Ice Warriors
Introduction

Photograph by: Tommy Heinrich, National Geographic January 2008

Nanga Parbat, aka the “naked mountain,” in northern Pakistan, is the world’s ninth tallest peak, standing at 8,126 meters (26,660 feet). Separated from the rest of the Karakoram range and the Himalaya by the Indus River, it stands in solitary glory. Another distinction is its reputation as a killer mountain. Scores have died there, starting with the first climber known to have attempted to reach the summit, Englishman A.F. Mummery, in 1895. Everyone who dares the ascent risks avalanches, falls, and frostbite. But to attempt Nanga Parbat during the winter months of December, January, and February is to tempt fate at her most ferocious.

Bibliography

Jenkins, Mark. “Ice Warriors.” National Geographic (January 2008), 106-121.

“Killer Mountains: Nanga Parbat.” ExplorersWeb series.

Messner, Reinhold. Naked Mountain: Nanga Parbat—Brother, Death and Solitude. Crowood Press, 2002.

Salkeld, Audrey, ed. World Mountaineering. Little, Brown, 1998.

Climbing Route Map and Polish Winter-Campaign Timeline

Mountaineers are geniuses when it comes to setting challenges for themselves. A team of Polish “Ice Warriors” attacked the Rupal Face of Nanga Parbat in December 2006, attempting (but failing) to add this peak to the chain of winter Himalayan ascents begun on Mount Everest in February 1980 by their team leader, Krzysztof Wielicki. This timeline shows the seven mountains topping 8,000 meters (25,000 feet) conquered in a series of winter climbs by Polish teams, nearly all during the 1980s. But Polish independence in 1989 drastically curtailed the funding for expedition team members, and it was 17 years before another winter ascent was achieved.

Bibliography

“Great Polish Winter Climbs.”

The Highest Mountains Were Conquered in Mid-20th Century

Many Himalayan peaks—earth’s highest—were the sites of mountain climbers’ first ascents in the mid-20th century. And when that began to seem commonplace, Reinhold Messner of Italy sumitted several, including Mount Everest, without oxygen. In 1986 sheer willpower drove him to become the first person to climb all 14 of the world’s peaks over 8,000 meters (25,000 feet), known in global mountaineering circles as “8,000ers.” Only a dozen other climbers have followed in his footsteps.

Bibliography

Alexander, Caroline. “Murdering the Impossible.” National Geographic (November 2006), 42-67.

High Altitude Mountaineering Statistics: First ascents of the 14 8,000ers.

Kukuczka, Jerzy. My Vertical World. Hodder and Stoughton, 1992.

Messner, Reinhold. All Fourteen 8,000ers. The Mountaineers Press, 1999.

Viesturs, Ed. Himalayan Quest: Ed Viesturs on the 8,000-Meter Giants. National Geographic Society, 2003.

Wielicki, Krzysztof. Crown of the Himalaya: 14 × 8000. Wydawnictwo, 1997.

Himalayan Mountain Climbing in Winter Is a Polish Thing

Krzysztof Wielicki is one of two Polish climbers in the elite club of people who were among the first five to conquer all 14 8,000ers. But that’s not enough for Wielicki, who in 2002 set an even more ambitious goal—for himself and his fellow Polish mountaineers—to climb the 14 highest peaks in winter. A few teams of British, French, and Korean climbers have endured Nanga Parbat’s extreme winter miseries in recent years, all without summitting. But the rock jocks from Poland appear to be obsessed with winter climbing, a reputation that has earned them the nickname “Ice Warriors.”

Bibliography

Jenkins, Mark. “Ice Warriors.” National Geographic (January 2008), 106-121.

Rogozinska, Monika. “Mountain Academy of Resourcefulness.“ Rzeczpospolita, November 23, 2002.

Vikstrom, Jorgen. “The Polish Syndrome.” Peak Performance Magazine (Summer 2006), 80-89.

