The news came on May 28: From Annapurna South to Everest w/o O2 - Marcin Miotk dark horse in ABC! The Polish climber had just finished the Annapurna South Face Expedition led by Piotr Pustelnik, when all of a sudden he showed up in Everest ABC. Marcin reported he would try a non-oxygen, non Sherpa, alpine style summit push on June 2, waiting for really good weather:
"I will not make a summit push if the weather is unstable and too windy - I have great respect for Everest and will not risk too much," he said.
How did it go? Dark Horse says summit! When? June 5th - probably the last of the season! Yet although most possibly the coolest Everest climb this year, there was another dark side to Marcins Everest ascent.
He wrote it up in Kathmandu, and fought bad internet connections in Delhi trying to get his summit pics over to us. But here at last, is Marcin's full report:
"I summited Everest on June 5th at 14.30 Nepal time. I used no oxygen (a first for Poland); I was alone, had no Sherpa and climbed with limited gear. Last but not least: I probably summited the last this spring season, just after some clients and Sherpas of Himex. This was a reward for my patience in base camp. 'Wait and relax' was my mantra. 'Your day will come'.
<b>No oxygen (a Polish first)</b>
The no O2 goal was my only option ever since I first began to plan for Everest. Although Polish climbers have done great things on Everest (1st winter ascent, new route, 3rd woman ascent) - all have been with gas. Not that they hadn't tried before - its just that some of the attempts ended in drama. Krzysztof Liszewski was one; he died in 2003 on the North Side (Ed note: Find the story in the links section).
I was tempted to buy oxygen many times in BC while waiting for the weather window. But it would be a trap - if you buy it you will use it. A mental war was going on in my brain; I won. Now was the time to move from planning to execution - with excellence.
I don't want to create my own solo term - I just want to describe what I did. I headed out from ABC totally alone, went all distances between camps alone, and slept alone in the tents - sum up; doing all work ABC-Summit-ABC by myself.
As my ascent was in the last days of the season, I met a limited number of climbers on my way. There was nobody at the second step; I met no one going up on my descent. Was it solo or not? This was my solo as much as I can and as much as the environment affords me.
<b>No Sherpa support</b>
Often, climbers go without oxygen; but with an army of friends to guard them. That's fine, but not a pure ascent in my eyes. W/o O2 is great, but this is still kind of a guided ascent.
Now let's move on to a short description of my ascent, which will explain the "limited gear" subtitle.
Originally, I started my summit push on May 29 aiming to summit on June 1. But on May 31, my Austrian friends and I were stopped for a night at 7900 m due to an extremely strong wind. It was obvious that we would not summit the next day. I had to decide: go up or... give up. But there was also a third option: I decided to go down to ABC, rest for 2 days and make a second summit push.
2 summit pushes in one week? People told me I was crazy - I would be wasted, my body wouldn't take it. But in the afternoon of June 3, I went up. Totally alone, I climbed straight from ABC to Camp 2. There I discovered that my tent had been robbed. Crucial gear was gone: Wind stopper trousers, wind stopper jacket, sleeping bag, gloves, socks and most importantly: A good head-torch.
<b>Making do on Mount Everest</b>
I was shocked. Already earlier I had lost a new Gore-Tex in camp 1, which was painful, but not a tragedy. But this second theft made me angry.
Yet not for a second did I think to give up. I borrowed a sleeping bag from a neighboring tent (which of course I returned in the morning). The most painful was not having a head-lamp.
Going without oxygen I sure could have used my wind stopper clothes, but I felt it was warm enough to try a summit push in what I had. The next day I moved up to Camp 3 in windy, but reasonable weather.
<b>David and Goliath</b>
In camp 3, I located the infamous Indian Army tent, and a sleeping bag left there for me by my Austrian friend. Lucky me. As I had neither good clothing nor a head torch, I decided to start my summit push in the morning. At 5.30 a.m., I left the tent and went up. I was all alone; there was not a single soul at the second step.
A number of climbers emerged above the second step - headed down. They advised me to turn back, as the wind was too high, but I just went on up - even faster. I must have made a funny sight; alone without a backpack, or much clothes on. The other climbers often came down in clusters of three, each group wearing masks, and big backpacks stuffed with bottled oxygen. It was David and Goliath.
The closer to the top I came, the less windy it was. I reached the summit at 2.30 p.m. I shot a few pictures, best I could considering I was alone. Then I started my descent.
<b>Sherpa - where is your honor?!</b>
I was tired, but not exhausted. I reached camp 3 just as night fell, and looked forward to my warm sleeping bag. I opened my tent but couldn't see anything inside. The tent was almost empty. During the day, someone had stolen the sleeping bag, the stove, all of my medicines! Everything that seemed of any value was gone - at 8300 meters, during summit push!
Fortunately, I was strong of mind at the moment, so I organized a new sleeping bag and stove from Sherpas who were in camp 3 at the time, probably the same guys who stole my gear in the day: Take a guess - only 6-8 tents were in camp, and with the season's end nobody was moving up the mountain!
This was no random stealing; it would be if 50-60 tents were in Camp 3. But now, who else could have stolen my gear? Tourists from Vegas? Everest clients with limited power? It certainly couldn't be the nice, always smiling and always helpful Sherpas?
OK, enough kidding. The Sherpas have lost their honor in the past years. You can't even imagine how cunning they have become. Daring even - who will steal more, who will grab the most valuables - this is what the Sherpas are talking about when they are playing card in base camp.
<b>This robbery jeopardized my life</b>
No shame, no ethics - only money counts. The robbery I experienced at Camp 3 was simply a robbery on my life. Had I been just a bit more tired, I would probably have entered the tent and my body would have been found there the next season. Seriously.
The same with frostbite: Fortunately I did not take any medicine from the summit push till today. But what if I had come down with some light frostbite, which could have been treated by a few pills? The drugs were stolen, so we had to cut you toe, man. Sorry. On and on, imagine the consequences.
In 98% of the population, Sherpas are great guys. But the remaining 2% makes me think of them all in very dark colors, without any respect. Why? Because they tolerate the bad 2%. They are not aware what a bad behavior they represent.
<b>My call: What can we do, together, to save others?</b>
I would like to know how many other climbers have similar experiences. Can we do something about it, together? Most Sherpas are hired by big agencies. They don't steal from them or each other. They hunt on small groups and independent climbers. The big outfitters don't see the problem, as it doesn't involve them. But they employ Sherpas for whom they should be responsible.
To summarize; I would like to leave this topic to die. I got my summit and I will probably not visit Everest North Side again. But I care for other climbers' lives. So I wonder what we can do together to change this bad behavior - to make sure tents are not robbed? Or will it become necessary to have them wired at 220 volt?
<i>Marcin Miotk (32) made the first Polish Everest summit without oxygen. Polish climbers are legendary, and have done great things on Everest (1st winter ascent, new route, 3rd woman ascent). But all Everest climbs have been with oxygen. Marcin Miotk is the new generation of young Polish climbers. He has climbed Shisha Pangma Middle (1999), Cho Oyu (2003) and Tien-Shan range giants: Chan Tengri - (2002), Pobeda Peak Main Summit (2004). This year he took part in the Annapurna South Face Expedition - gaining new experience on the Bonnington route (no summit).
All images courtesy of Marcin.</i>
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