Hungarians Bail on Dangerous Pobeda

It has been a dangerous, tragic season on Pobeda, where three climbers fell to their deaths — Iranians Mehri Jafari and Reza Adineh and Russian Valentin Mihailov. Nevertheless, Albert Kovacs and Peter Vitez, the Hungarian two-man team who had helped search for Mehri, decided to attempt a second summit push.

Pobeda summit push

They set off on Friday, August 13, to their first gear depot, five kilometres along the route. Here they found that someone had stolen one of their crampons, forcing them back to Base Camp. At 5 am on Sunday morning, they were already heading back up.

By early afternoon, their tracker showed Kovacs and Vitez at 5,100m. The snow conditions on Pobeda have been poor for a number of days, forcing an early start to avoid avalanches. In some videos they have shared on social media, the excess snow is obvious.

Kovacs and Vitez took precautions. Although old ropes were available, they found them unreliable. Instead, they fixed the route themselves.

Pobeda has proved tricky this season. Photo: Albert Kovacs and Peter Vitez


Kovacs described a tough climb: “There were days when we experienced the presence of the four seasons while climbing. When we left Base Camp (4,000m), it was minus 20°C. Some hours later it was plus 35°C. We suffered it on our skin too, with swollen lips despite using 50+ sunscreen. We were drinking water all the time, but at the same time we fought against dehydration.”

Today, they had to abort their summit push at 5,300 m. Ultimately, an unavoidable obstacle forced them to stop above Camp 2. A huge slab avalanche had recently sluffed above them. It left an area of about four football fields of broken snow and ice. It would have taken several days to traverse it, and they were only carrying food and water for their expected two or three-day summit push.

The deep snow on Pobeda. Photo: Albert Kovacs and Peter Vitez


“I am a responsible climber,” Kovacs said. “Success is not the most important [aspect] for me. We put a lot of work into this climb, but we were not lucky. I really wanted to reach the summit. But this mountain has claimed enough sacrifices already this season. The consolation is that I can go home and continue my life.”

The two Hungarians were alone on their summit push. But back at Base Camp, some other climbers have also been waiting for good weather. Jon Gupta summited K2 last month. Like Kovacs and Vitez, he is attempting the Snow Leopard challenge by climbing all five 7,000m peaks in the former Soviet Union.

Gupta says he is heading up today (August 18), after waiting in Base Camp for eight days. He plans to summit on August 21. He knows that the Hungarians have turned back but he will give it a try, together with two local guides, Oleg and Vadim [last names not given].

Khan Tengri

On neighboring Khan Tengri, a team from SummitClimb is currently in Camp 3, preparing for a summit push.

An aerial view of Khan Tengri. Photo: Summit Travel


There has been no further news regarding any missing climbers. One climber died last week from altitude sickness, but the possible deaths of more seem to have been a misunderstanding.