well. Beyond C4 at 7400m, a series of hurdles await the climbers. First they encounter huge crevasses above 7800m which thwart several summit pushes. After crossing the crevasses, climbers reach a pass at 7900m where wind pressure is relatively high. The ridge from 7900m pass leads to a 8030m high point called Foresummit or Rocky Summit. Many climbers being unaware of summit topography, turn back from this point, as visibly it's impossible to understand that true summit is higher than this point. Maciej Berbeka too got tricked by this illusion in 1988. For summit the climbers need to walk little less than a kilometer to true summit at 8051m. Remember this walk at above 8000m and extremely exposed section takes about one hour in perfect conditions. Four Poles reached the true summit at around sunset. It was a risk thing, as descending an 8000er in winter at night is fatal. Unfortunately Maciej Berbeka and Tomasz Kowalski went missing during descent and all search efforts to locate them proved unfruitful.

R.I.P Maciej & Tomasz. Image Source

An extremely fierce storm hit the mountain on Friday with winds at 8000m approaching 100kph. With absolutely no chances of Maciej and Tomasz's survival, the Polish Winter 2013 Broad Peak Expedition comes to an unfortunate end. My heart goes out to the families of Maciej Berbeka and Tomasz Kowalski. The two shall remain on the slopes of Broad Peak, possibly forever. The experienced Berbeka and young gun Tomasz were extremely strong and courageous mountaineers. Personally, I could never imagine Berbeka gone missing but anything can happen on the 8000er mountains. Two plates would soon appear on Gilkey Memorial at K2's base that was visited by participants of Broad Peak expedition before their summit push.

Arthur Gilkey Memorial at K2's BC; Photo by Tomasz Kowalski himself
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