WARSAW (AFP) - Two Polish climbers who went missing after making the first-ever winter ascent of one of the world’s highest mountains are unlikely to be found, the expedition leader said Thursday.
Tomasz Kowalski, 27, and Maciej Berbeka, 51, were among four Poles who on Tuesday reached the 8,047-metre (26,401-feet) summit, located on the border between Pakistan and China, on Tuesday.
“There is no longer any chance,” team leader Krzysztof Wielicki told Polish media. “Maciej probably fell into an ice crevice. We certainly won’t find him. There’s no trace of him.”
“Tomasz didn’t make it to the pass. He stayed on the Chinese side. It’s been 30 hours that he’s been there and he won’t be coming down. He was already weak. He wasn’t able to push on. For hours, I kept pushing him (via telephone) to move on but he was no longer capable of doing so.”
The other two climbers who made the ascent of the world’s 12th highest peak, Adam Bielecki, 29, and Artur Malek, 33, descended safely to a camp at 7,400 metres before going down further to base camp. Several members of the Polish expedition had stayed at a camp at 7,000 metres on the mountain in the hope of finding traces of the two missing men but poor weather conditions made search and rescue activities impossible.
“Since this morning, I’ve felt sadness and a lack of hope. It’s really affecting me and it’s really bringing me down,” Poland’s Prime Minister Donald Tusk told reporters in Warsaw Thursday.
The latest Polish ascent means that only two of the world’s 14 peaks higher than 8,000 metres have not been climbed in winter - Nanga Parbat (8,126 metres) and K2 (8,611 metres).
Winter ascents in the Himalayas have become a speciality among Polish climbers as mountaineers from the central European country have been the first on 10 of the 14 peaks in winter.