Himalayan knight Piotr Pustelnik surrenders to Annapurna: Broad Peak will be my last 8000er"

Posted: Jun 22, 2006 02:38 pm EDT

(K2Climb.net/MountEverest.net) It's hard to believe, but after 16 years in the Himalayas, a series of amazing climbs and endless suffering, Polish Piotr Pustelnik has finally surrendered to Annapurna. This mountain, which I tried to conquer for the third time, sucked up all my climbing skills, my humanity, he said. <cutoff>

<b>A true climbers farewell</b>

Piotr is currently on his way to Broad Peak, the third and last stage of his mBank Lotto Himalayan Trilogy expedition. I want to bid the mountains farewell in the Karakorum, where I started my climbing adventures," he told Gazeta Wyborcza.

Im very happy to have made the decision. My capacity with the high mountains is coming to an end. Sportsmen also come to the end of their careers. Its better to end it with a nice expedition rather than getting a kick in the butt and returning in shame with your tail curled up, said Pustelnik.

Piotr is going out in style. Steering clear from the crowds, Pustelnik plans to open a new route in alpine style.

This will be his fourth attempt on Broad. Piotr made his first attempt in 1998 with Eric Escoffier. When Eric disapeared on the summit ridge Piotr turned back. He returned in 1999 with Mr Park (Korea). One of the Korean team members fell to his death at C2 and both Mr Park and Piotr aborted the summit bid. Last year, Piotr made a third attempt in which he helped to rescue Polish legend climber Artur Hajzer after he fell and broke his leg.

<b>Hitting a wall </b>

Through the years, Piotr has been an example of endurance and will power.

His last 8000+m summit was Manaslus, which he reached in 2003 in hellish conditions. Since then, he's hit the same wall again and again. Despite giving it his all, Piotr has been forced to retreat 3 times on the south face of Annapurna, and twice on Broad Peak. During his last two expeditions, however, he turned round to rescue someone.

In summer 2005, his attempt on Broad Peak was thwarted when team member Artur Hajzer broke an ankle nearly at 8000m. Piotr returned without the summit, but with Artur safe after a two-day long rescue.

This year, he renounced Cho Oyu's summit (a peak he had already climbed) and decided to focus his efforts on Annapurna, via the Polish route along the East Ridge.

<b>The epic climb on Annapurna</b>

The climb on Annapurna was a dramatic one. The summit team comprising Piotr Pustelnik, Piotr Morawski, Slovakian Peter Hamor and Tibetan Lotse, had to remain in a high camp for several days due to bad weather. When conditions finally cleared, their supplies had run out. Knowing this was their only chance, the four climbers made their way towards the top.

Hamor would climb first and eventually reach the main summit. As for the rest, when they arrived at the East summit, Lotse began showing signs of snow blindness. He had not adjusted his glasses properly. The two Piotrs returned to the highest camp with him a tough decision lay ahead:

<b>We had to decide who we wanted to be</b>

Piotr (Morawski) and I told ourselves, we had two options: Behaving humanely and staying with Lotse until he regained his sight, or turning away from him, Pustelnik said. The latter solution would have never allowed us to look in the mirror again. We had to decide who we wanted to be. Today, I can speak calmly of it, but those conversations were not calm in the least.

Together they started an epic descent via a different route (down the south face), belaying each other since there were no fixed ropes. With Lotse blind and all of them weakened from lack of food and exposure, the three men finally made it back to BC. Two words echoed in Pustelnik's mind: It's over.

<b>Lessons on humane behavior</b>

One again, Piotr didnt summit, but a man returned home alive because of him - a recurring event in Pustelniks career.

Piotr has been involved in many rescues. In 1996 on K2, he saved the life of an Italian climber. Pustelnik administered an injection to the injured Italian while both were hanging from a rope. Then Piotr helped him back down with the help of Rysiek Pawlowski. Afterwards, Pustelnik managed to climb back up and reach the summit. When he got home, the Polish Olympics Committee awarded him with the Fair Play Award.

When a Polish journalist asked Piotr whether he should be awarded again for saving Lotse on Annapurna, Piotr simply answered: Humanly behavior shouldnt be the subject of awards.

<i>Before retiring, Piotr Pustelnik will complete the mBank Lotto Himalayan Trilogy on Broad Peak. The team hopes to climb a new and difficult route on BP's southern ridge in alpine style. As in the Trilogy's previous climbs on Cho Oyu and Annapurna, the backbone of the team consists of Piotr Pustelnik, Piotr Morawski, Peter Hamor and Don Bowie.

To better acclimatize, the team will first climb the normal route up to about 7000m. They will be accompanied by Kinga Baranowska and Andrzej Rusowicz, who will then proceed up to the summit via the traditional route.

Piotr Pustelniks 8000+m summits: Gasherbrum II - July 19th, 1990; Nanga Parbat - July 12th, 1992; Cho-Oyu - September 24th, 1993; Shisha Pangma - October 6th, 1993; Dhaulagiri - September 26th, 1994; Mount Everest - May 12th, 1995; K2 - August 14th, 1996; Gasherbrum I - July 15th, 1997; Lhotse May 15th, 2000; Kangchenjunga May 15th 2001; Makalu May 16th, 2002; Manaslu May 17th, 2003.

All in all Piotr has climbed 12 main summits and 8000m peaks 15 times. He did Broad Peak fore summit July 21, 2005; Annapurna East summit May 20, 2006; and Gasherbrum II main summit in a second ascent July 21st, 1997.

#Mountaineering #feature

"Its better to end it with a nice expedition rather than getting a kick in the butt and return in shame with your tail curled up, Pustelnik said. File image of Piotr, courtesy of HiMountain.pl (click to enlarge)
Piotr Pustelnik's expedition has left Askole for the third stage of their Himalayan Trilogy project: A new route in Alpine style on Broad Peak. Image of the new planned route (in red) courtesy of HiMountain.pl - now including news in English (click to enlarge).

Unaware of the problems with Lotse, Peter Hamor reached the summit of Annapurna at 9.15 pm, solo without gas, food or a radio. His summit joy was brief. A terrible night descent was ahead, and Peter was left alone to negotiate Annapurna's death zone. Self-portrait of Peter on the summit of Anna, courtesy of Peter (click to enlarge).

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