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First International Winter Expedition to K2 - part 3.

czwartek, 22 listopada 2007 11:43


By Andrzej Zawada
All photos copyright Andrzej Zawada
[Translated by Ingeborg Duubrawn-Cochlin]

Broad Peak

In Alpine Style to Broad Peak.

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 person’s 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.

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First International Winter Expedition to K2 - part 2.

środa, 21 listopada 2007 0:46


By Andrzej Zawada
All photos copyright Andrzej Zawada
[Translated by Ingeborg Duubrawn-Cochlin]

The Cathedral

At Base Camp and the Ridge

During our trek to Base Camp, the weather was splendid, just as the calm sunny days of our winter reconnaissance five years earlier. In Urdukas, we met Pawel Kubalski who had spent three months in this exceptionally gloomy place where during winter there are only a few hours of sunshine. There we also had to say good-bye to Jaques Olek whose responsibility now was to supervise the traffic of porters between Urdukas and Base Camp.

The main body of the caravan spent Christmas Eve on Concordia from where it reached Base Camp on Christmas Day. It was also the last day of the fine weather we had been having. From December 27th we started to experience the reality of winter conditions. At first, there was little snow but it increased continuously so that it soon became necessary to dig tunnels to reach our tents buried unde the snow.
The frosty winds blowing from Concordia in the south caused many problems for us in the Base Camp. Meanwhile, on the top of K2, winds were blowing from the North and Northwest.
No sooner had we established Base Camp than it became obvious that Mike Woolridge was suffering from appendicitis. It required a very speedy helicopter operation on 31st December in appalling weather conditions to fly him out and save his life. We were all very sorry about Mike’s misfortune. He was a very pleasant and likeable companion who had put so much effort in preparing for the expedition. The British contingent was now reduced to two- Jon Tinker and Roger Mear - since John Barry had withdrawn from the expedition as early as the beginning of the caravan trek. I was informed that he just turned back one day without saying a word and went down. He has not explained his strange behavior to this day.
We started towards Abruzzi Ridge on 27 December by establishing an Advance Base Camp. Our progress was interrupted by persistent spells of appalling weather. Thick clouds and heavy snow accompanied hurricanes. During our winter climb of Everest, the winds had been blowing constantly but at least there had been blue sky above and this had made a tremendous difference to us.
Altogether during our three months stay at Base Camp (eighty days) we counted only ten days of good weather. On the exposed Ridge on K2, the hurricanes completely paralyzed our movement. In one month, we could manage only one camp.
The route on the Abruzzi Ridge is so cluttered with ropes that climbing is reduced to a monotonous use of jumars. Just one day of good weather and we could make considerable progress. With such a strong climbing team, first-class equipment and plenty of oxygen, all we needed was one week of fine weather in one uninterrupted stretch.
Good weather could come at any time, even in the last days before the permit expired as happened to us on Kunyang Chhish and on our Polish winter expedition to Everest . But this time it was not to be.
One of the most interesting events at the Base Camp was the visit for a few days by a party of Pakistani Officers who were very interested in our experience of winter conditions and our methods of coping and protecting ourselves from the extreme cold and sickness . They were collecting this information in order to help their own army.
Berbeka, Pawlikowski, Wielicki and Tinker established camp at 6,1000m on 5th January 1988. Cichy and Wiclicki then managed to set up Camp 2 above the House’s Chimney at 6,700m. But as it turned out, it only lasted one night since the tent held down by oxygen bottles and rope was demolished by the hurricane force winds. Fortunately, Berbeka, Bergeron and Pawlikowski were in possession of another tent, which incidentally took them one hour and a half to set it up properly. The three of them then had to return to Base Camp, suffering as they were, from frostbite.
More depressing weeks followed without any progress on the Ridge, although from time to time the teams attempted, at tremendous sacrifice to themselves, to climb in the hope that the weather would stay fine for at least a few days.
Once again Wieklicki and Cichy showed their outstanding class when, on 2nd March after conquering the Black Pyramid, established a temporary Camp 3 at 7,300m. Mear and Gagnon reached Camp 3 on 6th March. They spent a desperate night there and the following day in a raging hurricane, frostbitten and totally exhausted, they managed to re-treat to Camp 2 where Kubalski and Pawlikowski were waiting for them.
We failed to achieve our objective on K2. We do not blame ourselves because we did everything that was humanly possible in those inhospitable conditions. We were simply powerless in the face of such dangerous, formidable and life threatening elements which people have to confront in the highest mountains.

