New Polish tragedy

11.07.2013. - Stipe Božić

7 July the 51-year-old great Polish alpinists Artur Hajzer died while falling down the Japanese couloir on Gasherbrum I (8068m). 

It all happened last Sunday, on 7 July. According to explorersweb, Artur Hajzer and Marcin Kaczkan had left Camp 3 intent on reaching the summit of Gasherbrum I (8068 m). Their goal was to climb GI and GII in rapid succession, but at 7600m they were forced to turn around due to strong winds. After returning to Camp 3 at 7150m the two Polish mountaineers continued their descent to Camp 2 at 6400m. Then the drama.

According to still partial reconstruction of events, Artur Hajzer fell while the two were descending the Japanese couloir. From this point onwards reports are confused and, according to some sources, it seems as if Marcin Kaczkan fell, too, and reached Camp II not without difficulty. Here he was joined by a rescue team of Russian mountaineers and is expected to return to Base Camp later today. While for Hajzer all hope is lost.

Born on 28 June 1962, Artur Hajzer, was part of that legendary generation of Polish mountaineers. That of Jerzy Kukuczka and Krzysztof Wielicki. Hajzer had numerous historic ascents to his name, such as the first winter ascent of Annapurna on 3 February 1987 together with Kukuczka, with whom a few months earlier he had established a new route up the NE Face of Manaslu. Along with Kukuczka, in September that same year, Hajzer breached the unclimbed West Ridge of Shisha Pangma in alpine style. Other noteworthy attempts include the fearsome South Face of Lhotse where, in 1987 yet again and together with Wielicki, he reached an altitude of 8516m, a mere 200m short of the summit. While in 1988 along with Kukuczka had established a new route up the SE Face of Annapurna (8010m).

Artur Hajzer had returned to the Himalaya to support the new generation of Polish mountaineers, and his death hails the departure of a great Himalayan mountaineer. This is an immense tragedy for Polish mountaineering. The second after the deaths, last March, of Maciej Berbeka and Tomasz Kowalski who died after the first winter ascent of Broad Peak.