One of the last pictures of Vlado Plulík

During his attempt to climb the summit of Broad Peak on June 25-26, 2008, Vlado Plulik (currently missing) was wearing a pair of yellow and black high altitude boots (La Sportiva), black trousers, a red and black jacket (Mammut), a blue hat, XBIONIC underwear, a red, black and grey backpack, black gloves, goggles with black frames (Julbo Colorado Sunglasses), and he had poles and crampons. In his backpack, he had an ice pick (Petzl), 15m of 6mm thick rope, an ice screw, 2-3 lock carabineers including a HMS one, a bottle, perhaps some energy bars, gels and drinks, and a camera (Olympus µ 1030 SW – silver in colour).

His family will be grateful for any information from mountaineers who have been on Broad Peak.

Vlado Plulik update: a family's search for truth about the Baltoro Express

The Standpoint of the Commission of Alpinism of JAMES - the Slovak Mountaineering Association - to the actions of Jozef Kopold, the member of the Representative „A“ Team

    The Commission of Alpinism, at its session on 29 November 2008 in Maninska Tiesnava, Slovakia, established that the pieces of information on the events at Baltoro Express expedition provided by Jozef Kopold are not true.

    Inaccurate and misleading information about alleged reaching of the summits of Gasherbrum I and Broad Peak by Jozef Kopold, but especially Kopold´s untrue description of events related to tragic death of Vlado Plulik were interpreted by the Commission of Alpinism as a grave violation of the ethical and sport performance principles of the mountaineering association, and as such irreconcilable with the position of a member of the national representative team of SHS JAMES.


   The Commission of Alpinism has studied carefully and in detail all the pieces of information about the events at Baltoro Express expedition. Proclaimed Dodo Kopolds´s summiting Gasherbrum I and Broad Peak has not been substantiated with relevant evidence. In case of GI, it is the „summit“ photo submitted by Jozef Kopold which directly casts doubt upon his proclamation – and constitutes an indirect proof of him not reaching the summit itself. In case of Broad Peak summiting, no relevant photographic evidence exists at all. Moreover, Kopold´s description of his Broad Peak ascent and its claimed time course in confrontation with the geographic configuration and terrain of Broad Peak undoubtedly prove that Kopold did not reach the main summit of Broad Peak.

  The Commission of Alpinism further established that fundamental guiding principles of   SHS JAMES were violated: not only their sport performance aspects, but mainly its ethical aspects. Kopold´s description of the events which preceded the death of Vlado Plulik (their description was adjusted and modified several times by Kopold himself) has been directly questioned by independent evidence given by Valerij Babanov and Viktor Lutov. More detailed presentation of facts is inescapable in this case, and is provided here:

   According to Jozef Kopold, on June 26, 2008 the team of Kopold-Plulik decided to change the original plan of their ascent and left „the normal route“ to climb the headwall of Broad Peak (in fact, the headwall in question is the headwall of the foresummit of Broad Peak, called Rocky Summit, not of the main summit – as claimed by Kopold repeatedly in his dispatches). The team divided and according to Kopold, Plulik returned to „the normal route“ to continue his ascent, while Kopold continued climbing the headwall in question. This fact was subsequently changed by Kopold: in his later report (in the section called Chronology of Ascents) he says that Plulik climbed 100 m left of him in the same headwall. According to Kopold, the team continued climbing all afternoon and evening - and he says that they could see each other during the time. Kopold describes last visual contact with Plulik around 8pm (in the altitude about 7900 m), when Plulik dug a snow cave under Rocky Summit, while Kopold proceeded up the wall to reach the summit ridge. Next day, June 27, 2008, Kopold describes traces manifesting the descent of Plulik to about 6500 m above sea level.

Lutov and Babanov gave evidence which proves something completely different. They both saw that on June 26, 2008 the team reached the altitude around 7800 m at about 5pm. At around 6pm they saw Plulik in lower parts. He descended to approximately 7600 m and did not continue his descent. They observed him staying in the same place until the darkness fell.

Next day, June 27, 2008 Lutov and Babanov saw only one person who made his descend from Broad Peak. It was Kopold, observed at 9am in around 6400 m. When confronting these pieces in information, it is clear that Jozef Kopold has not provided true information about the events happening on June 26- 27, 2008. Vlado Plulik never continued his ascent from C3 via „the normal route“ to the summit of  Broad Peak, and he did not make his bivouac under the Rocky Summit in the massif of Broad Peak.

The Commission of Alpinism could not establish the reasons why the untrue information was provided. From both ethical and human character points of view, such actions are unacceptable and condemnable. Members of the Commission of Alpinism, aware of the fact there is no precedent to this case, which is intricate, touchy and delicate, and aware of its huge mass media publicity, did their best to approach the assessment of these events in a matter-of-fact, impartial, and objective way. They based their examination of the sport performance and logistics of the ascents on the consideration of facts and on given plausible personal evidence. The assessment of the ethical and humane aspects was based on the Code of Ethics of JAMES, unwritten rules of our sport, and general principles of behaviour of people in mountains.    

                 MUDr. Ivan Žila, PhD, Chairman of the Commission of Alpinism

In Maninska Tiesnava, Slovakia, 29.11. 2008, the Commission of Alpinism of SHS JAMES – present: Ivan Žila, Fero Piaček, Martin Heuger, Dušan Myslivec, Marek Repčík, Pavol Jackovič, Vlado Linek.

Translated into English by Jana Plulikova

Reposted courtesy of Jamesák Magazine,

The standpoint on the events at Broad Peak remains the same

Written by Igor Koller, chairman of JAMES – the Slovak Mountaineering Association

When I wrote my “Standpoint to the events (not only) on Broad Peak” on 7. July 2008 on the JAMES website before Jozef (Dodo) Kopold returned to Slovakia, it was not a simple matter for me – nor was it an easy or simple decision. The immediate reason behind why I wrote it, at the time, was the way the Kopold team provided information (on their website) about the fact Vlado Plulík was missing. Three days of silence were absolutely unacceptable. I considered that approach and attitude to be contradictory to generally accepted decent and human behaviour.

