Poles Return To Winter Karakorum, Target Leila Peak

The unmistakable profile of Laila (Lela) Peak. Photo: Musa Khan Haidari/SummitPost

Because of the tragic events on K2, we naturally think that the winter season is over. But three weeks remain until the end of meteorological winter, and six weeks until spring officially begins. That’s plenty of time for the new generation of Polish winter warriors to launch a lightweight attempt on one of the most beautiful mountains in the Karakorum: Leila Peak.

Expedition leader Jerzi Natanski. Photo: Kukuczka Foundation

Organized by the Jerzy Kukuzcka Foundation for the support of Polish mountaineering, the expedition follows the proven tactics of combining experienced older climbers with strong, young spurs. The current team is led by Jerzy Natkanski, a veteran of winter expeditions to Nanga Parbat (1997-98), Makalu (2000-2001), and K2 (2002-2003). He has summited Gasherbrum II and Broad Peak and led expeditions to Manaslu (2012), Dhaulagiri (2013), Broad Peak Middle (2014), K2 (2016 and 2017), Gasherbrum VI (2019), and Mitre Peak in the winter of 2020, just before the worldwide lockdown.

Gasherbrum I first winter summiter, Janusz Golab. Photo: Kukuzcka Foundation

By his side is Janusz Golab, who bagged the first winter climb of Gasherbrum I with Adam Bielecki in 2012 and summited K2 in 2014. Golab also has completed an impressive number of routes in Europe’s Alps, Greenland, Patagonia, and Alaska.

Younger members include Marco Schwidergall and Bartek Ziemski (spelled Bartosz Kacper on the climbing permit). Despite their ages, both have several major climbs in the Alps and the Caucasus under their belts.

The expedition arrives at Islamabad. Left to right, Bartek Ziemski, Janusz Golab, Jerzy Natkański, and Marco Schwidergall. Photo: Akbar Syed/Leila Peak Expeditions

The team landed in Pakistan last week, operator Akbar Syed told ExplorersWeb. After some days of trekking, they reached Base Camp today, at the foot of Leila Peak (6,069m) in the Masherbrum range. If they succeed, it would be the second winter ascent of Laila Peak after Alex Txikon’s in 2013, and the first by Polish climbers.

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About the Author

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides

Senior journalist, published author and communication consultant. Specialized on high-altitude mountaineering, with an interest for everything around the mountains: from economics to geopolitics. After five years exploring distant professional ranges, I returned to ExWeb BC in 2018. Feeling right at home since then!

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