Hero climber saves three Russians stranded on one of the world’s deadliest mountains
A Polish climber has been hailed a hero after helping to save three Russians who went missing on one of the world’s deadliest peaks.
Mountaineer Waldemar Kowalewski had just returned to base after reaching the summit of the Nepalese Annapurna when he heard that radio contact with the three Russians who had been descending the same peak had been lost, with no communication for 24 hours.
Annapurna has the greatest fatality rate of 14 mountains known as eight-thousanders.
But despite the dangers, and without proper rest from his own climbing endeavour, Kowalewski packed his rucksack and set off back up the 7,000 metre slope to look for the men.
Writing on social media he later said: “I decided there was something I could do. I packed, took my radio, three thermoses of hot water and 24 hours after descending to base, still worn out, I set off in the direction of ABC [an exposed base].”
Halfway through the gruelling climb, during a rest from the freezing temperatures, the intrepid 46-year-old then spotted signs of life.
He said: “And the impossible happened, the clouds passed and I saw a flashing white light. The boys were calling for help at the level of the 4th base, below the 7000m point.”
Taking a photo showing the flashing light and the men’s position, he then raced back to base camp where, arriving at 3am, he alerted the Sherpas and their rescue team.
Setting off in a helicopter, Kowalewski led the team to where the freezing Russians were sheltering before experienced mountaineer and rescuer Gezman Szerpa attached himself to a 20-metre line of rope and rappelled down to the waiting men.
One by one, the men were choppered back to the camp, where two of them had to have their fingers amputated.
Russianclimb, the climbing team the Russians were with later tweeted: “A very detailed description of the ascent and rescue of our guys. Thanks you so much, Waldemar Kowalewski!!!”
The hero climber later said: “The rescue operation is unprecedented, that at this height with the lack of possibility of landing, it is possible to leave the rescuer behind and transport each man separately by a line attached below the helicopter and bring them back to base…I had the chance to work with the best, it was an honour.”