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First International Winter Expedition to K2 - part 1.

wtorek, 20 listopada 2007 22:59


By Andrzej Zawada
All photos copyright Andrzej Zawada
[Translated by Ingeborg Duubrawn-Cochlin]


K2 - Chogori

Historically, expeditions to the highest peaks are attempted in summer or early summer. However, Andrzej Zawada, a noted Polish climber, is considered a pioneer of winter climbing in high mountain regions. In the winter of 1987/88 he organized and led the first International Winter Expedition to K2 with climbers from Poland, Canada, and Great Britain. [In 1980, as leader of a Polish Expedition, he had already achieved the ultimate record of putting his Polish climbers on the top of Mt. Everest for the first time in winter]. This is an account of the winter attempt to scale the mighty K2.

After conquering Everest in winter for the first time in 1980, what goal could be more challenging than an attempt on K2 in winter? In reality, even a casual review of the enormous problems involved in such a project is enough reason to be discouraged; a very long trek to the base camp, the enormous, technical difficulties on the mountain, the lack of information on conditions in winter, the problems in obtaining permission and, raising the money to fund such a complex mountaineering operation.

I was able find partners in Canada to join me on such an expedition and they were able to raise enough finances to cover the heavy expenses involved. Jaques Olek, a Polish compatriot who had been living in Montreal for many years, put all his time and energy into this part of the venture. In February 1983, we both went to Baltoro on reconnaissance after which we were in a better position to draw up definite plans and a budget for our expedition.

Obtaining permission for the climb proved to be an even more difficult task. The Pakistani authorities were experiencing the same uncertainty and indecision over allowing climbing in the winter season as the Nepalese had done over our Everest expedition. With great patience, time and time again, we wrote yet more letters and statements in support of our application trying to persuade the authorities that the time had come to open up the Karakoram region to winter expeditions as had already been done in Nepal.

Finally as a result of all our efforts, permission was granted for our expedition. However, two of the conditions imposed were obviously directed at climbers from the West: the high rate charged for a winter climb and the ruling that valley porters could only be asked to carry the same weight as the high altitude porters. We anticipated that we would need about 14 tons of baggage for a full winter expedition; under these new regulations, we would require 700 porters, an additional expense which even the wealthiest expedition would find impossible to fund.

The only solution to the problem was to transport the baggage in the autumn and leave it at the base camp under the supervision of a special auxiliary team for the three months until December 21, the official beginning of the winter season, when the main team of climbers would arrive. We would not have been able to make these arrangements without the energetic assistance of the highest level from the Polish and Canadian ambassadors.

At the same time as our Canadian partners realized that they would not be able to meet all the financial demands of such an expedition, the main sponsor of our equipment, Karrimor, expressed their willingness to introduce climbers from Great Britain into the expedition. So we declared to expand the team to include these British climbers. The expedition then became a joint Polish Canadian British partnership with ten climbers from Poland, five from Canada and four from Great Britain.

The auxiliary team together with Andrzej Zawada and Nasir Sabir, the expedition agent and the liaison officer for the first stage, arrived in Fajo at the beginning of October. The porters for the caravan were selected in very hot sunny weather, but winter arrived suddenly within a few days with very heavy snowstorms. The older people in Askole could not remember similar freak weather.

I was already back in Europe when I heard the news that the caravan was trapped in Urdukas. If this continued, it certainly meant the end of the expedition. Jaques and I were prepared for the worst when we heard from Islamabad that the President of Pakistan had put his military helicopters at the disposal of the expedition. Several helicopter flights and an additional fifty to sixty porters operating between Urdukas and Base Camp could still rescue the situation. The personal equipment for the sixty extra porters was delivered promptly and the costs shared between the three countries involved.

At the beginning of December, the actual climbers of the winter team flew to Islamabad.  Before leaving for our destination, we were received in audience by the President of Pakistan, General Zia ul Haq, who once again promised to help us in any way he could.

