Tomek “Czapkins” Mackiewicz: A Life Unconquered

K2 Mountain

Tomek Mackiewicz’s life was characterised by feats of mental strength, perseverance, and a deep love of mountaineering.

Tomek was not born in to a mountaineering life, growing up in Dzialoszyn in Poland, a small town of just over 6,000 inhabitants. His early life was wayward, and without clear direction, he fell in to drug addiction. Tomek used heroin, and it took many years of fighting against this opiate addiction before he could claim victory, with help from the Monar Centre, a non-governmental treatment centre founded in Poland in the early 1980s.

Most former addicts live in constant fear that they will relapse, such is the strength of the addiction, but Tomek does not seem to have struggled, finding a new purpose in life as he took up mountaineering. Falling in love with the mountains he completed his first major expedition in 2008, traversing Mount Logan in Canada during a mammoth 40 day journey. His toil earned him the “Kolos (Colossus) Feat of the Year 2008”, a prestigious award from Kolosy, the largest European meeting of explorers and adventurers.

Tomek’s expeditions were largely supported through crowdfunding, winning donations thanks to his charisma and dedication to the mountains. Starting out simply, each subsequent expedition became more advanced. In 2009 he solo climbed the world’s northernmost 7,000m peak, the 7,010m Khan Tengri in the Tian Shan. By 2011 he had turned his attention to the mountain that would eventually claim his life, Nanga Parbat.

An initial trip to Nanga Parbat alongside Marek Klonowski in 2011 proved unsuccessful, but Tomek was determined to persevere, returning each winter to make another attempt on the summit, each time without supplemental oxygen. Some attempts came agonisingly close; in 2013 he reached 7,400m before being forced to abandon his push to the summit in dangerous weather.

Periodically he would swear that he would move on from this almost impossible winter ascent, but he found he had tied himself to this mountain and could not set it aside. In 2014 Tomek found a partner with which to share his obsession, renowned French climber Elisabeth Revol. Together they made 3 attempts on the summit. In 2014 they took the Messner-Eisendle-Tomaseth route and reached 7,800m. This year it’s possible they went even higher, with some reports suggesting that they made the 8,126m peak before disaster struck on their descent.

Whether they made the summit may be immaterial right now. Tomek had committed himself to this one great challenge, this one mountain, for the last eight years. Never allowing a setback to become a full defeat. He gave it passion, dedication, perseverance, and ultimately, his life.

Tomek is survived by his 3 children and his wife. A fundraiser has been started to help provide for them at this time, please do contribute if you can.

Our heartfelt condolences go out to his family and friends.

Previous / Links:

Tomek’s Family Fundraiser

The end of the rescue operation on Nanga Parbat

K2 to help Nanga Parbat

Drama on Nanga Parbat: Mackiewicz and Revol fighting to survive

Tomek';s achievements included a 40 day traverse of Mt. Logan in Canada Source:The Times

Tomek on Mt. Logan in 2008 the trip which ultimately won him a Kolos award Source:Marek Klonowski

About the Author

Martin Walsh

Martin Walsh

Saigon based freelance writer. Travelling the world one basketball court at a time.

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