Hundreds of Poles head to Everest in Independence Day celebration

A few of the 400 pose for a selfie at Warsaw airport before leaving for Nepal. PAP/PAP

Hundreds of Poles are heading to the Himalaya to celebrate the centenary of Polish independence and maybe break a Guinness world record at the same time.

The bulk of the mountaineering Poles left Warsaw on October 6 on the long journey that will culminate in 400 people making the trek from Kathmandu to the Everest base camp.

"We have the logistical capacity to cope with a maximum of 400 people for less than a month,” Janusz Kalinowski, the man behind the event, told TFN. “There are exactly 400 taking part in this event. It actually will be a Guinness world record for 400 people from one country to trek from Kathmandu to the foot of Mt. Everest within 20 days”.

Some of the 400 intend to keep on going up when they reach the base camp in a bid to climb Everest but most will be content with just having reached base camp. Others will also run a super-marathon lasting 100 kilometres, which means one kilometre for every year of independence.

More than 30 Poles died while climbing the Himalaya summits in last decades. The group want to commemorate them.Bartłomiej Zborowski/PAP

The youngest participant is an 8-month-old girl who will join her parents on the trek. Everybody is allowed to participate in the trek and the marathon, but only experienced mountaineers will be allowed a crack at the summit.

"Independence means freedom, and on the highest mountain you can feel freedom at its best, you breathe it in the air," said Gabi, one of trekkers.

All the events are part of the “Polish Himalaya 2018” project, which was started three years ago and has proved to be a hit with the public. The registration process was closed in 2015 after being open for just a few weeks owing to a huge number of people wanting to go to Nepal. Some 2,000 people, including Poles living Germany, Belgium and the UK, applied for the 400 places. 

Participants will also distribute toys to children who were victims of the 2015 earthquake.Bartłomiej Zborowski/PAP

The safety of the participants is under the supervision of some of Poland’s best cardiologists, physiotherapists and Himalayan mountaineers, including Anna Czerwińska, Leszek Cichy, Krzysztof Wielicki, Dariusz Załuski, Rafal Fronia. "Today I can say that no-one, or no country has organized such a project," says Leszek Cichy, who was the first Polish climber to complete the Seven Summits, the challenge of climbing the highest peak on each of the seven continents.

"We are getting a royal welcome here,” says Kalinowski, who has been in Nepal for several days now. “Many organizations in Nepal and India are willing to help us and offer their support in many different ways.”

Apart from taking red and white flags and hundreds of kilograms of supplies participants are also taking medicines, medical equipment, clothes and toys for the victims of the 2015 earthquake.