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 Winter Makalu 2000/2001

Winter Makalu Expedition 2000/2001: Background Page

Krzysztof Wielicki takes on Makalu in the Winter ! Krzysztof will attempt to be the first climber to summit Makalu for a second time. Krzysztof, in style, will attempt this climb in Winter !!!

Expedition to Makalu: Winter in the Himalayas with "Rzeczpospolitą"The Magnificent Ten and She Alone. The Polish Winter Himalayan Expedition to Makalu (8481 m) starts on November 23, 2000. 

No one has yet conquered the summit of this eight thousand meter mountain in the winter. 

Background Part One: The ten person group of alpinists will be accompanied by a "Rzeczpospolita" correspondent. The trek to Makalu will last about ten days. It is deemed to be one of the most difficult routes up to an eight thousand meter mountain. The base will be located at a height of 4900 m, one hundred meters higher than the peak of Mont Blanc. Ten alpinists will participate in the expedition. The leader Krzysztof Wielicki (age 50) is one of the most outstanding Himalayan climbers in the world. An electronic engineer, he is the owner of a company manufacturing and distributing tourism and climbing equipment. He was the fifth person to conquer the Himalayan Crown, all fourteen eight thousand meter peaks of the world. He climbed Mt. Everest, Kanchenjunga, Lhotse (alone) in the winter. He conquered Manaslu, Dhaulagiri (alone) and Shisha Pangma (alone) by new routes. He initiated a march to the summit and back non-stop, that was completely new in the highest mountains. In this manner he was also the first to conquer an eight thousand meter mountain in one day. He reached the Summit of Broad Peak (alone) in 16 hours and descended in 6 hours. Additionally, he has climbed in the Alps, Caucasus, Pamirs, Hindu Kush, and the mountains of New Zealand. 

The expedition's physician, ROMAN MAZIK (age 45) is a surgeon. He completed the Silesian Medical Academy and has worked at the Zakopianski Hospital for over twenty years. He has served as a Tatry Rescuer since the age of 18. As a speleologist, he has achieved passages to all major Tatry caves, also penetrating the underground of the Julian Alps. There he discovered the Abisso del Le Pozze cave. A participant of the winter expedition on K2 and 1st Winter Expedition on Nanga Parbat, conducted by Maciej Berbeka. 

KRZYSZTOF LISZEWSKI (age 52), geodesic engineer, has climbed on many extremely difficult alpine routes, including Mt. Kenya in Africa, and in the Pamirs. Three years ago he achieved one of the fastest climbs on the peak of Mount McKinley in Alaska. In the spring of this year he made it to an altitude of 8700 m on the Tibetan side of Mount Everest. He turned back due to eye exposure and drastic deterioration in weather conditions. This was the highest Polish climbing attempt without bottled oxygen.

JERZY NATKANSKI (age 46) and DARIUSZ ZALUSKI (age 41) have been friends since their university days, though they had different studies. The first finished tourism at the physical education academy, the second material engineering at the technical university. Both were guides in the Beskid mountains, organized trekking expeditions to mountains in Europe, Asia and Africa. Together they have stood on the peaks of Aconcagua, Kilimanjaro, Mount McKinley. In the Karakoram they climbed the virginal Borondo Sar (6800 m) as well as Gasherbrum II (8035 m). They climbed the slopes of Nanga Parbat twice, once in the winter. Besides their common passion, they are also joint owners in a business. In February of this year Zaluski was on reconnaissance around K2 to check if it is possible to climb from the Chinese side. In September he stood on the peak of Cho Oyu (8153 m). 

MACIEJ PAWLIKOWSKI (age 49) lives for the mountains and in the mountains. He has an extensive climbing background, in brief only numbers can describe him: a Tatry rescuer at the age of 24, eleven fold mainstay of expeditions to eight thousand meter mountains in the Himalayas and Karakoram, including five times in the winter. He stood on the peak of Cho Oyu (8153 m) twice - once in the winter after a new approach, the second in the spring. Additionally, he participated in expeditions or camps in other mountain ranges around the world. Famous for enormous endurance in extreme & difficult conditions. 

