The Alpine Club has honoured Polish climbers Adam Bielecki, Denis Urubko, Piotr Tomala and Jarosław Botor with a Spirit of Mountaineering Commendation for their high-profile rescue operation on Nanga Parbat in January this year.
The award was inaugurated in 1981 by the Alpine Club to "acknowledge and thank those who, in the true spirit of mountaineering, have unselfishly given exceptional assistance to those in need of help in the mountains." British mountaineer Victor Saunders presented the award to Urubko and Bielecki at the Ladek Mountain Festival in Poland.
On 27th January, the four mountaineers abandoned their winter K2 expedition after news reached them that Tomek Mackiewicz (POL) and Elisabeth Revol (FRA) were in difficulty on Nanga Parbat. The team was dropped at Base Camp at 4900m. After an exceptionally fast ascent of over 1100m, Bielecki and Urubko established contact with Revol, who was approaching Camp II at 6100m.
The team administered first aid to Revol, who was suffering from severe frostbite to her limbs and was unable to abseil the rest of the way down on her own. Revol confirmed that she and Mackiewicz had reached the summit, but that he had become very unwell and was unable to walk on his own at the time she left him. Taking into account the considerable risk, levels of exhaustion and worsening weather conditions, the rescue team made the decision not to continue climbing in an attempt to save Tomek.
After a night spent in a shelter at Camp II, Bielecki and Urubko began to lower Revol off down the Kinshofer wall. Later on that day, all three reached Camp I, where Revol 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.