I felt obliged to point towards the facts which made me, in the past, alert Dodo Kopold about his disrespectable way of providing information, and also towards the fact that my warnings had a clear logic: from personal discussions and explanations, through official warnings issued by the Commission of Alpinism, to the unembellished and matter-of-fact written standpoint published in Jamesák magazine within our evaluation of the 2007 season. It was a standard, fair procedure, with no immediate change in opinion towards the stakeholder: Kopold himself knows it best and should be the first to admit this.

Precisely because my “Standpoint...” was published before Kopold returned from the expedition, I was careful to stay on the safe side and not express my opinion on anything about the course of events at Broad Peak. Nor did I say anything specific about the inconsistencies of the statements posted by Kopold’s team on his website – in actuality the clear discrepancies could not escape any reader who paid close attention. In spite of all this, my opinion on the matter of the personal responsibilities of the stakeholders for their actions was based on information from the texts posted on the Baltoro Express expedition 2008 website.

Unfortunately, I have to state that nothing has changed my position after Kopold’s return and the subsequent reactions posted on his website after his articles and declarations about the alpine style in the Himalayas. Just the opposite, my scepticism in the value of Kopold’s information has deepened, and my negative attitude towards his approach, arguments, and the style of his communications has increased. Kopold’s responses on the web are aggressive, and in some places are similar to the anonymous ones he himself has denounced. Now and then vulgar expressions can be found, and no expert is apparently good enough for Dodo to understand what Dodo experiences when climbing mountains eight thousand meters high – not even those who have climbed the same mountains. But the main issue is: no new facts, no “new cards have been put on the table” to increase the credibility of Kopold’s statements. The guilty party for everything is, according to Kopold, the journalists and noise in the satellite phones. However, the same telephones and the same way of communicating in the Himalayas is used by many climbers and not many of them have similar problems with credibility like Kopold.

People have invited me to say something more specific about these inconsistencies. I can do this now, with detachment allowed by the time elapsed. Just as before, I will again base my opinion only on the information provided by Kopold and his team, and from the facts given by the configuration of the terrain and other natural conditions.

I will only point attention towards two fundamental aspects which do not add up. I will not deal with the nuances, such as the different versions of the decision of the climbing team to separate under the Broad Peak Headwall, or the inconsistencies in dates, descriptions of weather, altitude estimates, bivuacs 300 m under the summit, etc.

The Rocky Summit, Headwall and the main summit of Broad Peak. Kopold has declared several times that his new variant of the standard route goes through the headwall of Broad Peak. ”Yes, the headwall of Broad Peak is the big rocky wall on the top of which is the main summit,” wrote Dodo on his website on 9. 7. 2008. The reality is, however, different – and it is made clear by the photograph (see under the text) representing the upper part of Broad Peak as viewed from the col under the Rocky Summit, through which the standard ascent route goes. In the snow, on the left of the ridge on the northern, Tibetan side, traces made by mountaineers are visible. Above the col, there is the fore summit of Broad Peak, which was named Rocky Summit, on which many mountaineers have finished their ascent.  In the distance, further left, you can see the main summit of Broad Peak, leading up to which is a half-kilometre ridge. In good weather and snow conditions, it still takes an hour for any well-trained mountaineer to reach the main summit (see also the statement by Peter Hámor, published in the article “Vlado Plulik’s family would like to honour the memory of Vlado by striving to find out what really happened on Broak Peak” on this website).

The headwall mentioned by Kopold, which you can see in his website together with the delineated route of his declared first ascent, had nothing to do with the main summit of Broad Peak! Kopold claims that his version reaches the ridge about 50 m from the main summit (see Kopold’s website dispatch on 27. 6. 2008).  He does not mention any horizontal ridge a half-kilometre long in any of his dispatches. Kopold claims he was at the main ridge in his interview for the Pravda national daily on 2. 7. 2008:

“Darkness found me while I was at the summit. I managed to take some pictures and made some film footage. Even though I was at the highest point, I said to my camera: This is a real hole I am in. My intention was to descend along the ridge to the Rocky summit, it is something like a fore summit of Broad Peak. I could reach Vlado from there. But I did not dare to in the darkness, and mainly, it was a huge risk to descend the route I did not know.”

That is why he abseiled down a 300 m rock wall, even though there is a walk-able terrain on the normal route between the main summit and Rocky Summit – and from Rocky summit the route goes to the col through steep snow terrain, which is much simpler to descend than the rock wall, and much faster to get to the supposed place of the bivuac of Vlado Plulík. These facts have convinced me that Dodo Kopold did not stand at the main summit of Broad Peak.

The Belarusian team saw me at the summit through binoculars – another claim by Dodo Kopold, which does not correspond to any reality. He stated this in his interview via satellite phone from the BC under K2 for Sport national daily, published by the paper on 30. 6. 2008: “...(Plulík) did not reach the summit. He decided to make a snow hole 100 m below the summit. He had no headlamp, you know. The Belarusian team watched us through binoculars from the BC. They saw me at the summit and they saw Vlado digging the hole.” By the same token, Kopold declares he was at the summit at 9pm – in total darkness! But even if it was in the clearest of days (Kopold’s website dispatch on 27. 6. declares very bad, foggy, and windy weather, and Kopold himself claims in his interview with the Pravda national daily that it was a beautiful clear night…), neither the Rocky Summit, nor a bit of the summit ridge – and definitely no part of the main summit – are visible from the BC or its wider surroundings! This is because the summit ridge goes towards the back and is completely blocked by the abovementioned “summit headwall.” This can be confirmed by anyone who has been at Broad Peak, and it is clear from the pictures that have been published.

