Poles summit Gasherbrum I in winter

March 20, 2012


ISLAMABAD, March 20: Living legends of extreme mountaineering Adam Bielecki and Janusz Golab became the first climbers to summit Gasherbrum I in winter season.

On March 9, the two Poles made history when for the first time they stood 8,068 metres high on the Hidden Peak in the Karakoram Range. They made their ascent without oxygen, something not considered by mountaineers anymore.

Adam Bielecki and Janusz Golab launched their final assault on the 49th day since operation began. They spent another six days in base camp I until they were airlifted by army helicopters. Both climbers had frost-bitten nose tips.

“The weather was very bad - raging winds and below 30 temperatures. For days we waited for calm weather. And then we had a day-and-a-half of clear window to launch the assault,” said Bielecki, explaining how in winters climbers had only January or March to summit.

“It is impossible to climb any 8,000der in February because the weather simply does not allow,” the 28-year-old said, adding how their team leader had been preparing the expedition for this particular challenge for years.

“The winds exceed 300 kilometres at 10,000 metres. At 7,000 and 8,000 metres, the jet streams (fast flowing narrow air currents) touch 100 kilometres. The temperatures at the base camp dropped to 30 degrees below zero. At the summit, it dropped 30 to 50 degrees below,” said Bielecki, elaborating how it was tougher fighting the strong winds than the cold.

For Janusz Golab, the Hidden Peak was the first 8,000 ascent. Adam Bielicki knew his way around the dance floor when he conquered 8,461 metres Makalu I in Nepal.

The Poles climbed the mountain from the north-west side of the Hidden Peak.

While they descended with gigantic success, the two also brought back sound bites from the tragic loss of Austrian Gerfried Goschl, Swiss Cedric Hahlen and Pakistani high altitude porter Nisar Hussain (who had climbed all five 8,000ders in Pakistan) on GI.

The Poles and the missing climbers came to Pakistan on one permit. “We shared the same tent as Gerfried Goschl and Cedric Hahlen. We shared expertise, tools and even our food,” said Bielecki, adding the two teams head out of the summit together, only the Austrian team leader Gerfried Goschl chose a shorter but harder and never-attempted route.

“The new route becomes very challenging. You never know what to expect and where to camp or how long it can take you to get to the top,” said Bielecki and clarified that they did not see the three missing climbers but only had radio contact. “The missing climbers said over the radio that they were roughly 400 metres from the summit,” he added.

President Alpine Club Pakistan Lt-Col Manzoor Hussain said: “It is impossible to survive a day at that altitude. It is a death zone over 7,000 metres. The helicopters flew as high and as close but found no trace. Pakistani climbers made as far as base camp II but were forced to return without good news.”

Nonetheless, the Poles added that whoever had set foot on the summit first - whether it was Gerfried Goschl or Cedric Hahlen - it would have been counted as success of the entire expedition.

“In the Himalayas, competition becomes too dangerous,” said Bielecki.

At a ceremony at the Alpine Club Pakistan Sports Complex, the mountaineers received certificates for the first ever winter assent. The ceremony paid homage to the missing mountaineers.

In January 2011, Gerfried Goschl was the first mountaineer to attempt to summit the Hidden Peak in winter.