More Than 100 Trips Up Himalayan Peaks

Nearly 35 years ago pioneering Polish climber Andrzej Zawada made the first winter ascent of any 7,000-meter (24,580-foot) peak, Noshaq in Afghanistan. In the pursuit of what some people regard as a mad goal, premier Polish mountaineer Krzysztof Wielicki, along with fellow Pole Leszek Cichy, topped this feat with their own, summitting Mount Everest in February 1980 on an expedition led by Zawada. Fast forward to December 2006 when nine Ice Warriors, with more than 100 expeditions to the Himalaya and Karakoram between them, attacked Nanga Parbat. In this fifth attempt by a Polish team, six of the old-guard climbers—Wielicki (age 57), Krzysztof Tarasewicz (55), Jan Szulc (50), Jacek Berbeka (47), Dariuz Za_uski (47), and Artur Hajzer (44)—were joined by three mountaineers known as the “young guns”: Przemys_aw Lozinski (35), Jacek Jawien (30), and Robert Szymczak (29), who is the expedition’s doctor and on his first 8,000-meter climb.

Almost daily, team members reported (in Polish) on the main sponsor’s website, which you can read at www.himountain.eu.

All of the climbers pushed hard, trying to power up beyond their highest camp at 6,750 meters (22,146 feet). But they were defeated by the relentless assault of nearly hurricane-force winds, which threatened to blow them off the Rupal Face. One climber described the experience as “freezing hell.” On January 14, 2007, they met at Base Camp and admitted that they were spent.

Nanga Parbat claimed no one that time. In spite of all they endured, no one suffered serious injuries. There’s no doubt that at least some of them will try again. And with luck and better conditions, some Ice Warriors may yet win this epic winter battle.

Bibliography

Jenkins, Mark. “Ice Warriors.” National Geographic (January 2008), 106-121.

High Altitude Mountaineering Statistics: First ascents of the 14 8000ers.

Wielicki, Krzysztof. Crown of the Himalaya: 14 × 8000. Wydawnictwo, 1997.

Struggling Against January Winds

Injuries were surprisingly few among the nine members of the Polish 2006-07 Nanga Parbat winter expedition: An experienced team leader not only motivates his climbers but also looks out for their well-being. And leader Krzysztof Wielicki, with 37 years of climbing experience and 37 expeditions to peaks in Asia, is nothing if not seasoned. Swirling above Camp 3 at 6,750 meters (22,156 feet) was wind of such brutality—gusting as high as 60 miles per hour—that when team member Darek Za_uski left the marginal security of his tent and turned into the wind, he got frostbite on his face “in an instant.” You can view photographs he took inside his tent and outside of Camp 3.

Team members took a beating as they struggled to establish Camp 4 before the summit attempt. You can see the weariness in some of their faces in Artur Hajzer’s photo gallery.

Bibliography

Jenkins, Mark. “Ice Warriors.” National Geographic (January 2008), 106-121.

Mountaineers at High Altitude Must Adjust or Die

Risks to the human body of summitting without the aid of oxygen can defeat the most intrepid mountain warrior. In the “death zone,” above 26,000 feet, brain tissue swells and fluid collects around the lungs of climbers, who may succumb. The dangers can be seen in x-rays and MRI stills in a graphic sidebar, “The Killer Within,” part of National Geographic’s 50th anniversary tribute to the conquering of Mount Everest (May 2003).

In late January 2006 renowned French alpinist Jean-Christophe Lafaille paid the ultimate price when he disappeared on Makalu, an 8,481-meter peak in Nepal. His story is told by David Roberts in "National Geographic Adventure’s “Profiles: Death on Makalu,“.

Bibliography

Jenkins, Mark. “Ice Warriors.” National Geographic (January 2008), 106-121.

Multiple authors. “Everest: 50 Years and Counting,” National Geographic (May 2003), 2-41.

