9 February 2003

The fight goes on


Very strong wind (119km/h at 7900 and 144 km/h at the top - Feb. 8). - information from www.netia.pl

The way to Camp3 ©Zaluski

The alpinists do not seem to pay any attention to bad weather. "There's no such thing as bad weather", - they say. "We have to work on the Mount". Today, Denis Urubko, Piotr Morawski and Marcin Kaczkan went to camp I. Tomorrow, they are climbing higher.

The distances they have to cover are longer and longer, they leave the base for more and more days. It takes three days now to reach camp III. Bartek Duda and Jacek Jawien, the team carrying ropes and food, sets off behind them. The goal is clear - to install fixed ropes on the part of the pillar in the direction of camp IV as far as possible, which is to be established at 7850 m. The fight is supposed to last for quite some time. Krzysztof Wielicki has just ordered the return camel caravan for March 4th. The return to Poland is expected for the middle of March. Today, however, everyone still wants to fight. Despite frostbites and exhaustion.

"At first, fright trains were going over us, then fast trains, and finally we felt as though we got on a crazy roller coaster in an amusement park ", - said Jerzy Natkanski about the night spent in camp III at 7200 m. "We didn't sleep a wink."

The wind squeezed snow inside the tent. The steam of their breaths froze on their down suits and sleeping bags, covering the interior with white frost. Natkanski, Maciej Pawlikowski and Darusz Zaluski brought ropes, food and equipment to camp III, passing en route Krzysztof Wielicki and Jacek Berbeke who were returning from the camp. The former replaced a part of the fixed ropes, but did not manage to climb above camp III. The next morning, on Thursday, they set off downwards, to the base.

The weather forecast announced on this day in the evening stronger winds, clouds and snowfall during the next two days. Meanwhile, Jacek Teler has set out on his own to camp II. The 35-year-old alpinist is an extraordinary figure. Being a theologian and philosopher, he has the soul of a social man, complemented by enthusiasm towards everything he does. He helped create a homeless shelter in Czestochowa, he looked after drug addicts and street children, held the position of a warden at a court. He loves the Siberian Altai, Thien-Shan and Pamir, where he became involved in various rescue missions. He became part of the supporting group in the present expedition. He would run for a month on the K2 glacier, delivering supplies. He has earned the nickname "Robocop", which is understandable for anyone who has seen him marching upwards like a machine. Once his toes were frostbitten on Mont Blanc, because he gave his partner the medicine that could have protected him against it.

Maciej in Camp 3 ©Zaluski

Jacek Teler Photo - © Monika Rogozinska

At the hospital, he was told that he was going to lose all his toes. He decided to treat himself. He went home. After some time, when the borderline between the dead and the healthy part was established, he took one of the toes out of the joint himself, cutting another one with a scalpel at the appropriate spot. "It didn't hurt ", - says Teler. "I saved the three remaining toes instead."

A month ago, his feet were frostbitten on the K2 glacier. He made bandages and kept on carrying the equipment. Finally there came the time when he was able to touch the slope of K2, which he received with the kind of enthusiasm which is characteristic of him.

On Thursady, he reached camp II (6780 m) at night, since he left camp I too late. He communicated with the base, unsure of the way. Fixed ropes led him to the tent. And as soon as we breathed a sigh of relief that he was safe, the wind started to blow. The mountain started to howl with a sound resembling airplane engines warming up at an airfield, which is typical of winters in the Himalayas. "I would like to congratulate my friends who have secured the tent. I thought that I was flying off only twice", - said Teler in the morning over the radiotelephone

The night must have been very tough. At the base, when the rumble of the fluttering tent drowns out all other noises, even the sound of a falling avalanche, the table in my tent starts moving by itself, and the computer, the satellite phone and other electronic devices are falling on my head while I am trying to sleep. Such were the conditions on the night from Thursday to Friday, when Jacek Teler was the only person on the slope of K2.

On the second day, being told by the head of the expedition that his bravery and effort had been in vain, since he managed to carry up only one rope, he packed more ropes into his rucksack that were stored at camp II and carried them halfway to camp III.

At the moment I am finishing this report, he is returning to the base in the fog. Night has fallen. It is snowing lightly. He is going to make it - Robocop is indestructible .

Monika Rogozinska "Rzeczpospolita" from the base under K2. Feb. 7, 2003

(Polish - English translation: "Scrivanek")

The K2 ridge. ©Zaluski