More DW Blogs DW.COM

Adventure Sports

with Stefan Nestler

Questions remain open

The first winter ascent of Broad Peak, but a total of three missing climbers who have been declared dead. That is the result of the five winter expeditions in Pakistan. As always, it’s worth having a look to the details. All the four groups on Nanga Parbat were small teams with a maximum of three climbers. Tomasz Mackiewicz from Poland made the greatest progress, reaching 7400 meters, finally climbing alone. The others got stuck in the deep snow, in icy cold conditions. For me the solo project of Joel Wischnewski remains mystifying.

Why didn’t he go home?

The young Frenchman – so far a dark horse in high-altitude mountaineering – announced that he wanted to reach the 8125 meter summit solo and in alpine style, and afterwards would snowboard down. He later described in his blog more often, how bad his health was. „Today, I’m losing blood from my intestines. It’s great…”, Joel wrote on February 3, adding that he knew how to handle it. He ignored the logical consequenz of ending the expedition: „I prefer to stay here, even in storms, till the last moment.” On February 6, he wrote a last short post in his blog. Then he disappeared. Was it hubris, arrogance or loss of reality that did cost him his live? Or was he finally just unlucky?

Why did they separate?

Probably we won’t get answers to these questions regarding Joel. But maybe we get a clearer view in the case of the two missing Polish climbers on Broad Peak. Adam Bielecki and Artur Malek, who summited the mountain on March 5 together with Maciej Berbeka and Tomasz Kowalski, later returned to basecamp safely. After their return from Pakistan Adam and Artur maybe can answer the questions which came into my mind: Why did the four climbers reach the summit between 5:00 and 6:00 p.m. local time, so late that they were forced to descend into the dark? Why did they separate? Why did Berbeka and Kowalski need almost eight hours to reach the pass on 7900 meters, three times longer as usual. Why didn’t Berbeka use his walkie-talkie? Why didn’t they have a light tent for bivouacing?

But in the end there will be left room for speculation – as in winter 2012, when the Austrian Gerfried Göschl, the Swiss Cedric Hählen and the Pakistani Nisar Hussein disappeared on Gasherbrum I. Too often climbers in the Himalayas and Karakorum take the secret of their fatal accident to the icy grave.


13. March 2013 | 18:51