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GI: Poles back in the winter throne, update on climbers' whereabouts

Posted: Mar 09, 2012 12:18 pm EST

(Angela Benavides) Polish Adam Bielecki and Janusz Golab bagged the first winter climb on GI - Hidden Peak - at 8:30am, local time today. The amazing achievement is the only clear fact in an otherwise rather sketchy situation on the mountain.

The Polish summiteers where about to reach C2, according to Agna's afternoon report from BC. She also apologized for the delayed contact, caused by internet failures through the day.

Alex Txikon - whose sat-phone broke down days ago, he carries a radio and a SPOT device instead - seems to have stopped in C2 on the new route for the night.

Although details are still sketchy, Alex's apparently erratic course earlier today was not caused by SPOT malfunction. According to comments fro BC, Txikon and Tamara Stys tried to summit Gasherbrum South before retreating. They were apparently neither able to reach the top on this secondary peak though. Confirmation and details are however expected from the climbers themselves on their return Base Camp.

As for Gerfried, Nisar and Cedric, there's been no news since the morning. "Last contact was at 9:00am, and everything seemed fine back then," Polish Agna reported from BC. It is unclear though, whether the contact was made by Grefried's group themselves, or it was the Polish summiteers who saw them from the top and updated on the south side team's location.

Background: The summit push week

Alex Txikon set off towards GI summit via the south side on Wednesday early morning - one day later than Gerfried, Nisar, Cedric and, as it was later known, Tamara. Wednesday, Alex reached C1 and continued up until, by nightfall, he found Tamara Stys in a tent. Apparently, the lady climber couldn't keep up with her mates' pace and had stopped for the night.

Alex is together with her since then. Thursday, the two climbed up to 7,200 meters and were supposed to try for the summit by midnight but went down instead, seemingly trying to bag Gasherbrum South on the way.

Meanwhile, the Polish team went up to C1 and launched a summit push on Tuesday. They planned to climb all the way to C3 on Wednesday but fierce winds forced them back at the Japanese Couloir and they retreated some members to C2.

With improving conditions on Thursday, Adam Bielecki, Janusz Golab and Shaheen Baig managed to climb the couloir and reach C3. Adam and Janusz left C3 at 11:00pm and topped-out, at 8:30h today. Artur Hajzer remained in C2 and, apparently, Shaheen returned there from C3. Hopefully, they'll all reach BC tomorrow.

The winter wolves recover their throne

Sponsored by Poland's Ministry of Sport and Tourism, Polish Alpine Association and Kukuczka Foundation, a project led by Artur Hajzer has had a Polish team attempting a winter 8000er every winter, plus another in summer.

"I am hoping to train young climbers in the team as best as possible, in case they have to go on if I get too old to climb," Artur describes the goal. Thus, in 2010 the Poles went for Nanga in summer and Broad Peak in winter. In 2011, they summited Makalu in fall. 2012 has started with the nation's first winter 8000er in Pakistan.

In an eight-year marathon during the 1980s; Polish climbers had grabbed all (seven) first winter summits and revolutionized Himalayan climbing. A void followed until 2005 when two men bagged number eight, Shisha Pangma, on January 14. They were Pole Piotr Morawski and Simone Moro who became the first non-Polish climber to bag a virgin winter climb in Himalaya.

Following two straight years of winter attempts on Broad Peak, Simone rerouted in winter 2008/09 for Makalu with Denis Urubko, who had attempted the peak the previous winter together with Serguey Samoilov. This time, victory arrived with the last Himalaya giant summited in winter by Italian Simone Moro thus breaking the Polish spell for the second time and old friend Kazakh Denis Urubko by his side.

The following winter (2010-11), the two climbers wrote yet another page in winter Himalaya history by summitting GII, together with American Cory Richards.

While Simone and Denis have attempted Nanga Parbat this current winter, it's been the Poles who have recovered the winter throne. A powerful Russian team attempting K2 called the expedition off after member Vitali Gorelik died.

Up until today, 11 out of all 14 8000ers have been winter-climbed. The remaining are all in Pakistan: Nanga Parbat, Broad Peak and, last but not least, the mighty K2.

Summiteers' resume

Young Adam Bielecki (28) was one of the members in the Polish team who summited Makalu last fall, an achievement which was followed by a complicated descent in very tough conditions. He has also climbed Khan Tengri on his own.

Janusz Golab (Gołąb) (43) is actually a veteran of a Polish "dream team" of climbers who, at the turn of the centrury, forced some of Europe's toughest faces, alpine style (Norway's Troll, Grandes Jorasses, Eiger Nordwand, Greenland, etc.) He has also climbed in Alaska and Patagonia, and has signed a new route on the great wall of Kedar Dome (Garhwal Himalaya).

Tem leader Artur Hajzer has summited five 8000ers--three of them via new routes. He also achieved the first winter climb on Annapurna. He is the soul of the Polish Winter Himalayism project.

Links to 2012 winter GI climbers:

Polish GI winter team
Alex Txikon
Alex Txikon's SPOT
Gerfried Göschl
Cedric Halen
#Mountaineering #topstory

Janusz Golab at fixed ropes.
Image by Adam Bielecki courtesy Polish winter GI expedition 2012, SOURCE
L-R: Artur Hajzer, Adam Bielecki and Janusz Golab in Skardu prior to their successful winter climb of G1 this March.
Image by Agnieszka Bielecka courtesy Polish winter GI expedition 2012, SOURCE
Tamara Stys.
courtesy Gerfried Goschl, SOURCE
Aex's location (at C2) Friday afernoon.
courtesy Alex Txikon - Race Tracker, SOURCE