As I mentioned at the beginning, I have not commented on any telephone messages from the participants of other expeditions who were, at the time, in the same place as Kopold and Plulík: those expeditions mentioned in the article by Vlado’s family. We will wait for their definitive written statements. But only the person who really does not want to, can be blind to the huge discrepancies in the claims of Dodo Kopold, in which he himself has cast doubt on his Himalayan achievements.

I am really very sad as I observe all this, because this story cannot have and does not have a happy ending. I am sad that instead of a dignified farewell to Vlado Plulík, we have to deal with a distasteful search for the truth – the truth which should be so simple and clear in the mountaineering world. But we will definitely go back to Vlado and his memory in the next issue of Jamesák magazine.

This article was published in Jamesák 4/08 in the Slovak language. It was translated into English by Jana Plulíková and Brendan Edwards.

Reposted courtesy of Jamesák Magazine,

Standpoint to the events (not only) on Broad Peak

Standpoint to the events (not only) on Broad Peak

Igor Koller


Certainly I will not be exaggerating when I say that all Slovakia, not only its mountaineering community, has been perceptively following the recent reports coming from Broad Peak, a Karakoram eight-thousander. A pair of Slovak climbers, Jozef  Kopold and Vladimír Plulík attempted a rapid ascent on the mountain via the normal route within their expedition project - Baltoro Expres 2008. 

According to the messages published on the website of Jozef Kopold, the pair started their summit attempt on June 26, 2008 from 7200 m, under the headwall they parted, Kopold continued a new version directly via the wall, reaching the summit at 9pm, while Plulík decided to climb via the normal route and bivuac under the foresummit known as Rocky Summit. Kopold bivuacked on his descent not far from the summit. After a hard night both descended down the wall. Plulík, however, has not reached the BC, according to Kopold they missed each other somewhere in the wall and possibly Plulík stayed in C1 with Belarussyan climbers. 

Kopold´s messages have not been proven. Since then, Vlado Plulík is missing and the chances that he could survive somewhere on the mountain are, unfortunately, very small.

This event, logically, induced a big response and a big discussion on websites. It was not only for the tragic course of the ascent, but also for many inconsistencies and contradictions in the information by Dodo Kopold.  In these circumstances, many people expect that JAMES – the Slovak Mountaineering Association, will express their opinion about the events. It is expected also because Kopold is a member of the Association´s representation team, in the last years he was declared to be the most succesful mountaineer and the Association has markedly supported his sport activity.


As the Chairman of JAMES - Slovak Mountaineering Association  I personally consider the publication of a standpoint to be my duty, as in a way, I feel accountable for both the Association and the Slovak mountaineering activities. 

First of all, I want to sincerely express how sorry I am for what has happened. At the same time I have to stress that any accusations of Kopold for being directly responsible for this tragedy are not  proper.Vlado Plulík was one of our high performance profile climbers with big experience in highest mountains. In these cases, every mountaineer is mainly responsible for their action themselves. By the same token, there is no point in talking about who left whom, as when the pair split under the summit of Broad Peak, both stakeholders are equally responsible for this act. 

However, there is another, long-term problem I would like to address in this text. It is the way Jozef Kopold provides his information, and not only those, which appeared during the activity in Karakoram, on his website. This problem has accompanied Kopold from his first operation at an eighthousander - Cho Oyu - in the spring last year. His information reports are full of discrepancies and contradictions, often several versions of the course of the same event occur, and all this suggests that the information is often misguiding, incomplete, and this way of providing information is not ethical. This was distinctly manifested after the tragedy in the south wall of Shisha Pangma, where his climbing partner Marek Hudák perished during descent. It was not only me who very openly discussed this topic with Dodo after the expedition, and who tried to explain and requested a change. In spite of this we haven´t seen an official report about the course of the ascent via Shisha Pangma´s south wall, with the chronological order of events and basic data about the advancement of the climbing team, and the description of what happened during the ascent and descent. 

Such a report was never received by a Commission of Alpinism for the purpose of appraisal of the 2007 mountaineering season, even though the Chairman of the Commission directly requested it and Kopold promised to deliver it. 

At the end of 2007, his attempt for Dhaulaghiri and unfortunate misinformation published about him achieving the summit appeared. Later explanations using the transcript of the satellite phone messages as an excuse don´t hold up, as at the same time, Kopold´s climbing partners Kinga Baranowska from Poland and Fredrik Ericsson from Sweden clearly confirmed – and declared it on their websites – that they did not reach the summit of Dhaulagiri. 

If such misunderstandings happen in the case when the climber is with several other climbers, it is no wonder that many people develop a mistrust to Kopold´s claims of reaching the summits of eight-thousanders by Kopold alone, in the night, when he can submit no summit photos. This approach really was an unfortunate start to his exploits on eight-thousanders.

In spite of all these facts, the Commission of Alpinism awarded Kopold, at their session in Manin on 24. 11. 2007, a Bronze Carabiner Award for his alpine style ascent via the south wall of Shisha Pangma. It was not an easy decision, but although there were doubts, the fundamental principle of climbing ethics prevailed: that mountaineers´ words are trusted when they proclaim their performances. At the same time, in the minutes of this session the Commission of Alpinism clearly and specifically stated their reservations, I quote:


The Commission of Alpinism stated that providing information about ascents is not sufficient, data are missing, as well as clear information about the course and style of ascents. This year, the Commission is specifically dissatisfied with the information of Jozef Kopold, the member of A Team. The relevant information about the course of ascents is missing (even though in the case of Shisha Pangma the written report delivery with additional information included was promised), the photodocumentation is insufficient, with low informative value. Unclear information is a problem from the viewpoint of mountaineering ethics and in the case of the members of representation team, it is not only a personal matter, but a matter concerning all the Association. Therefore it is inevitable that the representation team members – and not only them – strive to improve the documentation aspect of their sport activities.

