Successful Broad Peak attempt appears to have ended in tragedy

Posted by Lindsay Griffin on 07/03/2013
Broad Peak summits from K2. The Poles climbed the large snow slope on the right then away from the camera up the rocky ridge to the summit. Bruce Normand

Nothing short of a miracle is now needed to see the return to base camp of legendary Polish mountaineer Maciej Berbeka and his compatriot Tomasz Kowalski, after their historic first winter ascent of 8,051m Broad Peak.

Led by Krzysztof Wielicki, arguably the most accomplished Himalayan winter mountaineer of all time, a small Polish expedition arrived in base camp on the 23rd January and began establishing camps on the Normal Route.

Early on the 5th March Berbeka, who 25 years ago came remarkably close to climbing Broad Peak in winter, Adam Bielecki, who one year ago made the first winter ascent of Gasherbrum I, Artur Malek, and Kowalski left camp 4 (7,400m) for a summit push.

They had been given a clear weather window, with good visibility, no wind, and a daytime temperature at ca 8,000m of -27°C, dropping to -35°C at night.

They reached the col (ca 7,900m) below Broad Peak Foresummit (8,034m) at around 12:30pm. Normally, it is a few hours from here to the top, but the team found unexpected difficulties and the climbers only arrived at the main summit between 5:00 and 6:00pm, shortly before dark.

On the descent the four split. Bielecki returned to Camp 4 at around 11:00pm, while Malek didn't make it until 2:00am the following morning. Berbeka (58) and Kowalski (27) were moving far more slowly and by 2:00am had only reached the col, where they were forced to sit out the night without bivouac gear.

Although each climber carried a radio, of the two high on the mountain only Kowalski made contact with base camp, saying he was weak and had breathing difficulties.

The following morning he communicated his condition had worsened, but it was thought that Berbeka might be making an attempt to descend. Just before dawn Wielicki, at base camp, spotted the light from a headlamp in the vicinity of the col.

At around that time the experienced Pakistan mountaineer, Karim Hayyat, set out from Camp 2 (6,200m) and eventually reached a high point of 7,700m. Visibility was good, but he saw no evidence of climbers above, and there were  no further communications from Kowalski.

With a strong storm forecast to hit the area around midday on the 7th, all remaining members descended to base camp, though currently two more Pakistan climbers have set off up the mountain for what seems likely to be a final search.

Broad Peak becomes the third 8,000m peak in the Karakoram to be climbed in winter, leaving K2 and Nanga Parbat as the only summits of the world's 14 8,000ers not to have received a winter ascent.

This was the seventh attempt to climb the mountain in winter, though the first stands out as one of the most remarkable attempts in the history of winter Himalayan climbing.

In 1987-8 the great Polish expedition leader Andrezj Zawada, took a team to Pakistan to attempt K2. With a more northerly latitude and far harsher winter conditions, the Karakoram presents a considerably greater challenge than the high mountains of Nepal in the same season. Zawada's concept was well ahead of its time, and no 8,000m peaks in Pakistan were successfully summited until a couple of years ago.

By the end of February 1988 the Poles had failed to get higher than 7,000m on K2 but were well acclimatized. Berbeka and Aleksander Lwow, two of the strongest mountaineers of their day, were given permission to make a light and fast attempt on neighbouring Broad Peak.

Lwow gave up high on the mountain, leaving Berbeka to continue alone. He reached the "summit" in strong winds and gathering gloom, and during the descent bivouacked in a snow hole in the vicinity of the col, before reaching the top camp at 7,300m next day

Later, Berbeka realized he had made a mistake, having stopped on the foresummit only ca 400m distant from the main top.

Berbeka was certainly one of the major activists in the 1980s Polish scene. In 1979 he took part in the Polish expedition that made the first confirmed ascent of peak 29 (7,871m).

However, he really came to global prominence in 1981, when he made a new route on the South Face of Annapurna, climbing direct to the Central Summit on a line reported to be similar in difficulty to the North Face of the Matterhorn

He raised his game in January 1984, when he made the first winter ascent of Manaslu, only the second 8,000m peak to be climbed during the calendar winter season.

