Friday, November 8, 2013

Winter Nanga Parbat | Body of Joel Wischnewski Has Been Recovered

The body of French climber and snowboarder, Joel Wischnewski, who went missing while winter climbing Nanga Parbat, has been recovered from the mountain. “He now rests in peace at the Herrligkoffer's alpinists' cemetery [near Nanga Parbat Base Camp].” Daniel Wischnewski, Joel’s brother, wrote to me yesterday.

Joel Wischnewski in France before leaving for Nanga Parbat. [27-Dec-12]

"Moving up [from C2 at 4300m]: The central pillar and the wall are too dry. I’m going to try the S-E pillar. I’ve got 3 days. Bye, take care and thanks for following," were the final words of Joel, which he published on his website on February 6th. Concerns arose about his safety when he didn’t reconnect after three days. The absence of communication prolonged and eventually a search and rescue operation was launched on February 16th. Due to adverse winter conditions, the search efforts remained intermittent and rescuers couldn’t go above C2. Option of aerial search couldn’t be realized either, because of various reasons. No trace of young French climber could be found, despite repeated search attempts that lasted for more than a month.

Joel shot Rupal Face under magical evening light on 20-Jan-13.

Joel Wischnewski left France at the end of December 2012 to solo attempt a new route variation on Rupal Face of Nanga Parbat, without supplemental oxygen. He reached the Base Camp on January 9th, 2013. During trek to BC (and while waiting for his baggage in Tarishing village), he suffered abdominal pain caused by some bacteria or virus - a problem that lasted throughout the trip. In next couple of weeks, he established two camps at 4150m and 4300m. On January 25th Joel came down to Rupal village to replace his faulty battery charger. On February 1st, he went up again. Bad weather halted the climb until 6th - the day when Joel left C2.

Joel (center) with Fida Hussain (left) & his cousin at BC on 31-Jan-13

Although, search operation during the winter months remained unsuccessful, the conditions changed in summer. After snow-melt, the boots of Joel became visible at the start of September. Locals from nearby villages saw the body and notified the French embassy and Wischnewski family about it.

Melting some water at Base Camp.

It’s reported that upon French embassy’s request Brigadier (r) M Akram Khan (of Adventure Foundation Pakistan) organized an expedition to bring the body down. As per Daniel, “After receiving the due authorization, a team composed of helpful rural villagers went up and brought Joel's body back [on] October the 10th. As it was Joel's wish; he now rests in peace at the Herrligkoffer's alpinists' cemetery.” Liaison Officer Fida Hussain and another local Abdul Rauf identified the body of deceased mountaineer.

Daniel says that the body was located at around 6100m, “with his ice axe in his hand, probably [he was] moving between two camps.” This makes him believe that, “[Joel] was probably hit by an avalanche.

January 13 from Camp 1: "The mega avalanche just came over me. Incredible. It’s like an earthquake and a giant wave together, huge ones. The bivi spot is very well protected by the rock tower. It’s safe and strong. When I saw this spot, I had something like this in my mind. But I had no idea of the brutality of a monster avalanche." It appears that Joel was hit by an avalanche at around 6000m.

Discovery of Joel’s body provides some answers to the riddle that what might have happened to him. Also, it’s a moment of contentment that he has eventually been buried ‘gracefully’ and that he now rests at the foot of the mountain he loved so much.

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