The winter team consisted of the following climbers: Andrzej Zawada the leader , Maclej Berbeka, Eugeniusz Chrobak, Leszek Cichy, Miroslaw Dasal, Miroslaw Gardzielewski, Zygnmunt A. Heinrich, Bogdan Jankowski, Pawel Kubalski, Aleks Lwow, Maciej Pawlikowski, Michal Tokarzewski the doctor, and Krzysztof Wielicji from Poland; Jaques Olek { deputy leader}, Pierre Bergeron, Jean-Pierre Danvoye, Jean-Francois Gagnon, Stuart Hutchison, Bernard Mailbot and Yves Tessier from Canada; John Barry, Roger Mear, Jon Tuinker and Mike Woolridge from Great Britain.

The climbing team was accompanied by ski trekking groups from England and Canada. The liaison officer was Ashraf Aman {like Nasir Sabir, he too had reached the summit of K2 on a previous occasion}.

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LHOTSE - Krzysztof Wielicki.

piątek, 31 sierpnia 2007 14:00

Krzysztof Wielicki


            Lhotse(8511 m n.p.m.), najbliższy sąsiad Mount Everestu, znajduje się na granicy między Nepalem i Tybetem. Ze szczytu wybiegają trzy 17.jpg (26.54 Kb)główne granie: na północ ku Przełęczy Południowej i dalej w kierunku Everestu; na wschód ku Lhotse Shar (8386 m), oraz ku Nuptse (7861 m). Dwie pierwsze ograniczają spływający na wschód wielki lodowiec Kangchung. Góra ma dwie wybitne ściany. Ściana zachodnia wznosi się nad Kotłem Zahodnim (Western CWM), czyli nad górną częścią lodowca Khumbu. Natomiast nad lodowcem Lhotse piętrzy się słynna wśród alpinistów, ogromna ściana południowa.

        „Lhotse”w języku tybetańskim znaczy „szczyt południowy”; nazwę taką nadali górze uczestnicy brytyjskiej wyprawy rekonesansowej na Everest w 1921roku.

   Pierwszą próbę zdobycia Lhotse podjęła międzynarodowa wyprawa pod kierownictwem Normana G. Dyhrenfurtha w 1955 roku. Ernst Senn doszedł wtedy samotnie na wysokość 8100 m, do początku północno-zachodniego kuluaru.

     18.jpg (31.69 Kb)Pierwszego wejścia na Lhotse dokonała wyprawa szwajcarska w 1956 roku, niejako przy okazji drugiego wejścia na Mount Everest. Wykorzystano dobrze już znaną z ataków na Everest drogę na Przełęcz Południową. Przy dobrej pogodzie i sprawnie działającej aparaturze tlenowej, znajdujący się w świetnej formie wspinacze Fritz Luchsinger i Ernst Reiss osiągnęli 18maja wierzchołek Lhotse poprzez kuluar w zachodnie flance. Drugie wejście na Lhotse miało miejsce dopiero w roku 1977. Wcześniej, w 1974 roku, góra była świadkiem pamiętnej próby pierwszego wejścia zimowego, kiedy to polska ekipa pod kierunkiem Andrzeja Zawady wycofała się z wysokości ok. 8200 m. Później, w październiku 1979 roku, na szczyt weszło aż ośmiu Polaków (Czok, Heinrich, Kukuczka, Skorek, Baranek,Bilczewski, Cholewa, Niklas – siódme i ósme wejście).  
       O ile wejścia drogą normalną odbywano często przy okazji wchodzenia na Everest, to wspaniałą ściana południowa była celem samym w sobie. Przez jej lewy kocioł próbowali wejść w 1981 roku Jugosłowianie pod wodzą A.Kunavera, dochodząc do wysokości 8100 m. Z prawej strony, właściwie już na południowej ścianie Lhotse Shar, poprowadzili drogę Słowacy w 1984roku. W 1990 roku Tomo Cesen oświadczył, iż dokończył drogę jugosłowiańską. Autentyczność tego wejścia była przedmiotem kontrowersji i ostatecznie została zakwestionowana. W 1989 roku próbował tu swoich sił Reinhold Messner. Tragicznie zapisał się dzień 24 października tegoż roku: po pokonaniu niemal całej ściany, u wejścia w prowadzącą ku szczytowi grań, odpadł Jerzy Kukuczka, drugi w świecie zdobywca „Korony Himalajów”. Lina nie wytrzymała szarpnięcia... W 1990 ścianę przeszli Rosjanie, oceniając jej trudności jako niemożliwe do pokonania przez samotnego wspinacza.

