His fall

Here is a description of his fall from the only witness, Maya Fritzsche. Kris was not climbing dangerously, or taking unnecassary risks, as has been suggested by a junior collegue, Vakhtang Putkaradze, who claimed to be his friend

On 7th of July 2007 the weather in the Swiss region of Valais was splendid. Krzysztof and I had been struggling with rain in the first week of our holidays starting on 30th of June 2007. We had to return several times because of bad weather: Our first hike to Schwarzhorn (on Sunday 1st oh July with my son Maurice and his girlfriend Brigtte had been cut short because of bad weather, the second hike on the 3rd to Chischtehorn (just Krzysztof and me) had been shortened because of rain and the hike from Cabane Bertol on 4th of July with Maurice with the aim of going to Dent Blanche ended in a snowstorm. We just spent a night and had to go down the next day. Finally on the 7th we had good weather. Maurice and his friend Frank, who came to stay with us for 2 weeks (but left after the accident), went to Fletschhorn and Krzysztof and I went to the Jaegihorn. We had new gears for Klettersteigs and we were very proud of our successful climb of the Daubenhorn Klettersteig in the year 2006, which is the most difficult in the Swiss Alps.

Now it was the Jaegihorn. We had done it several years before. At that time we wanted to go to Lagginhorn and cancelled the hike because of bad weather. Returning down the weather was improving and we went to Jaegihorn (3206m) without problems. Meanwhile the Swiss Alpine Club built a difficult Klettersteig that goes over a bridge and a difficult network and then directly up to the top. Krzysztof was in excellent shape and we did the Klettersteig in a few hours. He was very happy then. On the return we picked mushrooms and arrived at the chalet in Giesch early in the evening. The chalet in Giesch was a bit run down, very old (about 500 years) and dark but we liked the surroundings and the approximaty to Bietschhorn. Krzysztof bought a book in 2006 about a mathematician who climbed Bietschhorn from the difficult southern side. His dedication: “after 13 years I love you even more” will be with me for lifetime.

The weather forecast for the 8th of July was not quite clear. The morning would be good, they said, but in the afternoon it would be raining. We decided to get up early and to go to Wilerhorn (3304m) which was just behind the chalet with an elevation of 3304m. We had done much more difficult mountains in the past Aletschhorn, Hohberghorn, Balfrin all about 4000m high and much more difficult). The Wilerhorn is famous for skiing as there is a big glacier in front of it. Krzysztof and I left the chalet around 5 o’clock and drove with the car up to about 1700m. We saw mushrooms on the way and said we would pick them in the evening for our dinner. The weather was so-so. It was not raining but clouded. Half way we put on the crampons. There I took the last picture of Krzysztof. I was a bit worried as he didn’t want to eat anything. Around 11 o’clock we arrived at the top of the glacier. It was just 150m to the top of Wilerhorn and we saw the cross on the top and decided to leave the backpacks on the little pass. Half way up to the top it started raining and we were about to return. Krzysztof was faster than I was. He was the one who wanted to go to Wilerhorn as there is a nice view to Bietschhorn from the top. Krzysztof would have liked to go to Bietschhorn. I was in the year 1993 on Bietschhorn with Maurice and I know how difficult it is (at that time Krzysztof didn’t hike much and he only started going to the mountains later). I was hoping for Krzysztof to be able to do the Bietschhorn either with Maurice or with a guide in 2008.

On 8th of July 2007 we didn’t see much of Bietschhorn. Wilerhorn is not a difficult mountain. It is not even famous and on a sunny day a child can do it. The difficulty is just the long hike over the glacier. We went to it because it was close to the chalet and the view on Bietschhorn is normally good.The last 150m to the top of Wilerhorn is not difficult, but as it is with every mountain, if there is new snow and wet stones it can become a problem. Half way up we thought about returning but the rain stopped and we decided to go on. Maurice and Frank meanwhile were on the top of Fletschhorn and already returning and we said, they will laugh about us. We did it and we were proud and wrote in the summit book our usual comments: Krzysztof - Maya team. Krzysztof would have preferred to go down the eastern way, the way we went up, but I was anxious about the 1-2m steps which are easy to go up but difficult to go down. He said: then you go first and I started going down towards the southern side in the rocks (later the alpine guide who was part of the rescue team said to me: you did the right thing). My last glance in his eyes was at that moment. A second later he fell. He touched my shoulder and I fell as well but just a few meters. Krzysztof fell with his body upright. He said: “oi” and I saw him falling a few meters and further on. I thought he might have an injury but then I saw Krzysztof falling. I started screaming but there was no sound coming from Krzysztof.

It took a long while before I could start moving. I lost my way down and went up and down and it was about two hours before I arrived at the backpacks where the mobiles were. I couldn’t call the Swiss rescue team as my mobile is German. I decided to call Maurice and he – already back in the valley waiting for the bus - called the REGA, Swiss emergency services. Afterwards I saw Krzysztof on the glacier. He had been falling down at least 170m. He was moving his arm. When the emergency service arrived we put his body in a transportation sack and they flew him down with their helicopter to an elevation of about 2000m. They came back and brought me down as well. With the helicopter was a doctor, a guide and a pilot. The doctor put a kind of a helmet on Krzysztof’s head and they flew him to the University Hospital in Berne. The guide accompanied me. In the Chalet I met Maurice and Frank. The next day we had to go to the police station. I reported everything. Afterwards we drove to Berne. The doctors told us that they had been operating Krzysztof for several hours. The main injuries were in his brain. Maurice has a good friend who is an anaesthesiologist at Inselspital Berne. On the 8th of July I called Dorota and Evan and asked them to call Krzysztof’s wife and his parents as I knew that he would call them every day.

At this point my life has ended. It is extremely hard to me to write about this accident. I hope, all of you who read my report will understand. Krzysztof was my friend for 15 years and he meant everything to me.

Maya Fritzsche

What happened after he fell?

It is now a year since he fell. It was the 8th of July 2007. Just two days after his mother's birthday and only few hours after he spoke to her for the last time on the phone. He never regained consciousness. The story of what happened to him and the cruelty to his beloved family after the accident and specifically after his return to Albuquerque defies belief. Krzysiu!!!! In your loving memory, I feel that this story must be told. Day by day and hour by hour..... events, conversations, phonecalls and emails. When I held your hand in Bern, telling you stories of our childhood and when I kissed your face for the last time in Albuquerque, I told you that our love is forever and you will never be forgotten. On the first anniversary of this tragedy, we went to the mountains and we each lit a candle for you. Our story will be told..........