Rescuers save French climber trapped on Pakistan's 'killer mountain'

Nanga Parbat earned the nicknamed "killer mountain" after more than 30 climbers died trying to conquer it before the first successful summit in 1953. PHOTO: ST FILE
Polish climber Tomasz Mackiewicz during his trip on Nanga Parbat in January 2014. PHOTO: REUTERS

ISLAMABAD (AFP, REUTERS) - An elite group of climbers saved a French mountaineer in a daring night-time rescue on a Pakistan peak nicknamed "killer mountain", but officials on Sunday (Jan 28) called off the search for a second missing climber.

The team of Polish climbers with support from the Pakistani military launched the attempt on Saturday afternoon to rescue stranded French mountaineer Elisabeth Revol, but were unable to reach Polish national Tomasz Mackiewicz, also known as Tomek, on Nanga Parbat.

"The rescue for Tomasz is unfortunately not possible - because of the weather and altitude it would put the life of rescuers in extreme danger," wrote Ludovic Giambiasi, a friend of Revol, in a series of updates on Facebook.

"It's a terrible and painful decision."

The four rescuers were flown by the Pakistani military from the base camp of K2 - the world's second-highest peak - to reach the stranded climbers.

They were part of a Polish expedition seeking to become the first mountaineers to summit K2's peak during the winter, when good climbing days are rare.

"The K2 climbers who stopped their historic effort for a winter K2 summit will descend with Elisabeth Revol - one life saved," said Karar Haideri, spokesman for the Alpine Club of Pakistan, in a statement on Sunday.

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Following the operation, the Polish team are set to return to K2 base camp where they will continue their summit attempt.

"This operation hasn't affected the K2 (expedition)," Michal Leksinski, a spokesman for the team, told AFP.

"This will go into the history of mountaineering. It was one of the greatest rescue attempts in history."

The rescue mission was launched after the missing alpinists were located on Friday by fellow mountaineers using binoculars, who spotted Revol attempting to climb down while Mackiewicz appeared to be crawling due to frostbite.

The pair ran into trouble after making a late descent to a camp Thursday. They were trapped on the side of the mountain for the night without a tent, battered by frigid temperatures and high winds, said Shah.

A crowdfunding campaign to finance the rescue had raised nearly US$100,000 (S$130, 740) on Sunday, when news about Revol emerged.

Masha Gordon, who coordinated the GoFundMe campaign, said they were thrilled that Revol had been found.

"We are crying from happiness," Gordon posted.

She said the funds raised would also go to Mackiewicz's family.

"PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE continue however modest contributions for Tomek's wife Anna and his 3 kids. We are devastated that nothing could have been done for him by the rescue team. I will personally account for all money disbursed in a publically available file," Gordon said.

Nanga Parbat, in northern Pakistan, is the world's ninth-highest mountain at 8,125 metres.

It earned the nickname "killer mountain" after more than 30 climbers died trying to climb it before the first successful summit in 1953.

The mountain was first summited in the winter in February 2016 by Italian alpinst Simone Moro and his team - Alex Txikon of Spain and Pakistani climber Ali Sadpara - who overcame frostbite and pummelling winds to reach the peak.

In July last year (2017), a Spaniard and an Argentinian were presumed dead after they went missing while trying to summit Nanga Parbat.

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