Hungarians Bail on Dangerous Pobeda

Alpine style Climbing
One of the Hungarians grapples with changing conditions on Pobeda. Photo: Albert Kovacs and Peter Vitez

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.

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About the Author

Kris Annapurna

Kris Annapurna

@KrisAnnapurna reports about outdoor activities, current expeditions, and stories related to the history of mountaineering in the Karakorum, Himalaya, Tien Shan, and other ranges.

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Marie
Marie
3 months ago

Thank God the Hungarians are safe now. Let us hope that the local guides Oleg and Vladim – that seem to be in desperate need of money – make it safely back down or wisely withdraw from this ego-driven trip before it is too late.

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Apy
Apy
3 months ago

Jon hasn’t moved. Don’t believe he will make his attempt.

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Apy
Apy
3 months ago
Reply to  Apy

Sorry, his tracker shiws at 5000m

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Marie
Marie
3 months ago
Reply to  Apy

Honestly, I do not understand why he does not look for Mehri, Reza and Valentin instead. Even if he summited on a mountain where 3 people perished less than 2 weeks ago, what kind of success would that be? Can one celebrate in light of that? To reunite one of the fallen climbers with his or her family – that would be a great achievement in my humble opinion, albeit one cannot ask this of anyone. As opposed to that, to endanger two more people and himself now is something that just does not make sense to me.

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Pawel
Pawel
3 months ago
Reply to  Marie

He does not look for them because:
Reza fall in Chinese side, so to look for him he will have to go to China, get all permits etc, simply: mission imposible
Mehri and Valentin fall into very dangerous places, where avalanches and stones constantly falling down, even the previous search mission coudn’t get close to the wall so going somewhere there is suicide mission.
Without helicopter it is not possible to find and recovery the bodies without putting lives into serious danger.

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Alex A
Alex A
3 months ago
Reply to  Pawel

Valentin and Mehri perished on different routes, too. Some kilometres apart.

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Marie
Marie
3 months ago
Reply to  Pawel

Thank you, Pawel, I know that and therefore I wrote “albeit one cannot ask this of anyone”, but to attempt to summit Pobeda right now seems to be so dangerous in itself (remember that even the experienced Hungarians backed off) that one may just as well attempt to retrieve the bodies.

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Last edited 3 months ago by Marie
Apy
Apy
3 months ago
Reply to  Marie

Everybody has his own reaction when deaths occur on the mountain. Some indeed continue as business as usual. The Hungarians after searching for Mehri also continued their attempt. Alex, a friend of Mehri’s, on the contrary, stopped.

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Robert McGarvie
Robert McGarvie
3 months ago

I learned the hard way what Albert is saying about the +50 sunscreen and suffering. I went to Kyrgyzstan in 1998 and every day I applied SPF 40 to my face and hands. I left KG with incredible sunburn. Upon arrival home I read that KG has the cleanest air on the planet and the highest UV exposure rate as well. Isolation and minimal manufacturing pollution are the reasons.

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Apy
Apy
3 months ago

Jon Gupta’s tracker shows that he reached 7235m only 200m from the summit of Pobeda but that he is now descending.

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