Elisabeth Revol Describes Nanga Parbat Rescue

On January 28th French climber Elisabeth Revol was dramatically rescued from the slopes of Nanga Parbat by Denis Urubko and Adam Bielecki. Now recovering in hospital in the Haute-Savoie region of France she has spoken out about her ordeal, and the loss of her climbing partner Tomek Mackiewicz.

Revol reports that the pair had reached the summit of Nanga Parbat on the 25th January, an incredible feat in winter, and a long time goal for both climbers. Unfortunately Revol describes a fleeting triumph, “we had hardly a second at the top, we had to rush to get down”.

Both climbers were climbing light, hoping to be up and down quickly. Mackiewicz had not worn a mask due to hazy conditions, and shortly after they began to descend he was complaining that he had been struck by snow blindness and could no longer see. “At one point he couldn’t breath” Revol reports, forcing Mackiewicz to remove the only protection he had on his face. Revol, with Mackiewicz clinging to her shoulders, descended slowly and it became apparent that her climbing partner was suffering from acute altitude sickness, as well as worsening frostbite.

Taking shelter in a crevasse overnight she reports that Mackiewicz had “blood streaming from his mouth”, a sign that he was on the last stage of altitude sickness. They huddled together for warmth while Revol made repeated calls for help. She explains how she was told that she would have to leave her climbing partner in order to descend far enough to be reached by rescuers, “it wasn’t a decision I made, it was imposed upon me” she has explained, describing the decision to leave Mackiewicz in the tent at about 7,000m as “terrible and painful.”

She left Tomek with the majority of her kit, in a last desperate attempt to keep him warm, and descended further down the mountain alone. Unable to find any sign of a rescue party she spent another night in a crevasse, with no tent or duvet for shelter. By this time she reports that she was suffering from hallucinations brought on by altitude sickness. These caused her to discard one of her own shoes, continuing her descent with just a sock on her left foot. She could hear helicopters but they were unable to land due to the wind, and fearing another night in the open, she descended even further down the mountain before miraculously being found by Urubko and Bielecki at around 3am at approximately 6,000m.

She weighed just 45kg when the rescue team managed to evacuate her from the mountain, and was suffering from severe frostbite to her hands and left foot, there is still the potential that these will require amputation. However, when asked if she would climb again she remained uncowed, “I think I will, I need this.”

Born in 1980, Elisabeth Revol is an alpinist and PE teacher from the Drôme area of France. She has climbed in the Andes, the Karakoram and the Himalayas. She began climbing at age 19 and made a solo ascent of the trio – Broad Peak – Gasherbrum I – Gasherbrum II – within a 16-day period and without the aid of oxygen. She joined Tomek Mankiewicz in winter attempts of Nanga Parbat and in 2015 they reached 7800m, where they were turned back by bad weather. Having summited Nanga Parbat makes Revol the second woman to climb an 8000er in winter after Marianne Chapuisat, who climbed Cho Oyu in 1993. Elisabeth and Tomek were the second team to climb Nanga Parbat in winter.

Previous / Links:

Tomek ‘Czapkins’ Mackiewicz: A Life Unconquered

Tomek’s Family Fundraiser

The End of the Rescue Operation on Nanga Parbat

K2 to Help Nanga Parbat