Elisabeth Revol is back home after a quick return trip from Nanga Parbat. In recent blog post, she details the amazing journey from 7800m on the mountain to France, in less than a week. Here is a summary of the article, with help from Google Translate.
January 17th: The 7800m Day
Elisabeth starts the chronicle with description of intense cold and the amazing beauty at around 7200m on the evening of January 16th. Everything except sleeping bags was frozen. Considering the wind factor, it was chilling somewhere around -40/-50 °C. However, the sunset at that altitude was simply breathtaking. The intense cold joined by excitement about upcoming summit push didn’t let the climbers sleep all night.
It wasn’t a long night, anyway. After spending an hour getting ready, the two climbers were out of their tent by 3 am. “The awkwardness of the narrow space (inside tent) disappeared; we were in our element – crampons and ice axes – at work”
The ascent continued in freezing wintery conditions. “This was really the first time that I felt such a cold, I think. I knew that any stop or variation would be fatal. We were on a 8000er in extremely harsh conditions of winter. Even if the route wasn’t quite technical, winter conditions meant that it was one of the most committed climbs in my life.”
By mid-day, they were at around 7800m where the route joins Hermann Buhl’s line of Nanga Parbat’s first ascent. But the weather was turning worse and they were forced to retreat. “When I reached out, I could “feel” the summit with the touch of my finger. It was very close. My heartbeat increased, but we were to remain calm. It was frustrating; wasn’t easy to turn around, especially when you look at all the progress made so far.”
Elisabeth Revol; Source
The 10 Day Summit Push
Elisabeth goes on to tell us about the progress that lead to summit push on 17th. “We left BC on Friday, January 9. Bags were heavy under the provisioning of 10 days to be spent at high altitude. The route was long. This year, it was the only possible route, others being partly bare ice and very dry.”
First night was spent in the middle of Diamir glacier. On day two, they climbed on scree along the right bank of the glacier for a long time to C2, under Ganalo Peak. Following day, they tackle huge crevasses towards C3, at the foot of the route taken by Messner in 2000. Due to strong wind, they didn’t go any further on fourth day.
On day-5, the climbers negotiated several seracs to reach C3 (around 6600mm). “Next day we continued our progression to 7000m. It was very cold. Tomek felt cold in the feet; I froze my nose tip. The sun came out late at around 11am. But we enjoyed a beautiful sunset.” A day later, they were bivouacking at 7200m.
On eighth day, they went up (hoping to make a summit push), but turned back from 7500m. As Tomek said in his audio message, they miscalculated the distance. Day nine was the summit push day.
Wind sweeps the summit of Nanga Parbat; Source
From 7800m, the two climbers descended to bivouac at 7200m. However, they were out of gas and food by then. “To kill the hunger and thirst, we were discussing the project,” says Elisabeth.
“We begin our descent, next day. We knew, we had to rely on ourselves, as Daniele had sent us a clear and directive message upon our arrival at C4; asserting that since we had not taken the radio, he would not trigger emergency if we had a situation, rather than encouraging us on our progress. Long live the “friendship” in the mountains…”
The descent continued in good meteorological conditions as they reached 6500m.
“With a bang I see the feet of Tomek and his body tipping over: the snow bridge had ruptured. I scream “Tomek …! …” It was of no use, as he was already gone. I approached the edge of the crevasse. Blank … the scene was horrible; I discovered a snow slope at 80°, and a black hole. My God! Tomek! I was still screaming his name, but there was no reply. Everything runs through my head: his children, his girlfriend Ana, my husband Jean-Christophe, and I alone on this hostile glacier … Great moment of solitude…” Elisabeth goes on to describe the event of crevasse fall at around 6500m.
“And finally, I see a very small thing – my God, it’s Tomek- “Tomek, how are you? Did you broke something? Can you come back? It is high.” He replied, “I do not think I broke anything, but I might not climb back up.”
Elisabeth immediately went down to retrieve a rope, they had stored approximately 200m below. Upon her return, she called for Tomek but didn’t get any answer from crevasse. “Finally, from far away [I heard] “Eli …” This wasn’t from the bottom of the crevasse, but on the left. After recovering from his emotions, he explained: he walked along the bottom of the crevasse on precarious bridges and found a possible exit.”
Tomek was given painkillers and the two climbers slowly descended to lower camps and eventually reached BC.
Tomek Mackiewicz; Source
Elisabeth left BC on January 21st, to catch her flight from Islamabad on 23rd. “Very surprised at the negative version of Daniele; I can nevertheless reassure those around me that I had and that I will keep strong friendships.”
She believes that good weather window on Nanga Parbat is gone. “I left the base camp under a blue sky, which is quickly going to change. The sky may have saved us before. As if for a month the mountain had accepted us and spared, and now it was time to leave this place.”