Events from  Baltoro expres 2008 expedition, however, show that, all the efforts to rectify Kopold´s activity and his way of doing things had a small effect only. 


For me, it is absolutely not understandable and unacceptable, how the information about missing Vlado Plulík was provided. After two reports from 27. 6. about reaching the summit and following Dodo´s descent under the wall, and mere stating that Vlado is not in the BC, ominous silence spread. It was clear to everyone that this is not a good sign. All Slovakia waited for the tiniest piece of information, fearing for Vlado´s life. When after three days, on 29. June a message heading "More information" appeared at Kopold´s web, I am sure I was not the only one who opened it with the mixture of concern and hope. 

Instead of the report about Vlado Plulík and the situation on Broad Peak I find myself reading in surprise some reservations by the wife of Jozef Kopold - Katka Kopoldova – towards the internet discussion and the web questions. And only at the very end –  "…more info when there is any…“ I had to immediately call Katka if there is no connection with Dodo. Of course the connection was there, she said Vlado has not appeared and therefore there is no point to provide information. 

She really had to repeat this to me several times until I made sure I understand her point. In the situation when someone does not descend at all and it is not clear what has happened, it is the human obligation to inform as often as possible that Vlado has not yet arrived,  about the situation on Broad Peak, weather, conditions, human potential and capacity there, what rescue action has been done and will be done. I understand too well that in a practical way, not much can be done in such a case for his rescue. 

I am not going to comment upon the information about what was Kopold doing at the time, that is not essential here. From both human and moral viewpoints, Kopold´s team was obliged to provide the information on their web and provide them regularly every day. The excuse that Vlado´s family was informed does not hold up either. There is a procedure to follow in the case of a clear tragic event when the family has to be informed before mass media. Clearly – this was not the case. 

At the end of the day, we learnt more from the “Sport“ national daily as late as on June 30, where Kopold states that Vlado with highest probability fell to his death in the altitude around 6500 m into the unaccessible parts of the mountain. Only after this article, the message appeared on the website of the expedition, three days after Kopold descended from the mountain. I consider this fact to be the least understandable and the most difficult to accept out of the all the events on Broad Peak.


There is another severe and unfortunate aspect to the Kopold´s exploits on the 8000-ers in the last two years.  Both general public and part of the climbing community are offered Dodo´s message that there is no other way to pursue top level sport climbing in high mountains, only the one advocated by Dodo; that climbing has transformed into a modern gladiator action, where risking life is a common thing, and it shall be simply taken for granted. This message is really misguiding and dangerous, as it simply is not the case. 

Besides, Kopold, via this approach and his way of doing things jeopardises the life of his climbing partners – and his own life, too – and that is irresponsible. 

Igor Koller, chairman of JAMES - Slovak Mountaineering Association, published on on 7.7.2008 in Slovak language

(out of the 9 page article, only the parts relevant to Vlado Plulik have been selected and translated into English by Jana Plulíkova and Lee Parish)

Reposted courtesy of Jamesák Magazine,

The Final Opinion of Vlado Plulík´s family with regards to the Baltoro Express expedition

Opinion of Vlado Plulík´s family with regards to the Baltoro Express expedition

written by Maroš Plulík, Vlado Plulík´s brother

After the tragedy at Broad Peak, which happened during the Baltoro Express expedition in June 2008 (the victim of which was my brother Vlado); after his family and friends suffered the consequences of the tragedy; and after a fact-finding mission by the family of Vlado Plulik was posted on 20 August 2008, I would like to publish more information about the course of the expedition.

I have selected only a portion of the significant facts from among the many pieces of information which document the proceedings of the expedition and related events – especially those which have established the background for doubts regarding whether Vlado´s climbing partner told the truth.  

The summary of discovered facts is concluded with questions for which we have  - and perhaps will never have - any answers.

Gasherbrum II

The expedition started with an attempt to ascend G II.

Aleš Mrkva (who was in the climbing team for G II, together with Vlado Plulik and Dodo Kopold) wrote in his diary regarding events between June 6-11, 2008:

„...We started up GII from the ABC at 11pm climbing for 15 hours straight. I expected we would make C1, somewhere around 7 thousand...  Instead of this, Dodo came to me and told me:  Aleš, you are too slow. You have two choices. Either you immediately descend, or you can descend tomorrow after a bivuac. We will go on. Within 5 minutes we divided our things and I began my descent. We forgot about matches, my mistake: therefore I was in a 7 thousand meter altitude with no water for 2 days. In the morning, I wanted to catch up with my climbing partners, but they were already too far. I had to go down – I just had to.  Having little material to belay myself, I cut old fixed ropes out of ice with an old knife and tried to makeshift a belay somehow. I descended to our ABC and waited for my climbing partners for two days. They did not return so I had to go down the fucking icefall myself, solo.  I wandered around among the mad séracs, my fingers were frost-bitten. I managed to make and survive the five day solo descent from 7 thousand to BC - some members of the climbing team before, or later, were not so lucky. Vlado turned to his descent before Dodo, but fortunately they descended together. Vlado lead all the way down again. He swept all the crevasses. He did not even count in how many crevasses he fell. Approaching the end of the icefall he said: Fuck, Dodo, you take the fucking lead now, will you...?“

Peter Hámor, a member of another team within the same expedition, recalls:

