Winter 2014 | Poles Injured in an Avalanche, Await Heli Evacuation

Polish climbers Pawel Dunaj and Michal Obrycki have been hit by an avalanche on Nanga Parbat. They are rescued to Latabo and await heli-evacuation. The helicopter couldn't fly to Base Camp yet, due to bad weather.

On March 1st, Tomek Mackiewicz and David Gottler were at 7200m but the adverse weather forced them to turn back. After that (third) summit push, North Face team - Simone, David and Emilio - decided to return home. However, the Poles opted to wait for another attempt. Meanwhile, fourth member of Polish team, Michal Obrycki, had also returned from Islamabad after settling the visa and passport issues.

The Plan
Traditionally Nanga Parbat receives a lot of snow in March and the frequency of avalanches increase. The weather has generally been unfavourable since March 1st. Nonetheless, at the end of last week, the Polish team decided to prepare for another summit attempt.

The plan was that Pawel Dunaj and Michal Obrycki will go up on Saturday (Mar 8th), digging out the ropes and tents, while Tomek Mackiewicz and Jacek Teler will proceed on Sunday. Pawel and Michal’s job was to prepare the route for the summit push by Tomek and Jacek.

Pawel and Michal left the BC on Saturday as per plan and by the afternoon they were at around 5000m, when the avalanche incident took place. Michal called Poland that evening. Here is an excerpt from his conversation with Marek Klonowski (machine translated).

Marek: What happened?
Michal: Avalanche!

Marek: Where are you?
Michal: Before the hump (before the hump - around 5000m. They fell 300-400m.)

Marek: How are you?
Michal: We live, but we are broken, ribs broken.

Marek: Where are Tom and Jacek?
Michal: They're coming to us (apparently Michal told them about avalanche over the radio and Tomek & Jacek immediately moved out of the BC).

The Justice for All Team; Source

Rescue Operation
The rescue operation started as soon as Base Camp team heard from Michal/Pawel. Tomek Mackiewicz and Jacek Teler went up from Latabo (3500m), along with Pakistani staff members (two chefs). It’s reported that the injured climbers were brought down to BC, after more than 12 hours continuous efforts by rescue team.

Apart from immediate help by Tomek, Jacek and two chefs, a dozen of men from nearby village also participated in rescue operation.

Heli Evacuation
Pawel and Michal need to be evacuated from BC by helicopter. But the Polish expedition hasn’t deposited the security for such an operation. (As per procedure, military owned Askari Aviation conducts helicopter flight only if security has been deposited). Luckily, after repeated too-and-fro calls between Pakistan and Poland, the issue got settled.

However, the helicopter flight hasn’t been possible until now, because of bad weather. As per Mountain-Forecast, the snowstorm may prolong till Tuesday, while Wednesday is predicted as 'partially cloudy'.

The Injuries
From Tomek's conversation with home-team on Sunday, it appears that Pawel Dunaj's condition is more critical. His arm and ribs are fractured. Michal's nose is broken and leg is hurting (probably not broken). There are bruises all over.

It was a miraculous escape and we hope for safe evacuation and speedy recovery of Pawel and Michal.

Update (Monday, March 10, 2014, 1800hrs Pakistan Time)
The helicopter(s) has been ready for flight to Nanga Parbat Base Camp throughout the day today but the evacuation hasn't been possible due to adverse conditions. The helicopter will remain standby to proceed with rescue mission as soon as weather clears. Meanwhile, Tomek, Jacek and local staff are taking care of injured climbers. They will probably consider the option of trekking down to Tarashing (the nearest town), if delay in heli-evacuation prolongs.

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