An­drzej bargiel

Adventure - - Contents -

Ski­ing down the world's sec­ond largest moun­tain

It’s such a chal­leng­ing feat. Why did you want to do it? The idea was born when I climbed Broad Peak. When I was younger, I com­peted in alpine ski­ing, but the con­di­tions were too tricky for me to ski pro­fes­sion­ally. So I started to go on ex­pe­di­tions, and dis­cov­ered that I loved ski moun­taineer­ing. We cre­ated the ‘Hic Sunt Leones’ (‘Here come the Lions’) team with the goal of sum­mit­ing and ski­ing the world’s high­est peaks. Shisha­pangma was a first test in 2013, where we learned what it means to or­gan­ise an ex­pe­di­tion – it’s quite a chal­lenge! A year later we went to Manaslu, where I man­aged to sum­mit and ski down in only 14 hours. Af­ter sev­eral more trips I ended up on Broad Peak and ac­com­plished the first de­scent on skis. Dur­ing the long as­cent and de­scent I could see the face of K2, and I knew that it could be skied. I’d never thought about go­ing there be­fore, but when I saw the whole face from Broad Peak, I en­vi­sioned the line. I didn’t ex­pect go­ing there so soon, but af­ter win­ning the Snow Leop­ard tro­phy (which in­cluded climb­ing and ski­ing five ma­jor peaks), I felt I was ready. You’d made an at­tempt at K2 be­fore and had to pull out be­cause of the tem­per­a­tures and dan­ger­ous con­di­tions. Were you con­cerned some­thing like that might hap­pen again? In ret­ro­spect, last year ap­pears to have been much harder, be­cause we had to leave with­out achiev­ing our goal. There was a lot of rock­fall, it was dan­ger­ous and the avalanche dan­ger was ex­tremely high. The whole sit­u­a­tion was hard on me, I was des­per­ate for the right con­di­tions to come to­gether that would al­low me to make a se­ri­ous at­tempt. Last year, a new sum­mit route was opened, but I couldn’t af­ford to go. I wanted to climb the route which I would ski down later. At the time, noth­ing worked out, and af­ter­wards I hes­i­tated for a long time to come back. I don’t like to go back to the same places – but then I thought that I’d de­voted so much time, re­search and money into the project al­ready that I had to give it an­other shot. I was wor­ried that due to cli­mate change the big glacier would trans­form too fast, and that if I waited a few years be­fore com­ing back the line I had in mind wouldn’t work any­more and all the work would’ve been wasted. This year, ev­ery­thing fell into place, things felt much eas­ier. I acted much faster, which is why (the ski first de­scent) ul­ti­mately worked out. How did you train for the mis­sion? I didn’t have that much time to train be­cause I had to fo­cus on bring­ing the bud­get to­gether un­til the last minute. I even had to bor­row money from friends. I had the per­mis­sions but no money to go, it was tough. For­tu­nately, I live in the Ta­tra moun­tains, which is amaz­ing, be­cause I can go into the moun­tains even af­ter work. I live only three hours from Mount Kasprowy, where I keep ex­plor­ing new couloirs so I can de­velop and evolve my ski­ing and moun­taineer­ing. I also some­times go the Alps, if I can af­ford it. Those are great places to pre­pare, with many chal­lenges left. I love Cha­monix, I feel good there. There are a lot of chal­lenges left over there – I think I’ll be go­ing back. You helped to res­cue Scot­tish climber Rick Allen, did that bring ad­di­tional mean­ing to the moun­taineer­ing chal­lenge? We had to or­gan­ise the whole res­cue mis­sion our­selves, be­cause no­body was eager to do it. It was just af­ter I was sick, and it was quite com­pli­cated. It cost me a lot of nerves, but in the end it all worked out and was a great suc­cess. The whole team put all their en­ergy into it, and in the end other climbers helped us and sup­ported the res­cue. Were there any close shaves this time around and how aware were you of the dan­gers dur­ing your ski down? I was fully aware of the dan­gers at all times. I needed good vis­i­bil­ity and ex­cel­lent snow con­di­tions. We had a large te­le­scope that I used to ob­serve the face all the time. It’s es­sen­tial to have a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence, so based on your knowl­edge and the in­for­ma­tion you draw from ob­serv­ing na­ture you can find the right mo­ment to move and to act on the moun­tain. There are one or two steep sec­tions where you have to pass at the right time to be safe – so that the snow isn’t too hard or too soft and there’s no avalanche dan­ger, and the sun shines ex­actly on the spots where you need it but it’s not too warm, be­cause oth­er­wise you have ser­acs (ice blocks) fall­ing on your head. There’s a lot of data. Any­one who’s pro­fes­sion­ally in­volved in moun­taineer­ing, climb­ing or ski­ing must have this ex­per­tise, be­cause no­body can judge the sit­u­a­tion for you. This was com­pli­cated, be­cause the tem­per­a­ture dif­fer­ences on the face are sig­nif­i­cant: mi­nus-30 de­grees Cel­sius at the top, plus-30 de­grees at the bot­tom. Add to that the tem­per­a­ture change be­tween day and night, and you have to fac­tor a lot of vari­ables in. You have to go into this with a clear head and a calm mind. When you are ski­ing down, is it a peace­ful ex­pe­ri­ence? Or stress­ful and feels like you are on the edge the whole time? It’s 100 per­cent con­cen­tra­tion. Reach­ing the sum­mit, I didn’t feel like a win­ner. I got there, put warmer clothes on and took a photo of my­self. I acted a bit like a ma­chine, be­cause I knew the most im­por­tant and most dif­fi­cult part was still ahead of me. For­tu­nately I work in a way that such a chal­lenge cuts me off from ev­ery­thing. Noth­ing scares me. I might’ve wor­ried be­fore, dur­ing prepa­ra­tion, but when the time comes, I just do it. This is su­per help­ful in cri­sis sit­u­a­tions as well. I try to do my best,

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