Elisabeth Revol and Tomek Mackiewicz on Nanga Parbat

© Tomek Mackiewicz Collection

On 25th January 2018 Elisabeth Revol and Tomek Mackiewicz reached the summit of Nanga Parbat 8126m in Pakistan. The French-Polish team climbed the Messner-Eisendle-Tomaseth route in alpine style, with minimal support and equipment and without oxygen. Unfortunately, Tomek became ill after summitting and their descent turned into a rescue ordeal that is as yet inconclusive, with Elisabeth undergoing treatment for frostbite in France and Tomek officially reported missing on the mountain.

Tomek and Elisabeth on Nanga Parbat  © Tomek Mackiewicz Collection
Tomek and Elisabeth on Nanga Parbat
© Tomek Mackiewicz Collection

Soon after reaching the summit it became apparent that Tomek had suffered severe frost bite, snow blindness and altitude sickness. They quickly began descending and spent the night in a crevasse at approximately 7400m. The next day Tomek's condition deteriorated and with Elisabeth's assistance he managed to get down to camp 4 at 7200m. Exhausted herself, Elisabeth called for rescue and continued to descend on her own, leaving Tomek in a shelter with a sleeping bag and a gas stove.

In the meantime, members of the Polish Association of Alpinism (PZA) winter K2 expedition, directed by Krzysztof Wielicki, expressed their readiness to undergo a rescue operation. However, a delay was caused by the the Pakistani army awaiting the warranty from the Polish government to secure the payment for two helicopters and pilots. At the same time, an internet crowd-funding petition started by a friend and fellow mountaineer, Masha Gordon, managed to raise the required amount of money for the rescue to go ahead.

Tomek pointing at Nanga Pabat  © Tomek Mackiewicz Collection
Tomek pointing at Nanga Pabat
© Tomek Mackiewicz Collection
Late afternoon on the 27th of January, a rescue team comprising elite mountaineers Adam Bielecki, Denis Urubko, Jaroslaw Botor - high altitude paramedic - and Piotr Tomala were dropped below Nanga Parbat base camp at 4900m. Adam and Denis began climbing straight away, while Jarek and Piotr set up the camp. After an exceptionally fast ascent of over 1100m, around 2am on the 28th of January they established contact with Elisabeth, who was approaching camp II at 6100m. Once united with the casualty, they administered first aid to Revol, who was now suffering from severe frost bite to her limbs and was unable to abseil the rest of the way down on her own. Elisabeth confirmed that she and Tomek had reached the summit and that he was very unwell and unable to walk on his own at the time she left him. Taking into account considerable risk, levels of exhaustion and worsening weather conditions the rescue team made the heartbreaking decision not to continue climbing in an attempt to save Tomek.

After a night spent in a shelter at Camp II, Adam and Denis began to lower Eli off down the Kinshofer wall. Later on that day, all three reached Camp I, where Elisabeth was taken by helicopter to the hospital in Islamabad.

The prompt and extremely well-organised rescue effort was highly praised by the climbing community worldwide.

Elisabeth Revol  © Tomek Mackiewicz Collection
Elisabeth Revol
© Tomek Mackiewicz Collection
Elisabeth Revol, 38 is an alpinist and a PE teacher from Saou in France. At the age of 19 she swapped gymnastics for climbing. She has climbed in the Bolivian Andes, the Karakoram and the Himalaya. In 2007, she made a solo ascent of Broad Peak and Gasherbrum I and II within a 16 day period, without the aid of oxygen. In 2009 Elisabeth climbed Annapurna, where her partner Martin Minarik died during the descent and she was rescued by a helicopter after suffering from frostbite.

After a four year break, she joined Tomek Mankiewicz in his winter attempts of Nanga Parbat and in 2015 they reached 7800m. In May 2017 Revol soloed Lhotse without oxygen. She also attempted an oxygen free ascent of Everest in the same year. On 25th of January 2018, Elisabeth and Tomek reached the summit of Nanga Parbat. She was the second ever woman to climb an 8000m peak in winter after the Swiss climber Marianne Chapuisat, who climbed Cho Oyu 8188m in 1993. Elisabeth and Tomek were also the second-ever team to climb Nanga Parbat in winter. Last year the summit was reached by Simone Moro, Alex Txikon and Muhammad Ali Sadpara. Tamara Lunger, who was part of the team, didn't manage to reach the summit due to severe altitude sickness, stopping less than 100 below the summit.

Tomek Mackiewicz  © Tomek Mackiewicz Collection
Tomek Mackiewicz
© Tomek Mackiewicz Collection
Tomek Mackiewicz, 43, from Poland, first tried rock climbing and caving while at college. He was an outsider to the Polish high altitude climbing scene. A recovered heroine addict, he started his Himalayan adventure while travelling in India. He climbed lower peaks whilst gazing at the eight-thousanders from the distance. His first alpine achievement was an ascent of Mount Logan (5,959m) in Canada together with Marek Klonowski in 2008. Later Tomek soloed Khan Tengri (7,010m). Tomek's obsession with Nanga Parbat was born when together with Marek he started a project called Nanga Dream-Justice for all. Their first budget-style attempt was regarded as a joke by the Polish Himalayan climbing elite. Without hiring porters or purchasing their fixed-ropes at the farm supply shop, they didn't fit into the image of highly institutionalised, well-organised Polish climbing expeditions, with official sponsors and mainstream media coverage. Tomek funded his expeditions through crowdfunding and working on the construction sites during the summer months. Respect for his efforts grew with his achievements. During three winters spent in various snow holes at Nanga, waiting for the storm to pass, he managed to reach 7400m. In 2014 Tomek joined Daniele Nadrim and Elisabeth Revol in an attempt to reach the summit via the Messner route. Since then, Elisabeth and Tomek came back to Nanga every winter. Tomek reached the summit on his 7th attempt. He is now officially missing.

As the cost of the rescue helicopters has now been fully covered by the Polish government, all money raised so far on crowd funding platforms will now be donated to support Tomek's wife and his three children.

If you wish to make a donation please click here

The video below is Tomek talking about his preparation for the Nanga Parbat ascent.

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31 Jan, 2018

That is properly heroic, heart breaking stuff.

31 Jan, 2018

Thank you for this report Ola.

31 Jan, 2018

No problem!

1 Feb, 2018

This will go down as one of the most daring and impressive big mountain rescues ever performed. The decision not to try for Tomek, though difficult, seems like the best decision under the circumstances. Oh, and I'm surprised UKC didn't have this story much earlier.


1 Feb, 2018

That comment comes across as ignorant of just how difficult and risky it can be to get someone down from high altitude. 

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