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ISLAMABAD: Undeterred by the 8,047-metre Broad Peak’s reputation as unconquerable in winter, a team of Polish and Pakistani mountaineers have taken on the challenge, only to find themselves stuck for days at Base Camp I.
The nine-member team led by veteran Polish mountaineer Krzysztof Wielicki left Skardu last Thursday.
The temperature was 10 degrees centigrade below zero and the snow was falling heavily; bad weather that seems to have followed them all the way to Broad Peak.
According to the Alpine Club of Pakistan (ACP), the team has been stuck at Base Camp I for days. The last word received from Base Camp came two days ago with the team hoping that yesterday will offer clearer weather and an opportunity to continue their ascent.
Karrar Haidri, a member of the ACP Executive Council, acknowledged that Broad Peak in winter was no ordinary challenge, saying, “The Mountain is throwing everything at these climbers.”
During winter on the high peaks in the Karokaram, he added, the wind can blow at speeds up to 100km an hour, and temperatures can drop to 70 degrees Celsius below freezing.
While no climber has ever reached the summit of Broad Peak in winter, this team may stand a chance.
Wielicki, 62, was the fifth person to climb all of the ‘eight-thousanders’, the 14 mountains more than 8,000 metres high.
Two Polish members of the team, Adam Bielecki and Janusz Golab, made history last March with the first winter ascent of 8,068-metre Gasherbrum-I.
On that climb, Bielecki and Golab were accompanied by Pakistani mountaineer Shaheen Baig, a member of the ACP, who has twice before attempted winter ascents of Broad Peak.
Baig has climbed three of the other eight-thousanders, including K2, and has taken part in winter expeditions to Gasherbrum-II and other mountains.
Rounding out the team are Aminullah Baig and other local mountaineers, along with high-altitude porters.
Wielicki’s team is not the only group attempting challenging winter climbs this season: There are five foreign expeditions in Pakistan planning ascents on the 8,125-metre Nanga Parbat another mountain that has never before been climbed in winter.