One of The Most Daring Rescues in Mountaineering History

When two climbers were stranded on Nanga Parbat, a Polish team answered the call.

Nanga Parbat, the ninth highest peak in the world. (Wikipedia)
Imran Saeed

It was just one hour before sunset on January 25, 2018, and the two climbers had not yet reached the summit of Nanga Parbat, the world’s ninth highest mountain. Elisabeth Revol, a 38-year-old French climber, had four 8,000-meter peaks on her résumé. Her partner, Tomasz Mackiewicz, was a Polish climber who had been obsessed with climbing Nanga Parbat in the winter for a decade. This was his seventh attempt on the mountain, and he had never tried to climb another 8,000-meter peak. When they reached the summit — 26,660 feet — together at dusk, Revol became the first woman to climb Nanga Parbat in winter. But when she asked Mackiewicz how he was feeling, he said he couldn’t see anything. As they began to summit, Mackiewicz got slower, and he started to have trouble breathing. Blood was flowing from his mouth. At 11:10 p.m., Revol texted three people asking for help. Revol helped get Mackiewicz as low as she could, but at just below 24,000 feet, she stopped and built a temporary shelter.

As they were going down the mountain, a Polish expedition of elite climbers was 20,700 feet up on K2, attempting to make the first winter ascent of that mountain. They heard about the trouble on Nanga Parbat. Krzysztof Wielicki, the K2 expedition leader, realized that the only option for Revol and Mackiewicz was for the Polish team to be flown to them in a helicopter. Adam Bielecki and Denis Urubko were chosen to reach the stranded climbers, who at this point, at been there for two days. When they finally found Revol, she was alone — and dehydrated and frostbitten. She had been hallucinating, a symptom of high-altitude sickness. They made her a temporary camp and tried to warm her up. They asked about Mackiewicz, and Revol said he was unable to move, so she had left him in a crevasse at their makeshift camp. Urubko and Bielecki knew that if they left Revol to get to Mackiewicz, Revol would die. Plus, it was unclear if Mackiewicz was even alive, and if he was, how he would get down since he cannot walk. So the threesome started down. Approximately 18 hours after they had arrived, Bielecki and Urubku reached the helicopters with Revol.

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