„We spent only one evening in the base camp with Aleš. As he considered both Piotr (Morawski) and me to be Kopold´s friends (Dodo was our climbing partner during the expeditions to  Nanga Parbat and K2 before), he was not willing to talk about his experiences from the G II ascent. During the ascent to Camp 1, leading through a dangerous icefall, Vlado got angry with Dodo for not dividing the burden of teamwork evenly, leaving the unpleasant search for the trail amongst the crevasses to Vlado.  Not mincing his words, Vlado let Dodo know what he thought of such behaviour. It was the first time that Aleš participated in an expedition to the highest mountains and the aggressive exchange of views between Vlado and Dodo was not a pleasant experience for him. A second unpleasant experience for him occured when he had to turn back during their ascent, via the French route, and descend to BC alone, as he was „too slow“ in Dodo´s words. Aleš was lucky, as he managed to arrive at the base camp with no accidents, alone, without a rope, and with frost-bitten fingers. After this experience he decided to end his participation in the expedition and return home.“

Gasherbrum I (Hidden Peak)

The expedition continued with an attempt to ascend  G I.   I addressed the Italian climbers, Marco Astori and Roby Piantoni, who summitted G I the same day. Marco sent an email to Vlado´s niece (in Italian – the translation goes as follows):

"We met Vlado and Dodo after their climb to Gasherbrum II in Camp 1 and at the time we understood that they both were at the summit. Only several days later we became aware that only Dodo summitted and your uncle turned back about 300 m below the summit.

The next time we met Vlado and Dodo was several days later, during our attempt to climb the Hidden Peak. At the time, only four of us  were up on the mountain. We climbed with some distance between us: my partner Roby was leading, followed by myself, then Dodo, and Vlado was the last. The first person at the summit was Roby. I joined him some time later. During our descent from the summit, below the ridge, we met Dodo and 100 m further down, we met Vlado. His pace was slowlier than ours and he looked exhausted. Roby, myself, and Dodo, reached Camp 3 at 7000 m between 1pm and 2pm that day. We waited there for Vlado. We expected him to come in an hour, maximum in 2 hours. It was around 5.30 and he still did not come.  Dodo went out of the tent and put his crampons on. We supposed he had plans to go up and meet Vlado, but we noticed in a minute that Dodo was actually starting to descend to Camp 2. We asked him why he was going down – whether he believed that Vlado might already be in the lower camp? He said he did not (think so), as Vlado´s second pick was still here, in the Camp he left in the morning. Dodo said he decided to go down anyway, and wait in Camp 2, and possibly ask for help to look for Vlado in Camp 2. His argument why he could not stay (in Camp 3) was that he did not have a tent of his own. Roby and I told him that the only reason we were still in Camp 3 was that we were waiting for his partner. We told him that we did not consider it logical to descend.

We also had nothing to eat, just as him, but he could continue to stay in our tent.  Only after our intervention did he return and wait for Vlado´s arrival with us. Fortunately, Vlado came at 6.30pm. He had come down astray and got quite far from the camp. He arrived really tired and exhausted. We gave him camomile tea which we made for him and then all four of us descended the Japanese couloir into Camp 2. Vlado arrived last into this camp too, and I have no hesitations in saying that he was really exhausted. That night was the last time I saw Vlado and Dodo. We stayed in Camp 2, as we planned to ascend another mountain. They descended to Base Camp. When we returned to the Base Camp, they were already gone – they had left to attempt their climb of Broad Peak, where, alas, your uncle disappeared.

I can tell you that I did not like Dodo´s attitude toward his partner. Perhaps Roby and I, have a different attitude. We climb together and wait for each other, especially in dangerous terrain, when the trail is not broken, or when one of the partners is more tired than usual.

I cannot know what happened at Broad Peak. But certainly, if one of the team-mates is exhausted, the others should be willing to stop and wait. All the more so if the team comprises only two people. It is important in that case to climb with a partner who assists, should such a moment occur.

I am very sorry for what happened to your uncle. I am sure the lack of cooperation between Vlado and Dodo contributed to the tragedy. Dodo´s behaviour left both myself and Roby astonished. Such behaviour and actions are not worthy of  praise. It is below a mountaineer to behave and act like this, and it is also below the style of climbing we engage in. No one can perform miracles in such altitudes and in such mountains, but fairness and honour between climbing mates has to remain a fundamental principle of alpinism."

I interviewed Dodo after he returned to Slovakia. The discussion took place on July 17, 2008. He said, among other things:

"The Italians were first to ascend GI and... after 15 minutes I got to the summit as well. As I descended I met Vlado 50 meters below. I told him to go to the summit too, and finally he said OK, he would. He told me to wait for him at the 7 thousand, but, you know, it was such an (easy) terrain, so I said OK, I will wait for him there, I will cook something.  I was waiting for Vlado for about 4 hours,  and the Italians, they wanted to go down, so I told them, let’s wait, because the fog appeared again, and a strong wind had started to blow.  Then Vlado appeared. He had started to descend the north-west face, he simply turned away from the route and started to descend a completely different way. Fortunately, he realised his error and returned."

Piotr Morawski sent me an email on September 8, 2008. Its translation is as follows:

"Dodo appeared to be a very ambitious person with apparently little care for his partners, only for himself and his fame and image. It was foolish to go so quickly, and with no acclimatisation, to GII with a beginner and with Vlado, who was only at that altitude (around 8000m) again after 10 years (note: Vlado was on an expedition in the Himalayas in 2005). Dodo can do such things when he is soloing, but when he decides to climb with partners, he should take into consideration, among other things, their condition.

After Dodo decided to attempt to climb the summit (of Broad Peak) – even though I do not know what the discussion was between Dodo and Vlado – there are two possibilities: Either Dodo told Vlado that he wanted to continue to the summit, and Vlado did not want to. In that case Dodo should have stayed with Vlado and accompanied him on his descent. Or, Vlado told Dodo to go up because he himself did not feel he could do it.