Andrzej SAMOLEWICZ (age 51), mechanical engineer, alpinist instructor, owner of a company offering climbing services. He has climbed in the Alps, Caucasus, Pamirs, Tian Shan, Afgan Hindu Kush and Himalayas. Three expeditions to Nanga Parbat, from two different sides, including two winter approaches, have brought him the title "the nangaparbatian farmer". 

Piotr Snopczynski (age 50) has been a rescuer in the Volunteer Mountain Rescue Services since his student days at the physical education academy in Wrocaw. Today he is the vice-chairman of this organization. He followed a regular path to mountain climbing, from the Alps and the Caucasus to Karakorum and the Himalayas - three years ago he participated in an expedition to Nanga Parbat. He also knows what summer in the Himalayas can be like - in 1993 during a deterioration in the weather upon descent from the peak Gasherbrum II (8035 m) he lost his toes due to frostbite. 

JAROSLAW LURAWSKI, age 35 former commando, practices parachute jumping - is the Polish record holder in group high altitude jumping (7500 m). He was also able to open his parachute jumping from 200 m. He works in a security business. He is the vice-chairman of the Mountaineering Club in Poznan. He has climbed in the Alps, Pamirs, Tian Shan, Karakoram and Himalayas. He is an altar boy of the highest altitude - in 1997 he participated in a mass held on the peak of Gasherbrum II by a Polish alpinist priest. He participated twice in winter expeditions of Andrzej Zawada on Nanga Parbat. 

A Georgian, Gia Tortladze, is set to join the expedition in Katmandu. A tough professional, seasoned from climbs in immense mountains of the former Soviet Union. Anna Czerwinska relates: "Three years ago when I was camping alone on the north slope of Mount Everest at a height of 7500 m, Tortladze knocked on the tent. He wasn't able to make it to his own camp and asked me for shelter. He didn't have a sleeping bag or a mattress. He wrapped himself in something, curled up and fell asleep. In the morning, instead of escaping downhill with serious frostbite, he simply waived his hand to say goodbye and hastened upwards". 

Our correspondent at the foot of Makalu - Monika Rogozinska will accompany the expedition. After completing comparative culture at the department of Polish studies at the University of Warsaw, she worked in the Tatry for several years, in a shelter and as a guide. Then she was an active Tatry rescuer. She wandered through the Alps, Andes and Himalayas. She combined this with tracking ancient cultures. Twenty years ago she accompanied an expedition of Andrzej Zawadi to Mount Everest. She has spent winter in the Himalayas twice, most recently three years ago as an envoy of "Rzeczpospolita" during a winter expedition to Nanga Parbat, led by Zawada. Polish winter achievements in the Himalayas Of the 14 eight-thousand meter mountains in the world, lying in Nepal, Pakistan and Tibet, to-date half have been conquered in the winter. All the first winter successes belong to Polish alpinists. The last, eight thousand meter mountain in Nepal unconquered in the winter is Makalu - the objective of this current expedition. 1. 17.02.1980 MOUNT EVEREST (8848 m) - on the peak Leszek Cichy and Krzysztof Wielicki; national Polish expedition led by Andrzej Zawada. 2. 12.01.1984 MANASLU (8156 m) - Maciej Berbeka and Ryszard Gajewski; Stanisław Jaworski died while securing the route; expedition leader of the Zakopianski Mountain Climbing Club was Lech Korniszewski. 3. 21.01.1985 DHAULAGIRI (8167 m) - Andrzej Czok and Jerzy Kukuczka; Adam Bilczewski led the expedition of the Gliwice Mountaineering Club. 4. 12.02.1985 CHO OYU (8153 m) - Maciej Berbeka and Maciej Pawlikowski, three days later Zygmunt Andrzej Heinrich and Jerzy Kukuczka reached the peak; Andrzej Zawada led the Polish-Canadian expedition. 5. 11.01.1986 KANCHENJUNGA (8598 m) - Jerzy Kukuczka and Krzysztof Wielicki; in the 3rd camp Andrzej Czok died, most likely due to swelling in the lungs, who conquered Dhaulagiri (winter) and Mt. Everest, Lhotse and Makalu in spring-fall seasons; the expedition of the Gliwice Mountaineering Club was led by Adam Machnik. 6. 3.02.1987 ANNAPURNA (8091 m) - Artur Hajzer and Jerzy Kukuczka (expedition leader). 7. 31.12. 1988 LHOTSE (8511 m) - Krzysztof Wielicki stood alone on the peak on New Year's Eve. Andrzej Zwada was the athletic manager of the Belgian - Polish expedition. A press conference was held today (20 November 2000) at 13.00 in the head offices of "Rzeczpospolita" in Warsaw at plac Starynkiewicza 7/9 (room 230 on the 2nd floor) for the departure of the Makalu expedition. 

