Veteran Polish climber Krzysztof Wielicki was leading an expedition up the renowned Himalayan K2 summit in January when he got word by satellite phone that two climbers were in trouble—on another mountain. The 68-year-old Wielicki tells Outside that he saw only one choice: He needed to organize a quick flight to the nearby Nanga Parbat, nicknamed "Killer Mountain," to try to rescue Elisabeth Revol and Tomasz Mackiewicz. He asked the other 13 climbers at the K2 base camp if any would be willing to interrupt their own climb for the mission. "Every single one said yes," he recalls. In the end, he chose four to participate in what would be "one of the most daring rescues in mountaineering history," per the story by Marcin Jamkowski. First came the treacherous helicopter flight and landing on a rocky platform on Nanga Parbat at 15,750 feet, in the dead of winter.
Then Denis Urubko and Adam Bielecki began climbing, quickly, having no idea where the two stranded climbers might be. "In roughly 4,200 feet of climbing, they used only 10 placements—effectively climbing unprotected for one of the world’s more difficult climbs at altitude and in winter," writes Jamkowski. At last, they found a dehydrated and frostbitten Revol, who reported that Mackiewicz was still further up, unable to move. "We understood that if we left Elisabeth and went up for Tomasz, she would die," Bielecki says. "And if we even reach Tomasz—and he was still alive—we would not be able to get down Nanga Parbat's terrain with someone who cannot walk." They made the agonizing decision to leave him and guide Revol, who could not move her hands and had been hallucinating, down the mountain to safety. Click for the full story. (Read more Longform stories.)