American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Nepal, Tilitso Ascent and Tragedy

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1989

Tilitso Ascent and Tragedy. Our expedition from Moravia, Czechoslovakia was led by Jirí Bobák and I was the climbing leader. The other climbers were Dr. Raimund Mikal, Petr Gríbek, Leoš Horka, Zdenek Krácmar, Ludvík Palecek and Dalibor Trpík. We were seriously delayed by baggage problems. We could finally begin our approach from Jomsom on October 2 and reached the western foot of the Tilitso West col. Because of snow, neither the porters nor donkeys could cross the col to the eastern side. Therefore, we had to set up Base Camp on the western side at 4600 meters on October 3. We had to climb the pass, descend to the other side and ascend to the foot of the north face to 5200 meters to Camp I. Despite deteriorating weather, Horka and Gríbek took turns with Palecek and me preparing the route and fixing rope on the northwest buttress. Palecek and I pitched Camp II at 5700 meters. After that it was the turn of Horka and Gríbek to continue on and set up Camp III at 6100 meters on the icy terrain above the rock buttress. We expected them to come down for a rest, but they started the final assault from there on October 18. They had an icy wall in front of them with a 1000-meter altitude gain. They climbed relatively slowly and just before sunset reached the summit where they had a hard night without bivouac equipment. Their unexpected assault caused a change in plans. Also on October 18, Palecek, together with Krácmar, set out from Base Camp and spent the night in Camp I. The next morning, they made out two figures moving down from the summit. That was the last time they were seen alive. On the 19th Dr. Mikal and I left for Camp I while Palecek and Krácmar ascended to Camp II. The next morning Palecek continued alone to Camp III as his companion was not well. He explored the area above Camp III and returned for the night. I had climbed alone to Camp II and on October 21 climbed to the area just below Camp III, looking for anything that was moving. That same morning Palecek left Camp III at four A.M. While it was still dark, he reached the place where the Japanese and French routes met. Not far above, he found equipment left by Horka and Gríbek. In fine weather he pressed on to the summit, where he found proof of the other two’s success. On the descent he discovered their bodies about 300 meters from the route of ascent. They had fallen about 500 meters and probably were killed during the fall. He covered them with snow and marked the place with a broken ice axe before descending to Camp II to bring me the news of the terrible outcome of his search. We evacuated Camps II and I and sent a full report to the liaison officer, who spent the entire expedition, apart from a few days at the beginning, in a hotel in Jomsom.

Vlastimil Šmída, Moravia, Czechoslovakia

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