written by Monika Rogozinska, "Rzeczpospolita",
transl. by "TRANSLATOR" Technical Translation Agency

http://www.rp.pl  ("Rzeczpospolita") and
http://www.translator-warsaw.com.pl ("TRANSLATOR")

Background Part Two: An ounce of luck and the will to survive


The Polish Winter Makalu Expedition heads for the Himalayas on 23 November. They will attempt to ascend the eight-thousand-meter high mountain which has never been conquered in winter. The expedition is led by Krzysztof Wielicki, one of the most outstanding Alpinists in the world. It will last about two months. The Alpinists will be accompanied by a correspondent  of "Rzeczpospolita".

"The Sahibs are easily recognized thanks to their ultra-loose clothes, which barely meet the requirements of decency, as well as thanks to huge blue umbrellas which are of great value in the valley of Arun. They protect Alpinists from floods of rain during monsoon as well as from terrible, tropical sun. Another detail which makes you recognize a sahib among the army of porters is that a sahib does not carry anything while marching" - these are the words of Jean Franco, the head of the French expedition. He described a long journey to the base at Makalu in May of 1955. It was the first time Makalu was ascended. Eight sahibs stood at the peak day by day. All of them - which had not happened before - were members of the expedition, together with the boss of the sherpas. Lionel Terray and Jean Couzy were part of the first team to have achieved that. The French entered the fight for the eight-thousand-meter summits unexpectedly and with style.

During the interwar period Europe was fascinated with the international competition taking place on the slopes of the Alps and in the highest mountains. English gentlemen unsuccessfully tried to conquer Mount Everest seven times. The Germans lost the elite of their Alpinists in attempts to ascend Kanchenjunga (three times) and Nanga Parbat (five times). The Italians, followed by the Americans, fought for K2… The war ended everything.

In June 1950 a man stood at the peak of an eight-thousand-meter mountain for the first time. Maurice Herzog and Louis Lachenal, the members of the French expedition entered Annapurna (8091m). This was the first group to have appeared at the mountain. World film chronicles showed the emaciated conquerors coming back home in bandages. Herzog lost his fingers, Lachenal - toes, as a result of frost bite. The struggle of nations at the peaks of the Himalayas started anew and life prepared another plot. In 1953 a man from New Zealand and a Sherpa ascended Mount Everest as members of the British expedition. The team led by a German heading for Nanga Parbat included an Austrian. A year later K2 was conquered by Italians. The Austrians and a Sherpa ascended Cho Oyu.

The French took more care while preparing for another expedition. They made a reconnaissance of Makalu in the fall of 1954 and conquered it a year later. "The members of the expedition rejected their personal ambitions having an only goal - adding glory to the French alpinism. They were constantly giving evidence of cooperation and the spirit of team unity as well as everything else which is specific to our society." - the head of the team explained their success.

