Mountain rescue

Pakistan is a Nirvana for mountaineers and high altitude trekkers and adventurers. It has some of the most difficult technical climbing in the world and even the most-visited peaks still have unclimbed routes. Nanga Parbat is the toughest of challenges and is rarely summited. It is marginally less dangerous in colder months as the risk of avalanche is lower, but it is not known as a ‘killer’ mountain for nothing. Two foreign climbers are stranded there and a massive effort is under way to rescue them. French climber Elisabeth Revol and the Pole Tomek Mackiewicz got stuck at 7,400m. Revol managed to get Mackiewich to a lower safe point then descended to 6,670m herself. Her position is confirmed by telescope from Nanga Parbat base camp and she reports that her left foot was frostbitten. Mackiewicz is reported in ‘serious’ condition but both have food.

Mountain rescues in such terrain are expensive, and the $50,000 needed to pay for a helicopter was crowd-funded within six hours but even if the helicopter gets close it is limited by the altitude it can achieve with about 6,000m as a ceiling. Then it has to get in close to the lowest point the climbers can make and get a winch and a man down to them.

The Polish government has mobilised funds to support the rescue but the grim reality is that this is on the very edge of the possible for both man and machine. Lives are lost every year on the mountains of Pakistan both by climbers and those who go to their aid when in difficulty. Perhaps inevitably questions are raised about whether scarce resources should be deployed to assist people that have got themselves into trouble and what — if any — is the responsibility of the host nation where they practise their extreme sport. We leave the question open.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 28th, 2018.

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Group of climbers saved a French woman in the rescue mission on Nanga Parbat

  • Copters pick up volunteers from K2 to rescue climbers stranded on Nanga Parbat

    Pak Army launch rescue operation to find missing foreign mountaineers at Nanga Parbat: ISPR

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