When they were at GI, the Italians said that Dodo had wanted to descend before Vlado arrived from the summit. It is a pity that they did not tell Vlado exactly what happened (in Camp 3). They were first to summit, Dodo followed the trail they broke, and Vlado was 5-6 hours behind them. Dodo wanted to descend from Camp 3 knowing that Vlado was exhausted and knowing that he had not returned from the summit. If this is true, then Dodo should not climb with any partners. If the Italians were not there, Vlado may have perished already on GI. I refer to their GII attempt, too – “no one should leave their partner, in any case."

Vlado called me after he returned from G1 to their BC. He told me some information about the G2 ascent. As he climbed, he looked at the surrounding peaks and estimated that he was still about 300 (altitude) meters from the summit. He told me he did not feel well acclimatised yet, and that he’d had a hard time to climb up to that point. When Dodo told him it was only 150 – 200m to the summit, he told me “I could have pushed myself a bit more and gone up the summit.”

He told me that he fell into several crevasses during both the ascent and the descent, that he was a little battered and his ribs were painfully bruised.  He recalled not being hydrated enough. He told me about his descent from GI, that the weather was not good as he was climbing down from the summit and by mistake he deviated from the descent route onto the Messner route, and that he had to climb back up all over again. He told me to say hello to the family. He told me: “...I will call you tomorrow and tell you more details.” He never called...

Broad Peak

For myself, the family and friends, it is incomprehensible that from the 27th to 29th of June, after Dodo Kopold descended to the BC, and for two more days neither him nor Katarína Kopoldová provided any information about Vlado. There was a huge potential for a rescue mission, let the result be as it may.

My brother, my sisters’ brother, and my parents’ son remained there. Maybe Vlado was fighting for two days in a crevasse and assistance could have reached him.

When I asked if a rescue action had been organised, Dodo told me it was too dangerous and no one would go there.

On Sunday afternoon, June 29, I made a telephone call to the Belarusian expedition  (Sergej Stacevič and Viktor Lutov) and asked for their help. I called Peter Hámor too – he told me that if there was a need, they would move from where they were to Broad Peak and participate in a rescue mission. I called Valerij Babanov and asked him for assistance in searching for Vlado. At this time, Vlado’s friends from Žilina called me and they were ready to organise a rescue helicopter, to initiate a rescue action immediately.

On the same day, at 6 pm, Dodo Kopold made an official announcement regarding Vlado’s death to the expedition’s liaison officer and informed Peter Hámor that the expedition was over.

Valerij Babanov told us that on the 26th of June they saw Vlado and Dodo at 7600m as they both ascended. Several hours later they saw only Vlado descending to about 7500m, where he stayed in the same place until nightfall. The next day (27th), they saw Dodo alone descending at an altitude of around 6500m.  When Valerij Babanov arrived at home in Calgary (in September), he sent an answer to our detailed questions, including photographs on which he drew the course of the ascent to Broad Peak.  He confirmed that the place where Vlado stopped at about 6pm on June 26th was 200 - 250m above the “normal route”. They saw him there for the last time at 8 - 8.30pm. Valerij estimated that Vlado would have needed an hour and a half or two hours to descend to the nearest Camp. The weather was good.

On June 28th Dodo announced that his partner did not return – but he did not ask anyone to go and search – he organised no rescue action whatsoever.

We asked the Belarusian expedition a similar set of questions. We received an answer from Viktor Lutov in September 2008, in which he says: Dodo Kopold and Vlado Plulik separated about 4 hours before sunset. Vlado traversed about 100m to the left and stopped 2-3 hours before dark. Lutov says that he watched him until that evening, and he stayed in the same spot the entire time.

The binoculars did not allow him to recognise details. He confirmed Babanov’s estimate that Vlado could have descended to the tent which was at 7200m in 2-4 hours.

Lutov says (in translation): "The next morning (27th) we saw no one descending, nor did we see anyone at the summit. We did not see Vlado at the location where he’d stopped the day before. In the early morning we began our climb to Camp 1, reaching it in the afternoon. Dodo arrived at Camp 1 (5600 m) at about 3-4 hours before sunset. The weather was steadily worsening."

The Belarusian team told us that they made a video-recording of Vlado and Dodo, but so far we have no detailed information about it. We are waiting to get a copy of it.

I met Dodo Kopold on September 3 and asked him again what happened at Broad Peak. I told him that the information we had from other expeditions was different compared with what he claimed. Dodo told me that he insists on his assertions.

Dodo’s drawings of the Broad Peak climb are different from the information gathered from other expeditions. They say that when the climbing team separated, Vlado did not reach the “normal route” and he did not continue his ascent of Broad Peak.

Also, the information about when and where Vlado dug his snow cave (if he dug one at all) absolutely does not add up.

No one saw Vlado descending (on June 27th), not even the Belarusian team, contrary to what Dodo has declared.

Dodo further claims that after the 26/27 bivouac night, Vlado began his descent with an hour and a half, or two hours  head start. In this terrain, under the col, with low-inclination snow plains, most of the route going to Camp 3 is visible. If two people descended this terrain in this time interval, they would have seen each other. We confirmed this assumption with people who have summited Broad Peak – specifically, the Czech mountaineer Radek Jaroš, and with Peter Hámor. They are both of the opinion that if Vlado descended this terrain in good weather with a  2 hour head start, Dodo would have seen him.

Jana Plulíková learned from the ExWeb team that the K2 Norit expedition climbers were pretty upset in their emails when Dodo reportedly showed little concern for his partner during dinners at the K2 BC, not organising a rescue. There might be a reason Nick Rice wrote such a detailed report about the dinners on June 28th and 29th, when Dodo was present at a party lasting long into the night with the American team, and likewise about Dodo having lunch with them on June 30.

On 23.9.2008 Dodo sent me an email with his claims about climbing both Gasherbrums and Broad Peak. Three months after the events he changed some of his original claims and slightly shifted the meaning of others.