After the first conquers of the virgin peaks via the easiest routes which are nowadays called classical, a time came for another step in the development of Himalaism: a route to the top, not the summit itself, became the goal, just as it happened in the Alps before. It seems that the world could see the difference - two brothers - Franz and Toni Schmid received gold Olympic medals in 1932 for ascending Matterhorn via a dangerous, northern slope. This tendency reached Makalu in 1970. The Japanese entered a new route through the south-eastern ridge. The following year the mountain became a witness of one of the most outstanding achievements of Himalaism of the times - the French climbed Makalu choosing the three-kilometer high Western Leg, the one chosen by the Polish expedition this winter. The Yugoslavians went through a massive, steep southern slope in 1975, the Czechoslovakians conquered the southern leg three years later. The success of the last mentioned expedition had a tragic episode. 34 year-old Karel Schubert disappeared during the descent. He did not reach the camp at night. His partner, Milan Krissak, who went down faster, was waiting for him there. In the morning, Schubert, who survived the night, was spotted standing at the ridge. He was not seen since then.

Milan Krissak is also a tragic character. This sympathetic life saver of the Slovakian Horska Sluzba, always ready to help everyone, came to visit his friends in Smokovec after his comeback from another trip to the Himalayas. After that he got on a helicopter to help during a rescue operation. The MI-8 probably touched a ridge in the Tatras during storm. It went down the valley and exploded. 20 years later various agencies gave information that Milan's son, 21-year-old Michal, became "The Life Saver of the Year" in Alaska. He carried and then led down an extremely exhausted Alpinist from the highest mountain of the continent.

Another step a man could dare to make in the Himalayas were single climbs. An Austrian Robert Schauer made the first of such ascents to Makalu via the classical route. In October of  1981 Jerzy Kukuczka marked a partly new route. He went straight up, while the other great sportsmen such as Wojtek Kurtyka, Reinhold Messner, Doug Scott gave it up, discouraged by various setbacks. Kukuczka's ascent was impaired by the Nepalese officials. They considered it improbable. A year later a letter from a Korean Alpinist solved the quarrel. He wrote that he found a red turtle with black spots at the peak of Makalu. It appeared to be a plastic ladybird. It was a talisman Kukuczka got from his one year-old son before he left for Nepal.

The terrible western slope of Makalu was conquered by a Polish expedition led by Adam Bilczewski. They marked a new route. Andrzej Czok ascended the summit by himself. In the fall of 1986 Marcel Ruedi from Switzerland and  Krzysztof Wielicki made a fast climb, Alpine style, taking a partly new route. Ruedi died of exhaustion while descending the peak.

The  winter climb, which is natural for Alpinism (the first winter Mont Blanc ascent took place in 1876), had not been possible in the Himalayas for a long time. An expedition to Mount Everest led by Andrzej Zawada at the break of 1979 and 1980 opened a new chapter in the history of Himalaism. Thanks to enormous team effort Krzysztof Wielicki and Leszek Cichy ascended the summit in the winter. Wielicki, the future conqueror of the crown of the Himalayas as well as all eight-thousand-meter mountains (including three winter climbs), already tried to ascend Makalu in the winter. He did not succeed.

"We will only dream of umbrellas and the tropical sun - said Wielicki, referring to the words of Jean Franco from 1955 - we will be alone at the Leg, without sherpas, bowing down not only in front of the mountain but also because of the strong winter winds in the temperature of 40 degrees Celsius below zero. They virtually blow you off the icy leg. In winter it is not enough to have Alpinist skills. You've also got to have the will to survive and an ounce of luck."

Background Part Three: The Ice Warriors 


Polish Alpinists want to be part of the history of Alpinism at the end of the century. On 23 of November The 2000/2001 Polish Winter Makalu Expedition will leave for the fifth highest summit of the Earth. This will be the continuation of winter conquest of the highest mountains initiated by Andrzej Zawada. Makalu is the last of the eight-thousand meter high mountains which have not been ascended in winter.

The expedition is to be headed by Krzysztof Wielicki, one of the most outstanding Alpinists of the world, the conqueror of the Crown of the Himalayas - all eight-thousand-meter high mountains of the globe. Our climbers won the name of the Ice Warriors among the people of the mountains. Wielicki is undoubtedly their king. He entered three of the highest mountains in the world in winter and in each case he was the first one to achieve that. He also climbed them alone, taking new routes and in the Alpine style, which means fast, without the weary setting up of camps at huge Himalayan slopes of the length of many kilometers.

