The odyssey of the two Czech climbers Marek Holecek and Radoslav Groh on the seven-thousander Baruntse in eastern Nepal has found a happy end. The two were flown out today by helicopter to Kathmandu. The pictures that Marek posted on Instagram – apparently from a hospital – give the impression that the 46-year-old survived the ten days on the mountain marked, but apparently relatively unscathed. Holecek and Groh had set out from base camp last Wednesday to open a new route through the challenging Northwest Face of Baruntse in alpine style – with no fixed high camps, no bottled oxygen and no Sherpa support.
Four bivouac nights at 7,000 meters
Still on the face, they were caught by the remnants of a cyclone that had raged over the Bay of Bengal. In the Khumbu region, there were days of strong winds and heavy snowfall. After Holecek and Groh completed their route on Tuesday and climbed to the 7,129-meter-high summit, they were trapped – as reported – for four days and nights at an altitude of about 7,000 meters: with zero visibility and sometimes hurricane-like gusts. It was not until Saturday that the weather calmed down. With high avalanche danger Marek and Radoslav descended about 1,100 meters and finally reached safe terrain, where the helicopter could pick them up.
Three days encore
On Mount Everest, bad weather had also caused a standstill on the mountain. Some teams had descended, others had held out at Camp 2 at 6,400 meters. With the permission of the Nepalese government, the climbing season was extended until 3 June for final summit attempts. Actually, the “Icefall Doctors” – highly specialized Sherpas who maintain the route through the dangerous Khumbu Icefall above base camp during the season – had been scheduled to begin dismantling the ropes and ladders in the icefall on 31 May.