A major rescue operation has been taking place on Pakistan’s Nanaga Parbat (8,126m) over the past 48 hours.
Elizabeth Revol and Tomasz Mackiwiecz were climbing when Mackiewicz developed frostbite and snow blindness on Friday after reaching about 7,400 metres.
Revol helped her climbing partner descend a few hundred metres and set up tent, before going farther down to call for help on a satellite phone.
Other climbers alerted authorities. Masha Gordon, a Russian-born British businesswoman, set up a crowdfunding webpage to support the rescue efforts.
Pakistan’s military responded by picking up Denis Urubko and Adam Bielecki, Polish climbers attempting the first winter ascent of K2, the world’s second highest mountain, and lifted them to 4,800 metres on Nanga Parbat.
Urubko and Bielecki then climbed more than 1,000 metres up Nanga Parbat, the ninth highest mountain in the world, to reach Revol in the middle of the night. Surely one of the most impressive rescue in the Himalayas in the past few years.
Unbelievable story developing in Pakistan as Poland's Adam Bielecki & Russia's Denis Urubko stopped their K2 attempt & are climbing up #NangaParbat by night in a heroic attempt to save lives of two stranded mountaineers – Poland's Tomasz Mackiewicz & France's Elisabeth Revol.
— Jakub Krupa (@JakubKrupa) January 27, 2018
They were forced to make the heartbreaking decision not to go on to find Tomasz Mackiewicz, from Poland.
French alpinist Elizabeth Revol, 37, is receiving treatment and will be flown to Skardu and then to Islamabad for first aid.
Ludovic Giambiasi, a friend of Revol, said, “The rescue for Tomasz is unfortunately not possible – because of the weather and altitude it would put the life of rescuers in extreme danger.
“It’s a terrible and painful decision. We are in deep sadness. All our thoughts go out to Tomek’s family and friends. We are crying.”
Bielicki and Denis Urubko began their rescue mission on Saturday evening, trying to reach Revol while the winter weather was good enough to climb.
Meanwhile, helicopters owned by the Pakistani military flew around to find Revol and Mackiewicz, after the batteries on their tracker and satellite phone had gone flat.
Brig Shahid Sardar told Reuters on Saturday, “We are hoping they will reach the French lady by tomorrow, but there is no contact with the Polish climber. It is a very complex rescue operation.”
Thousands of people donated to Gordon’s GoFundMe website and supporters around the world tracked the progress of the Polish rescuers via their GPS signal and social media.
At about 3 a.m. local time, Gordon posted an emotional update, “Urubko and Bielecki are with Elisabeth – info from two other climbers who are there and have radio contact with them. We are crying from happiness.”
But the hopes for Mackiewicz dissipated within an hour when Giambiasi broke the news he would not be rescued.
“Decision of the rescue team: Urubko and Bielecki will go down with Elisabeth,” he posted on Facebook. “Tomorrow morning at around 10 if weather allows all five will be transported to Skardu by helicopter organised by Polish embassy.”
Nanga Parbat has been called “Killer Mountain” because of the number of lives it has claimed over the years.
In June 2017 a Spanish man and an Argentinian died in an avalanche. The first successful winter ascent of the mountain was made as recently as February 2016.
Mackiewicz had made six previous attempts to climb Nanga Parbat in winter. Visit planetmountain.com here to follow regular updates.