Could a situation have happened during the climb that only Dodo knows about – a situation that made Vlado’s descent or rescue impossible?

Did anything significant or grave happen at 7600 or 6500m?

Was Vlado hit by rocks or pieces of ice?

Why did a rescue action not begin immediately after Kopold discovered that Vlado did not descend?

Why did Dodo, being two days in the base camp already, not provide significant information about Vlado?

If Vlado really descended with a head start, and Dodo suddenly had lost Vlado’s tracks in the snow at about 6500 m,  why did Dodo not ask the Belarusian team to help to search for Vlado immediately? 

Why did Vlado cease descending 3 hours before nightfall, in easy terrain, when in 2–3 hours he could have descended to the tent where he had his stove, food, and sleeping bag?

Was he waiting for Dodo?  Was he injured? Was he disoriented due to the overloading burden of breaking the trail? Was he exhausted due to the high altitude and his previous ascents above 8000m shortly before? Was he struck by altitude sickness?

If he was already exhausted, was he able to start his descent in the morning, having spent the night with no food and nothing to drink? If he stayed there to wait for Dodo, why did he not continue to wait for him in the morning?

Our reasoning for double-checking every piece of information with regards to the expedition, and our attempts to establish what really happened at Broad Peak, relate directly to the approach taken by Dodo Kopold: his behaviour, his contradictory statements, his semi-true declarations.

We are not looking for a culprit, we are seeking the truth – the truth about Vlado’s death. We have not found it. Because Dodo Kopold has provided no information, misinterpretations, or purposefully biased information, all we have are questions.

More interviews, photographs, and the opinions of reputed Slovak and foreign mountaineers – all of which have established a wider framework for our findings – will gradually be published on Vlado’s website. Some of the information and attitudes we have acquire with regards to the style of alpine climbing in Himalayas which was pursued on the Baltoro Express expedition, as well as information from the Himalaya 2007 – the Cho Oyu and Shisha Panga expeditions, where Marek Hudák perished – have been sent to James, the Slovak mountaineering association.

No one in Vlado’s family feels competent to judge this aspect of the event. Experts (the Commission of Alpinism of James, the Slovak mountaineering association) and the mountaineering community need to offer their opinion of whether this kind of alpine style (Dodo’s) is a valuable sport or voluntary death risk, and define what the real alpine style is in the Himalayas. 

My aim, and the aim of the close members of Vlado’s family, has been the publication of facts collected about the course of the expedition to Gasherbrum 1, Gasherbrum 2, and Broad Peak in May and June, 2008. Unfortunately, in spite of our best efforts, our findings have not provided the answers to the questions of where and how Vlado died. These findings have not brought the family any peace, but rather the opposite.

I would like to thank all of Vlado’s friends who helped to gather this data, and the members of the international expeditions who provided information to us. If members of other expeditions who were in the K2 base camp at the time wish to contact us with their observations, we would be grateful.

For the family and friends of Vlado Plulík,

Maroš Plulík, September 2008

Condensed version, translated into English by Jana Plulíková and Brendan Edwards

Vlado Plulik´s family would like to honour the memory of Vlado by striving to find out what really happened on Broak Peak

In May and June 2008, within the Baltoro Express Expedition, Slovak climbers Jozef (Dodo) Kopold and Vladimir (Vlado) Plulik made an attempt to climb Gasherbrum 2, Gasherbrum 1, Broad Peak and K2 in an alpine style.

    Vlado ascended Gasherbrum 1 on June 15, 2008.

    Dodo claims that he reached the summit of G1 on June 8 and the summit of G2 on June 15, 2008.

    On June 24, Vlado and Dodo left the BC under K2 in the afternoon, heading for the alpine style ascent of Broad Peak. On June 25 in the afternoon, they reached 7600 m in one push and returned to Camp 3. They spent the night of June 25/26 in C3 (7200 m). On June 26 they continued their summit push.

    Dodo claimed to reach the summit of Broad Peak On June 26 at 9pm. As he himself has written, he climbed his own variant on the rock headwall of the Rocky Summit, reaching the summit ridge 50 m from the main summit. Next day, he claimed to have rescued his rope which got stuck in the rock wall and then he partially climbed down the rocky sections and partially rappeled down to the normal route.

    On the Baltoro Express Expedition website, in Dodo´s article dated July 9 he recalls: „In the morning (on June 27, author´s note), before I managed to rescue my stuck rope and descend back to the standard route, Vlado had a headstart, I estimate it for 1-2 hours.“

    Peter Hámor expressed his opinion on the top parts of Broad Peak: The ridge that links the foresummit known as Rocky Summit, and the main summit of Broad Peak, is about  500m long, 45 min to 1 hour of walking. It is impossible to rappel on the return from the main summit to the Rocky Summit – it is terrain for walking. North from the ridge, there is a steep wall. South (towards the BC) there are rather large snow slopes with rock bands, of a very moderate inclination.  The normal route (from the main summit up to the Rocky Summit) cannot be rapelled down – it is almost a horizontal ridge.

    In the Sport, a Slovak national daily, in an interview with Milan Vranka on 30 June, Dodo says that Vlado „... did not reach the summit. He decided to make a snow cave 100 m below the summit. It was because he had no headlamp. Belorussians watched us through binoculars from BC. They saw me at the summit and they saw him digging the cave. Next day, they saw him descending. He descended an hour and a half before me.“

"We did not meet on the descent. Last time I saw Vlado on Thursday (on June 26, author´s note ) making his way up. We had a visual contact then - he could see me ascending, too. I climbed perhaps 100 m from him. When he dug his cave, we were waving each other with our hands, perhaps he even took my photo."

    Peter Hámor: From the BC (under Broad Peak, author´s note) the view of the summit (including the Rocky Summit) is competely blocked. It is possible to see the col and the parts a little bit above the col. From the BC vantage point, it is not possible to follow anyone ascending up above the col, nor to see someone at the ridge or at the main summit.