One year later, on another major Zawada expedition, he made the first winter ascent of Cho Oyu via a new route on the southeast pillar.

And in the post-monsoon season of 1986 he climbed a highly difficult new line on the left side of the south face of Dhaulagiri, reaching the Japanese route high on the southwest ridge, where he was unable to summit due to bad weather.

In the winter of 1990-91 he made an attempt to climb the Rupal Face of Nanga Parbat, and in autumn of 1993 became the first Pole to summit Everest from Tibet.

After this he appears to have disappeared from high standard mountaineering, though as a IFMGA guide he made more visits to the Himalaya, summiting Ama Dablam in 2006. His ascent of Broad Peak made him only the fourth person to make first winter ascents of three 8,000m peaks.



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Anonymous User
13/03/2013
BTW. They are called in Poland the 'ice warriors'. ...The remarkable thing is that out of the four who reached the summit two young ones descended safely. The oldest member who happened to be memeber of the Polish mountain rescue team stayed behind to help another member of the expedition. Then by the looks of it he had no more energy to struggle for his own survival. Just about made it 25 years ago... Not this time. We are all mourning for the loss of a beautiful person... H
Anonymous User
21/07/2013
Tragedy in Broad peak continues!
After three bivouacs at 8000m, three Iranian climbers, Aidin Bozorgi, Pouya Keivan and Mojtaba Jarahi, reached the summit of Broad Peak on Tuesday morning (July 16th), but they haven't been able to return to C3 yet, As per last communication, they were at 7800m, needing food and water.

Iranian Route In 2009,
Iranian climbers attempted to summit Broad Peak via a new route (Iran) from Southwest Face consisting of two sections,
a) Climbing Southwest face to C3 of normal route.
b) From C3, going towards the right, directly to the main summit.
The 2009 attempt was aborted at C3 (6800m) due to health issues and since then, Iranians have made two more attempts to climb the route.
Ascent
A five-climbers team attempted the new route this year. after acclimatization and working the route, the summit climb started last week. they reached C3 without any specific difficulty.
On Saturday, July 13th, Aidin Bozorgi, Pouya Keivan and Mojtaba Jarahi, left C3 for the summit. The conditions were tough, they managed to reach an altitude of 7350m and made the first bivouac there. Next day, the trio negotiated rocky terrain above Bivouac-1, but gained only 100 meters altitude. At 7450m, they made the second bivouac. By the end of third day (July 15th), they were just below the summit at 8000m where they bivouacked for a third night.
Descent
On July 16th, all three climbers reached the summit in early hours of the day. As per plan, they were supposed to descend via the normal route and reach C3 by the evening. Other members of the team, Ramin Shojaei and Afshin Saadi were waiting for them in the camp, the descent proved to be more complicated than expected. They didn't take the right route to descent to C3 and had to bivouac five nights above C3 by today Sunday 21st, July 2013.
On Wednesday night the climbers were at around 7700m and were supposed to climb 100m to reach the normal route, which should lead them to C3.
July 18th
On July 18th, at 07:00AM local time, the climbers contacted BC and said that they were in huge lack of food and water.
Base Camp team arranged high altitude porters, who climbed to C3, reaching there in late hours. Aidin Bozorgi called again at 19:55hrs Persian time (20:25hrs local time). He was near the Broad Peak pass at 7800m. Aidin said that their tent has been torn off, one of the climbers (Mojtaba Jarahi) was not in a good condition and that they were in need of food and water. The Base Camp team assured him that help is on the way and will reach them tomorrow (July 19th). Aidin was asked to share GPS coordinates to facilitate rescue teams.
Unfortunately the rescue operations have not been successful so far and the three young Iranian climbers have not been seen. Regret to say that they don't appear to have been able to survive by now, although the rescue is continues today.
Sources, AlpineClub of Iran, Arash Club, Explorersweb,
Abbas Sabetian (Ex president of Alpine club of Iran) and a member of BMC.

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