Winter Climbs 2014: Avalanche Injures Polish Climbers On Nanga Parbat


The winter climbing season is quickly coming to an end on Nanga Parbat, where only the Polish Justice For All team remains to challenge the mountain. But those efforts took a nasty turn this past weekend, when an avalanche struck two members of the team, leaving them injured and awaiting extraction from Base Camp. The question is, will the rest of the team press on, or call it quits after more than 80 days on the mountain.

Following several unsuccessful summit bids earlier in the season, the Poles were hoping for one last attempt at the first winter ascent of Nanga Parbat before heading home. With that in mind, this past weekend they sent Pawel Dunaj and Michal Obrycki up the mountain to help to clear the route for their teammates, Tomek Mackiewicz and Jacek Teler, who would follow a day behind. The plan was for the two advance climbers to set the stage, giving Tomek and Jacek an opportunity to complete the climb at last.

Pawel and Michal managed to get above 5000 meters (16,404 ft) on Saturday, but were hit by the avalanche soon there after. The force of the snow impacting them sent them tumbling down the mountain, and while they survived, they came away with some injuries, including broken ribs. Their teammates immediately sprung into action and brought them down off the mountain, but they are still in the village of Latabo awaiting extraction. A helicopter is standing by to retrieve them, but due to bad weather in the region, it is unable to fly at this time.

What the loss of Pawel and Michal means to the future of the expedition remains to be seen. It seems likely that the team will not want to risk further avalanches high on the slopes of Nanga, but if they feel conditions are safe, they could still try to go for the summit. If I were to venture a guess however, I’d say that once their injured men are pulled off the mountain, the rest of the team will pack up and head home too. For now, we’ll just have to wait to see how things go. Thankfully, no one was killed during this incident and everyone can still go home in one piece, even if they are a bit worse for wear.

I’ll update more when the team’s plans become more evident.

Kraig Becker