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Mountaineering, the next generation: Artur Hajzer speaks from Lhotse

Posted: Oct 05, 2012 11:38 pm EDT

(Tina Sjogren) Current high altitude climbing in Nepal is shaping up to one of the most interesting seasons.

Manaslu's avalanche was avenged by the first summits. A Russian/Euro ski descent is in the pipe on Makalu. At Dhaulagiri a 73-years-old is out to prove that age doesn't matter, while on Lhotse Polish veterans are training hands-on the next generation of Himalayan stars.

In only a few years, the Polish young guns have had plenty of excitement. A supportless Makalu climb not long ago reminded of what Himalaya used to be like. A virgin ascent of G1 put them back in the winter throne. This summer finally, one of the apprentices caught flack for his debrief of a different K2 season.

Soul of the Polish Winter Himalayism project, Lhotse team leader Artur Hajzer has summited five 8000ers; three of them via new routes.

Climbing with Polish legend Jerzy Kukuczka, Hajzer bagged the first winter climb on Annapurna and then fell off the Himalaya climbing map only to re-emerge decades later, according to Artur told so by his wife who complained he was getting grumpy and fat.

Last week ExWeb caught up with Hajzer on Lhotse, where he and his 7-member team spent the last month working to camp 4. Most of the route shared with Everest; by contrast to spring the fall climbers have used only two Sherpa and no supplementary oxygen. Currently on summit push, the team hopes for an October 8 summit.

Yesterday, Artur told us details about the current climb and that one of the goals is to prep young climbers for future winter expeditions. Today, he speaks more about the winter climbs, and his general philosophy.

ExplorersWeb: Hi Artur, did you hear about Manaslu? Any comments?

Artur Hajzer: 231 people got the permit. Too much. Many of them planned to climb with oxygen. There is something wrong with all that.

ExplorersWeb: Adam Bielecki and Janusz Golab bagged the first winter climb on GI this spring. The achievement was somewhat lost though in the death of
the other party. What do you think happened to Gerfried, Nisar and Cedric?

Artur Hajzer: Whatever happened it was sudden - that's why contact was lost so abruptly. They might have fallen or they could have been hit by a sudden, violent hurricane.

ExplorersWeb: When did you guys see them last?

Artur Hajzer: When we left BC for the summit push.

ExplorersWeb: How was your own climb - easier or harder than you had expected?

Artur Hajzer: It was not too bad. I was surprised that it was possible at all. Following my winter experiences on Broad Peak I thought we would fail but to my surprise the guys did it. I think it happened because they didn't know that it was impossible :-)

ExplorersWeb: What's the hardest about climbing 8000ers in winter?

Artur Hajzer: Wind.

ExplorersWeb: You are leading the Polish initiative to climb 8000ers in winter. Now that only 3 remain (Nanga Parbat, Broad Peak and K2) what would you like to see as the next step when it comes to evolution in mountaineering?

Artur Hajzer: Everest winter ascent without oxygen. Lhotse Shar winter ascent. Yalung Kang winter ascent. Etc. Etc. I have already planned the team and the budget for it :-) I even came up with a name for such a programme: "Winter Himalaism Reloaded 2015-2020."

ExplorersWeb: Janusz Golab has done some of Europe's toughest faces in alpine style and a new route on the great wall of Kedar Dome (Garhwal Himalaya). Yet new routes on 8000ers are almost non-existent these days. Why do you think that is?

Artur Hajzer: It's because it's increasingly more difficult and human abilities and gear are not developing quickly enough.

ExplorersWeb: Adam Bielecki topped out K2 this past summer, reporting lots of Sherpa logistics and supplementary oxygen use. Do you think K2 will go the same way as Everest?

Artur Hajzer: I'm afraid so. I respect Mingma Sherpa (Seven Summit Treks) and other commercial outfitters but they should explain to their customers that climbing with supplementary oxygen is something very different than to climb without it.

It's becoming increasingly common for guided clients to start using oxygen at 6000 meters of altitude, without any form of acclimatization.

Using artificial air people don't really climb K2 but maybe Pumori or Ama Dablam. Using oxygen on Annapurna, Manaslu, Cho Oyu, Dhaualagiri and even GI is just unacceptable. That's what I think.

Use of oxygen relatively decreases the mountain's altitude by about 1500 meters. All I can say is that it's possible to climb K2 safely without oxygen but it will require the proper acclimatization involving time and strength.

Use of oxygen is a shortcut that's against the very meaning of climbing. People who wished to touch the legend of 8000 meters and did so with supplemental oxygen have no idea what climbing is really about.

ExplorersWeb: What were your thoughts on the Russian team attempting K2 this past winter?

Artur Hajzer: They share the same problem we have in Poland; lack of young climbers.

The climbing team consisted of very experienced but old climbers. Which means their chances were too small. We had a big argument about this in Poland as well. I was put under pressure by the old generation, but under the guiding rules of the "Polish Winter Himalaism" programme did not allow them to be climbing members of our teams.