     Południową ścianę Lhotse próbowałem przejść trzykrotnie: w latach 1985, 1987,1989. Jako Polak mam do niej stosunek równie emocjonalny, jak Niemcy do Nanga Parbat. Dwa razy byłem bardzo blisko szczytu. W 1985 roku wraz z Mirkiem Falco Dąsalem, Walkiem Fiutem i Arturem Hajzerem wyszliśmy na grań (8250 m) chyba zbyt nisko i musieliśmy zrezygnować.

        W 1987 roku wraz z Arturem Hajzerem wyruszyliśmy do ataku szczytowego z obozu na wysokości 7800 m. Po trzech dniach wspinaczki weszliśmy na grań na wysokości 8300 metrów. Decyzja o odwrocie zapadłą po spędzeniu w jamie śnieżnej bardzo ciężkiego biwaku przy huraganowym wietrze. Odwrót był równie trudny co wspinaczka w górę. Mieliśmy nadzieję, że jeśli zdołalibyśmy wejść na szczyt, zeszlibyśmy na stronę zachodnią do bazy pod Everestem. Niestety, musieliśmy zjechać ścianą trzy kilometry w dół.

         W1989 roku do udziału w wyprawie na tę ścianę zostaliśmy zaproszeni przez Reinholda Messnera. W składzie wyprawy była międzynarodowa elita ówczesnego himalaizmu. Lecz mimo to nie udało się zrealizować wymarzonego planu. Zamiast kolektywnej współpracy, która w przypadku tak potężnej ściany jest konieczna, zbyt wiele było na tej wyprawie gwiazdorstwa, a także prywatnych gier. Dream team Messnera niestety nie zagrał najlepszego meczu.

       Więcej już tam chyba nie pójdę – myślałem – uważałem, że nie warto. Gdyby Rosjanie nie przeszli ściany, to może należałoby pokusić się o zweryfikowanie wejścia Ćesena. Znałem już na niej każdy kamień. Jest tam zbyt niebezpiecznie, aby ryzykować w celu powtórzenia czegoś, co już zostało zrobione przez kogoś innego. Mam w sobie coś takiego, co w przypadku podejmowania nowych wyzwań jest dla mnie motorem napędowym. Na południowej ścianie Lhotse to „coś” już nie działa. Więc po co się tam pchać?

      Byłem jednak na szczycie Lhotse. Po wypadku na Bhagirati II w dniu 31sierpnia 1988 roku, w którym ucierpiał mój bark i kręgosłup (od tego czasu jestem niższy o centymetr), musiałem nosić gumowy gorset z metalowymi usztywniaczami.

    Belgowie, którzy mieli zezwolenie na atakowanie Mount Everestu i Lhotse zimą 1988r, zaprosili Andrzeja Zawadę, Leszka Cichego i mnie do udziału w ich ekspedycji. W drugiej połowie grudnia '88r Belgowie stwierdzili, że cel przerasta ich możliwości. Pod koniec grudnia poszliśmy w czwórkę (z Ingrid Bayens, Andrzejem i Leszkiem) do Kotła Zachodniego, na wysokość 6400 metrów. Niestety towarzystwo się pochorowało i groziła konieczność wycofania się. Nie chciałem jednak rezygnować. W dzień poprzedzający Sylwestra udałem się samotnie do obozu III. Po dwutygodniowej przerwie w działalności namioty były poniszczone, ale jakoś udało mi się przespać. Następnego dnia, bez zakładania obozu czwartego, wszedłem drogą normalną na szczyt, dokonując tym samym pierwszego wejścia zimowego na Lhotse 31grudnia 1988r. Zejście z wierzchołka z uwagi na uraz kręgosłupa było straszne. Wymyśliłem sobie, że co 20 kroków będę się kładł na stoku i odpoczywał. Wiedziałem, że nie wolno mi zasnąć bez asekuracji na stromym lodzie, a jednak zasypiałem. Po prostu traciłem świadomość. Po kilku minutach „snu” budziłem się i ruszałem dalej. Warunki były, jak to w zimie w Himalajach – dużo lodu, mało śniegu i bardzo silny wiatr. To wszystko okazało się jednak niczym w porównaniu z bólem kręgosłupa. Dotarłem jednak jakoś do „trójki”. Czekał tam na mnie Leszek Cichy, który pomimo choroby przyszedł mi z odsieczą z dołu. Był to z jego strony dowód prawdziwego górskiego partnerstwa.

   Lhotse zdobyłem zimą drogą normalną, a bardzo chciałem ścianą - południową... Życie.

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