The expedition leaves for the heart of the Himalayas - the nest of the eight-thousand-meter summits. It is empty at this time of year. Makalu (8481m) is only 20 km away from Mount Everest and Lhotse. Despite the small distance from the Everest which is much frequented at this time of year, Makalu is considered to be a wild and inaccessible mountain. Reaching its foot is very difficult. The route to the mountain leads via a very long Arun valley, you have to cross high passes on the way.

The name of the mountain was probably taken from the Sanskrit word Maha-Kala, which means Big Black and is a by-name of Shiva - one of the most important gods of Hinduism. Shiva is sometimes an evil, cruel destroyer but at other times he tends to be gentle and kind-hearted. We will see what face he shows us. The mountain has another name in the local dialect - Kumba karna, which means The Giant. The pyramid - like mountain is really impressive. The nearby area was photographed from an airplane in 1933 during the first flights over the roof of the world. The photograph of Makalu had the following caption: "the fearful summit of the Everest". The black and white picture still remains the greatest image of the razor-edge, three-kilometer-high ridge of the Western Leg - the route which the Polish Alpinists want to climb this winter.

Krzysztof Wielicki has an unsettled score concerning the route. Ten years ago he attacked Makalu in winter together with Anna Czerwinska, Ingrid Bayens from Belgium and Ryszard Pawlowski. Wielicki reached the height of 6900 meters by himself. Unfortunately the hurricane winds made the crazy expedition go back.

Ten people will take part in the current expedition. They are: Krzysztof Wielicki (the head of the expedition), Roman Mazik (physician), Maciej Pawlikowski, Krzysztof Liszewski, Andrzej Samolewicz, Piotr Snopczynski, Jaroslaw Zurawski, Dariusz Zaluski, Jerzy Natkanski. In Nepal they will be joined by Gia Tortladze from Georgia. All of them are experienced climbers accustomed to the Himalayan conditions. Unfortunately no young person is with them. It is common that young people are not eager to take challenge which requires endurance and fortitude. Winter Himalaism is such kind of challenge.

There are 14 eight-thousand-meter high summits in the world. Half of them were ascended in winter starting with Mount Everest two decades ago. All of the first ascents were achieved by Polish Alpinists who wish to continue the Polish program of the winter Himalayas exploration. We could not take part in summer expeditions after world war II due to political reasons.

The winter conquest of individual mountain chains of the world, the natural way of the Alpinism, was not completed in the Himalayas. Krzysztof Wielicki, the heir of the Andrzej Zawada heritage, member of his expeditions, wants to try and add two pages to the history of Alpinism: one will be the current winter expedition to Makalu (8481m) the second - a winter expedition to K2 (8611 m), the second summit of the world, at the break of 2001/2002. The United Nations announced the year 2002 as the Year of the Mountains. I will accompany the expedition to Makalu. "Rzeczpospolita" wishes to be present during moments which are historical for Alpinism. It is my second chance to be where no other journalist has ever been before. You will be the witnesses of the events. Three years ago, during the Polish Winter Expedition to Nanga Parbat (8125m), led by Andrzej Zawada, we experienced massive snow fall, earthquake and the hell of avalanches; a friend's accident and a successful rescue operation.

"Rzeczpospolita" published an exclusive coverage along with photographs the authors of which were all members of the expedition. Thanks to new communication technique the Pakistani press covered the events from Islamabad, 200 km away in the straight line. They used an English version of the text on the internet pages published in Warsaw.

Anna Czerwinska ascended two eight-thousand-meter mountains this year. When asked about the conditions at Makalu in winter she answered: "They are terrible!" Krzysztof Wielicki took part in 28 expeditions into the highest mountains. He was asked which of the escapades he considered the most successful. He answered: "The ones from which all members came back."

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