First Winter Ascent of Broad Peak

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Photo courtesy of polskihimalaizmzimowy.pl.

Photo courtesy of polskihimalaizmzimowy.pl.

On March 5, Polish climbers Artur Malek, Adam Bielecki, Maciej Berbeka and Tomasz Kowalski reached the summit of Broad Peak (8047m) laying claim to the first winter ascent of the mountain. Tragically, two teammates did not return.

Tomasz Kowalski and Maciej Berbeka separated from their teammates, on the decent and spent the night at or near the high saddle at 7,900 meters. Bielecki and Malek returned to Camp IV, staying the night before continuing their final descent. Bielecki reached Base Camp at 9:30 p.m. on March 6, followed by Malek.

What happened to Kowalski and Berbeka? In a statement on polishwinterhimalaism.pl, reports that Kowalski was having trouble breathing and felt fatigued. He later fell and broke one of his crampons and was having a problem fixing it.

Expedition leader Krzysztof Wielicki called off the rescue effort on March 8th:

Considering all the circumstances, conditions, my experience, history of Himalayan mountaineering, knowledge regarding physiology and high-altitude medicine as well as consultations with doctors and co-organizers of the expedition in Poland, I have to declare Maciej Berbeka and Tomasz Kowalski dead…. The expedition has come to an end. We are packing the Base Camp and start to descend. March via the Baltoro Glacier will take approximately five days. We will come back to Poland on approximately March 20.

Polish climbers have been making winter climbing history over the last several decades. Nine out of the 14 8000m peaks have been summited in the winter by Polish alpinists. Now, the only two 8000m peaks that remain unclimbed in the winter are Nanga Parbat and K2.

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