What was supposed to be a day of celebration and glory for the Polish alpinist Tomek Mackiewicz and the French alpinist Elisabeth Revol has turned into a scary situation: in a January 25 summit bid on Nanga Parbat (8,126 meters), during which they hoped to become the second ever team to climb the mountain in winter, the partners became stranded high on the mountain when Mackiewicz was stricken with snow blindness and frostbite.
A GoFundMe fundraiser to help finance a nascent rescue operation—which will be carried out by members of the Polish expedition attempting to make the first winter ascent of the nearby K2 (8,611 meters)—has the most up-to-date information on the situation. Janusz Majer, an organizer on the K2 expedition, posted on Facebook: “We received information from France yesterday at night. Elisabeth [Revol] and Tomasz Mackiewicz got stuck at an altitude of about 7,400m [on Nanga Parbat] under the top dome.”
The most recent update, posted on the GoFundMe page at approximately 9:00 pm in Pakistan Standard Time on January 26, says that Revol “managed to bring Tomek down to 7280m this morning and set him up in a tent to spend the night while the rescue effort gets [underway] early tomorrow morning.”
Revol herself is continuing to descend to help mobilize the rescue effort and last made contact from an elevation of 6,671 meters. “Though she has no tent, she is clearly lucid and making progress on descent to help get rescue effort [underway],” the GoFundMe update reads.
The rescue will be a major undertaking. Four members of the Polish K2 expedition—Adam Bielecki, Piotr Tomala, Jarek Botor and Marek Chmielarski—will be helicoptered from their Basecamp to the Basecamp at Nanga Parbat on the morning of January 27. Weather permitting, the helicopter will deposit the rescuers higher on the mountain with reserves of supplemental oxygen and food.
In addition to the moneys raised through the GoFundMe campaign, the rescue operation is being supported—with both monetary and logistical resources—by the Polish and French Embassies.
This was 43-year-old Mackiewicz’s seventh time trying to climb Nanga Parbat in winter. He waged his first six unsuccessful assaults on the mountain in six consecutive winters, from 2011 through 2016. Revol, 37, partnered with Mackiewicz for the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 expeditions on the peak.
The first winter ascent of Nanga Parbat ultimately fell to the Italian Simone Moro, the Pakistani Muhammad Ali Sadpara and the Spanish Alex Txikon on February 26, 2016. (Sadpara and Txikon are currently toiling away on Everest as they try to become the first to summit the highest mountain in the world without supplemental oxygen entirely in calendar winter.) Despite the first winter ascent no longer up for grabs, Mackiewicz couldn’t shake the mountain from his mind and returned for a seventh attempt this year.
As in his previous trips to the mountain, Mackiewicz’s goal was to reach the summit in pure alpine style, via the unfinished Messner Route, which was originally been opened up to 7,500 meters by the Italian alpinists Reinhold Messner, Hubert Messner, Hanspeter Eisendle and Wolfgang Tomaseth in 2000.
A description on the webpage of a crowdfunding campaign to help with the costs of this year’s expedition succinctly captures the singular motivation behind Mackiewicz’s obsession with a winter ascent of Nanga Parbat:
Tomek wants to successfully end several years of trying to achieve his goal and to free his mind from the vision of the summit of Nanga Parbat and prove, both to himself and the world, that it is worth persevering in the pursuit of a goal. This goal is real and imminent. Wanda Rutkiewicz said “the value of the climb is determined not only by whether your reach the top, but how you climbed,” and Tomek wants to achieve his goal with these words in mind. Climbing to the top of Nanga is not about conquering or taming the mountain. It is about being face to face with a perfect beauty and becoming a force 1,000 times more powerful than yourself.
For further updates on the rescue effort and to contribute to the fundraising campaign visit: https://www.gofundme.com/rescue-on-nanga-parbat.