GILGIT: French mountaineer Elisabeth Revol was rescued from Nanga Parbat, the world’s ninth highest peak, in extreme weather by volunteers from a Polish expedition with the help of Pakistan army on Sunday.
Her Polish climbing partner Tomasz Mackiewicz was, however, not as lucky as the rescuers had to call off the search due to the harsh weather conditions with temperature at 60 degrees below freezing point.
Both climbers went missing on Friday at an altitude of 7,200 metres under the top dome of the ‘Killer Mountain’ while trying to conquer the 8,126-metre-tall Nanga Parbat.
Search for French mountaineer’s Polish partner called off
Ms Revol was first taken to the Nanga Parbat base camp and then shifted to a private hospital in Islamabad as she has been reportedly suffering from snow-blindness and frostbite.
Two military helicopters were sent for the rescue operation at the request of the Polish and French embassies a day after the European climbers went missing. Four Polish mountaineers, Adam Bielecki, Denis Urubko, Piotr Tomala and Jaroslaw Botor, who had experience of scaling Nanga Parbat, volunteered to assist in the rescue mission for the climbers in distress. They were airlifted from the K2 base camp and dropped roughly 180 kilometres away at the Nanga Parbat base camp. Helicopters were delayed due to bad weather, leaving little chances of the stranded climbers’ survival.
All the four volunteers were part of the 13-member Polish expedition currently attempting to climb K2, the only mountain above 8,611 metres never summited in winter.
Two of them, Adam Bielecki and Denis Urubko, began the ascent of Nanga Parbat using the standard Kinshofer route and kept scaling in dark as their partners, Piotr Tomala and Jaroslaw Botor, waited at the base camp with medical supplies. To reach the missing climbers at the earliest, Mr Bielecki and Mr Urubko did not even carry a tent with them though they had light backpacks.
At around 2100 hours local time, Ms Elisabeth managed to extract some energy out of her satellite phone batteries and sent a text message: “I keep going down”. Six hours later Mr Bielecki and Mr Urubko met her in the vicinity of Nanga Parbat camp 2 at an altitude of 6,100 metres. Mr Mackiewicz, however, had been separated from her.
According to the Alpine Club of Pakistan, Ms Revol had frostbitten hands and legs and was unable to slide down ropes let alone walk on her own. It took rescuers four to five hours to get her to safety. They assisted her to lower altitude using the same Kinshofer route where the other rescuers awaited with medical supplies.
After such a gruelling climb in extreme weather, an attempt to go further up where wind rages above 8000 metres was dangerous and possibly fatal for the rescuers. Besides, they had to get Elisabeth down to safety. It was therefore decided to end efforts to reach Mr Mackiewicz, as it was not possible under the extreme weather conditions.
Mr Mackiewicz had been reportedly suffering from snow-blindness, frostbite and possibly hypothermia. Ms Revol and Mr Mackiewicz had been sleepless for quite some time while facing excruciating tough conditions at a very high altitude, according to the Polish media.
A helicopter waiting at the base camp of Nanga Parbat later took her to Islamabad, while the Polish rescuers were flown to K2 base camp to continue their mission to conquer K2.
It is being said that the two climbers had managed to reach the peak of Nanga Parbat and were scaling down when they got stuck and separated but the Alpine Club of Pakistan has yet to confirm this, according to ACP secretary Karrar Haidri.
He quoted a message from an expedition member saying, “The rescue for Tomasz is unfortunately not possible because of weather and altitude. It would put the life of rescuers in extreme danger. It’s a terrible and painful decision. We are in deep sadness.” —
Jamal Shahid from Islamabad also contributed to this report
Published in Dawn, January 29th, 2018