Roberts, David. “Profiles: Death on Makalu.” National Geographic Adventure (May 2006).

Team Work

During the December 2006-January 2007 ascent of Nanga Parbat’s Rupal Face, fixing ropes for team members who would follow took a huge amount of time and energy. Overall, more than 3,000 meters (9,800 feet) of rope were fixed. In video shot by Artur Hajzer, team members Jacek Jawien and Darek Za_uski are shown engaged in this tedious but essential activity between Camp 1 and Camp 2..

After the climb ended, local porters gathered all the abandoned supplies for their own use.

Bibliography

Alexander, Caroline. “Murdering the Impossible.” National Geographic (November 2006), 42-67.

Everest History.com. “The Death of a Legend: Andrzej Zawada.”

High-altitude mountaineering statistics: First ascents of the 14 8,000ers.

Jenkins, Mark. “Ice Warriors.” National Geographic (January 2008), 106-121.

“Killer Mountains: Nanga Parbat.” ExplorersWeb series.

Kukuczka, Jerzy. My Vertical World. Hodder and Stoughton, 1992.

Messner, Reinhold. All Fourteen 8,000ers. The Mountaineers Press, 1999.

Messner, Reinhold. Naked Mountain: Nanga Parbat—Brother, Death and Solitude. Crowood Press, 2002.

Multiple authors. “Everest: 50 Years and Counting,” National Geographic (May 2003), 2-41.

Roberts, David. “Profiles: Death on Makalu.” National Geographic Adventure (May 2006).

Rogozinska, Monika. “Mountain Academy of Resourcefulness.”

Rzeczpospolita, November 23, 2002.

Salkeld, Audrey, ed. World Mountaineering. Little, Brown, 1998.

Viesturs, Ed. Himalayan Quest: Ed Viesturs on the 8,000-Meter Giants. National Geographic Society, 2003.

Vikstrom, Jorgen. “The Polish Syndrome.” Peak Performance Magazine (Summer 2006), 80-89.

Wielicki, Krzysztof. Crown of the Himalaya: 14 × 8000. Wydawnictwo, 1997.

Other Resources

High Altitude Mountaineering Statistics: First ascents of the 14 8000ers.

HiMountain Nanga Parbat Winter Expedition 2006/2007:

Expedition chronology and frequent postings by team members;

includes three videos, showing rope fixing and two early January climbs.

“Killer Mountains; Nanga Parbat.” ExplorersWeb series.

“Great Polish Winter Climbs.”

Wielicki, Krzysztof. “Winter Manifesto.” A translation of this renowned mountaineer’s 2002 challenge to fellow Polish climbers.

Other National Geographic Resources

Alexander, Caroline. “Murdering the Impossible.” National Geographic (November 2006), 42-67.

Amatt, John, and Bernadette Mcdonald. Voices From the Summit. National Geographic Adventure Press, 2000.

Anker, Conrad. "The Mystery of Everest." National Geographic (October 1999), 108-13.

Breashears, David, and Audrey Salkeld. Last Climb: The Legendary Everest Expeditions of George Mallory. National Geographic Books, 1999.

Coburn, Broughton. Everest: Mountain Without Mercy. National Geographic Books, 1997.

Crouch, Gregory. "Everest: Because It Is There." National Geographic Adventure, August 2002, 45-8.

Douglas, Ed. Tenzing: Hero of Everest. National Geographic Adventure Press, 2003.

Hillary, Sir Edmund. "The Conquest of the Summit," National Geographic (July 1954), 45-62.

"Mount Everest" supplement map. National Geographic (November 1988).

Multiple authors. “Everest: 50 Years and Counting,” National Geographic (May 2003), 2-41.

Roberts, David. “Profiles: Death on Makalu.” National Geographic Adventure (May 2006)..

Viesturs, Ed. Himalayan Quest: Ed Viesturs on the 8,000-Meter Giants. National Geographic Society, 2003.

Last updated: December 2007