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Polish climbers carry out 'Killer Mountain' rescue

January 28, 2018

Polish climbers paused their attempt to climb K2 to join the rescue effort on Pakistan's "Killer Mountain." While Elisabeth Revol was rescued at 6,700 meters in the winter cold, a second, Polish climber was left behind.

Nanga Parbat
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/O. Matthys

After climbing through the winter's night on Pakistan's second-highest peak, four Polish elite climbers found French climber Elisabeth Revol on the 8,126-meter (26,660-foot) Nanga Parbat.

"!!! Elisabeth #Revol found !!!" the Polish winter climbing team said on Facebook on Sunday.

Revol and her Polish climbing companion, Tomasz Mackiewicz, had called for help on a satellite phone on Friday from 7,400 meters up the mountain.

Mackiewicz was reported to be in a critical condition after developing frostbite and snow blindness on Friday, while Revol also reported frostbite. She helped her companion set up a tent before going further down the mountain to call for help.

Rescue mission

Russian-Polish climber Denis Urubko and Polish climbers Adam Bielecki, Jaroslaw Botor and Piotrek Tomala were attempting a first winter ascent of the nearby K2 mountain when they stopped their own climb and joined the rescue effort.

Pakistani military helicopter teams flying over Nanga Parbat saw Revol at 6,700 meters during daylight on Saturday. She managed to send a text message saying "I keep going down, please helico tomorrow."

The four members of the Polish team were then dropped off by helicopter onto the mountain at 4,900 meters from where the first two climbers began to climb 1,000 meters up the peak towards Revol and Mackiewicz.

After an exhausting nighttime ascent in the winter cold with temperatures reaching -60 degrees Celsius (-76 F), they found Revol but were unable to locate Mackiewicz. Revol was reported to have frostbite on her hands and feet and was unable to walk. The operation to get her off the mountain was expected to be difficult.

"The rescue for Tomasz is unfortunately not possible - because of the weather and altitude it would put the life of rescuers in extreme danger," Revol's partner Ludovic Giambiasi wrote on Facebook. "It's a terrible and painful decision. ... All our thoughts go out to Tomek's family and friends. We are crying." A day earlier, Polish media quoted Mackiewicz's sister as saying it would be a miracle if he survived.

Mackiewicz had tried six times before to climb Nanga Parbat in winter.

Giambiasi wrote that Revol and her rescuers would be brought down by a helicopter organized by the Polish Embassy in Islamabad to the Pakistani town of Skardu on Sunday if the weather allowed.

A crowd-funding campaign set up by Russian-born British businesswoman Masha Gordon to cover the cost of the rescue had raised €82,831 ($102,000) by early Sunday.

Nanga Parbat rises to 8,126 meters in Pakistan's northern area of Gilgit
Image: Getty Images/AFP/A. Qureshi

jm/sms (Reuters, AP)