Kangchenjunga, First Winter Ascent and Tragedy, 1986. A 17-man Polish expedition led by Andrzej Machnik made the first winter ascent of the world’s third highest mountain. Base Camp was established on December 10 at 5100 meters. They climbed the first-ascent route on the southwest side without Sherpas or artificial oxygen. They placed Camps I, II, III and IV at 6200, 6700, 7250 and 7750 meters on December 15, 20, January 2 and 3, 1986. They fixed ropes to there. After heavy snowfalls in late December, the weather in January was clear, but windy and cold. Jerzy Kukuczka and Krzysztof Wielicki arrived at Base Camp on December 20. On January 4 they tried to set out from Camp IV but were turned back by bad weather. On January 7 Andrzej Czok, Przemyslaw Piasecki, Kukuczka and Wielicki set out again from Base Camp. Despite strong winds, they proceeded rapidly from camp to camp, but they found all tents damaged by storm and snow. They set up all camps again. On January 10 they reached Camp IV. Czok was not feeling well but hoped to continue the next day. At daybreak on January 11, 1986, he decided to descend with Piasecki and “return after rest in the lower camps.” Kukuczka and Wielicki started on the final push. Higher it was colder and windier. Wielicki described the struggle as “physically and mentally very demanding.” At 1:30 P.M. he reached the summit and waited an hour before Kukuczka arrived. The visibility was good but the temperature about –35° C. He could not prevent frostbite. They found on top three yellow oxygen bottles and a broken red-and-white survey pole. Meanwhile as Czok descended, he showed evident signs of pulmonary edema. His condition worsened rapidly. A small rescue team came from Camp III. In that camp they did all they could for him, being in radio contact with the doctor in Base Camp, but at eleven P.M. Andrzej Czok expired. The next day he was buried in a crevasse near Camp III. Wielicki and Kukuczka attended the ceremony. Kangchenjunga is the fifth 8000er to be climbed in the winter. For Kukuczka this is his tenth 8000er and the third in winter. Wielicki has climbed four 8000ers, two in winter.
Józef Nyka, Editor, Taternik, Poland