ExplorersWeb: Polish climbers revolutionized Himalayan climbing with their winter climbs in the 80s. This decade Italian Simone Moro (with Denis Urubko) dominated the winter firsts. In your experience, how does appreciation among climbers compare for these accomplishments now compared to back then?

Artur Hajzer: It's better now. Polish winter climbs were unknown for years. Simone Moro is the best ambassador of Polish winter climbing history.

Now that only 3 peaks remain, the entire European community is caught by surprise that a big number of the mountains were already winter climbed in the 80s. I have watched Simone's lectures. He talks about Polish history in winter Himalaya all the time and the public is always shocked.

ExplorersWeb: You guys are now gearing up for Broad Peak. What's your plan in terms of route, members, and schedule?

Artur Hajzer: I finally realized that it's impossible for me to spend every winter in Karakorum. But my best friend Krzysztof Wielicki has begun to believe in our winter objective at last and agreed to lead the next expedition. I'll still be managing it, only from home. The financial situation restricts us to no more than 5-6 members.

ExplorersWeb: You returned to mountaineering after many years of absence. Any regrets?

Artur Hajzer: No.

ExplorersWeb: The best about returning to Himalaya?

Artur Hajzer: I'm surrounded by more young women and my wife loves me more too :)


Mount Everest and Lhotse: summit pushes and speed attempt brewing

Polish debrief of a different K2 season

K2 summit pics and video: Polish climbers on a roll

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

Artur Hajzer, live from winter GI: "One month in BC is nothing"

ExWeb special: Eyes of a survivor, Makalu debrief

Pakistan 2010/2011 stats heads-up: chronicle of the winter firsts

Polish young guns take it all at the Elbrus Race

The current team is made up of Agnieszka Bielecka (Adam Bielecki's sister), Krzysztof Starek (member of the BP winter 2010/11 attempt); three high Himalaya newbies: Artur Małek; Mateusz Grobel and Mateusz Zabłocki; and Andrzej Bargiel who will attempt to speed climb Lhotse from BC to summit below 16 hours. Bargiel bagged the Elbrus Race record in 2010, improving Urubko’s time to 3,5 hour from Azau to the top.

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 fall 2011, they summited Makalu. 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.

Simone and Denis attempted Nanga Parbat last winter, but it was the Poles who returned to the winter throne. The Poles summited G1, where another party, attempting a different route, vanished on their summit push. 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.

Both Nanga Parbat and Broad Peak will be attempted this winter.

Adam Bielecki (28) climbed Khan Tengri on his own and became one of the members in the Polish team who summited Makalu in 2011 with a complicated descent in very tough conditions. Adam summited G1 this winter and K2 this summer as part of a Sherpa-led international effort.

Janusz Golab (Gołąb) (43) is veteran of a Polish "dream team" of climbers who, at the turn of the centrury, forced some of Europe's toughest faces in alpine style (Norway's Troll, Grandes Jorasses, Eiger Nordwand, Greenland, etc.) He has climbed in Alaska and Patagonia, and 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.

#Mountaineering #topstory #interview

Agna, Artur M, Mateusz Z and Andrzej after Puja.
Image by Artur Hajzer courtesy Artur Hajzer, SOURCE
Winter G1 and summer 2012 K2 summiteer Adam Bielecki.
courtesy Polish Makalu Expedition 2011, SOURCE
Artur Malek and Andrzej Bargiel in the icefall (note the skis). Bargiel improved Urubko's time on Elbrus in 2010 and will now attempt to speed climb Lhotse from BC to summit below 16 hours.
Image by Krzystof Starek courtesy Artur Hajzer, SOURCE
"Me in the icefall." The climbers fixed much of the route on their own.
Image by Krzystof Starek courtesy Artur Hajzer, SOURCE
Icefall Doc at work. The young Poles couldn't afford to wait for the section to be finished and climbed the maze as it was being secured.
Image by Mateusz Zablocki courtesy Artur Hajzer, SOURCE
Camp 3. This is the last camp spot shared with Everest.
Image by Artur Malek courtesy Artur Hajzer, SOURCE
Remember the infamous snake line pic on Everest last spring? This is what the section looks like now.
Image by Artur Malek courtesy Artur Hajzer, SOURCE
Starek, Grobel and Zablocki in Pangboche monastery. Critical of excessive support in climbing, Hajzer walks the talk with a new generation of mountaineers.
Image by Agna Bielecka courtesy Artur Hajzer, SOURCE
Same guy, different outfit. Bielecki in camp 3 on Gasherbrum 1, shooting a pic of himself. This winter the Poles will attempt Broad Peak.
Image by Adam Bielecki courtesy Polish winter GI expedition 2012, SOURCE
Agnieszka (Agna), Adam's sister, carrying loads on GI. Only months later, she is part of the current summit attempt on Lhotse.
Image by Shaheen Baig courtesy Polish winter GI expedition 2012, SOURCE
Private Artur training to keep up with his young.
Arthur Hajzer on the Lhotse wall.
Image by Agna Bielecka courtesy Artur Hajzer, SOURCE