At 9pm, it was pitch dark. I took a picture of the sunset over Gasherbrum 4 – the closest neighbour of Broad Peak -  and I took the last photo (with the sun rays at the top) at 7.39 pm (the advantage of digital cameras).

    Piotr Pustelnik: It is impossible to see anyone on the summit ridge from BC except the col between Falchan Kangri East and Rocky Summit. The col is visible from the slopes of BC (not from everywhere, probably not from Camp 1) and maybe from the BC. But not the main summit and ridge.

When I was on Broad Peak in 1998, we had been in Camp 3 (around 7200 m) and we saw two French climbers (Eric Escoffier and Pascal Bessier) on the Col. But only from this high camp.

    Due to the contradictions in Dodo´s own dispatches which were published at different times in the Baltoro Express Expedition website and newspaper articles which were based in the interviews with him,  Vlado´s family and friends got together and have been communicating with the members of other expeditions who were with Vlado and Dodo under the Gasherbrums, Broad Peak and K2. They also talked to people who were at previous expeditions with Dodo. The talks raised even more concern and doubt. 

    It seems to be advisable to reconsider several Dodo´s stories about summits he allegedly reached and routes he allegedly climbed. There is an open question about Dodo´s share of responsibility for the tragic events on Shisha Pangma and Broad Peak, when two of his climbing partners did not return home and their bodies have not been found.

    Other questions concern his manner of providing information about the fate of the members of the expeditions where he is the official head of the expedition and media representative.

    Dodo has published his side of this story on his Baltoro Express Expedition website, and gave interviews to several Slovak national dailies in Slovak language.  The family of Vlado Plulik does not consider this information to be credible.

    On July 10, upon his return from the expedition, he held a press conference. Due to the conference, there was more coverage in the papers, but little new information on Vlado´s fate. 

    The family of Vlado Plulík asked Dodo several questions on July 14. Dodo permitted the interview be recorded.  Dodo showed the ascending line on the pictures of Broad Peak, including his new variation. He marked the spots which were in his opinion the key places of the tragic event. Neither the discussion nor the drawings explained the existing inconsistencies.

    The ExWeb team requested an interview with Dodo, in which he was supposed to shed light on those parts of his ascent story and the following events on Broad Peak, which seemed to be unclear to the international climbing community. The interview was coducted and posted on the ExWeb on July 17th in the English language.

    Since July 20, 2008, Dodo began to adjust some of his dispatches at the Baltoro Express Expedition website, and later he erased the Visitor Book, in which questions, requests for explanations and doubts about Dodo´s information appeared, and where the interview from ExWeb, translated into Slovak, was posted by a visitor.

    The current findings about what really happpened to Vlado Plulik resemble pieces of a puzzle – or of several different puzzles...

    The reports on the weather on June 26, when Dodo allegedly summitted Broad Peak, differ in his different dispatches. The dates and what happened when are confusing as they differ in different interviews.  The reasons for the parting of the team on June 26 in the afternoon are unclear and observations by others contradicts those stated by Dodo. He himself states several different reasons, in different texts, why the climbing team divided. Dodo´s description of his climbing the new, direct variation of the normal route all the way to the main summit of Broad Peak in the afternoon June 26th and night 26/27 June is inconsistent, and the dates and timing he states do not add up. The location of the place where Vlado spent the night on June 26/27 is described differently by the observers and Dodo.

    So far, the only person who claims seeing Vlado´s trail on the descent on June 27 is Dodo. Dodo is the only person who claims that the Belorussians and Valerij Babanov saw two persons descending on that day, but this statement has been neither confirmed by Belorussians nor by Valerij Babanov so far.  According to telephone calls and sms, the observers from other expeditions saw that after the team divided, one person was not ascending anymore, but descending.  Next day, they saw only one person making his descend.

    Dodo further claims that while descending the summit of Broad Peak, he allegedly found the trail made by Vlado Plulík, and the trail disappeared at about 6500 m. The fact is that on June 27, only Dodo alone descended the mountain and returned to K2 BC.

    Vladimír Plulík is missing since June 26, 2008 and he is probably dead.

    Unfortunately, current findings about Dodo´s approach to his climbing parttners during this and other expeditions are disconcerting. The same applies to his attitude on partnership in mountains, and on the rescue of a climbing mate when the partner is in need or there is an emergency.

    Based in the current findings and information by other sources, Vlado´s family and friends do not consider Dodo´s description of the events on June 26/27, including his claim that Vlado slipped to his death somewhere on the descent to be plausible.

    Dodo and his admirers have their version of what has happened. They even have several versions. The family and friends of Vlado Plulík have been and are still in touch with the expeditions which were at the time under Broad Peak, K2, G1 a G2. They will express their opinion in more details when the information gathering is completed.

20 August 2008

the family of Vlado Plulík

Vladimír Plulík


Born 3. 3. 1963 in Piešťany, Slovakia. Missing since 26. June 2008, when he did not descend from Broad Peak (8047 m).

A versatile mountain athlete with remarkable stamina. A mouintaineer, runner, biker, and freeride skier. Author of free ascents, valuable first free ascents of old technical routes and linked routes in Slovakia, especially in High Tatras. He climbed in Dolomites, Italy; Alps, France; and Rocky Mountains, U.S.A. He received several awards for The Ascent of the Year from the  JAMES Slovak Mountaineering Association. Won quite a few medal positions in running and cycling mountain marathons. Participated in five expeditions to the eight-thousanders: in 1997 he decided to return down at 7900 m under the summit of Kanchenjunga (8586 m), in 2002 from 6300 m from the summit of Shishapangma (8027) and in 2005 Cho Oju (8201m), after a member of their climbing team died, the expedition decided not to continue the summit attempts and return home instead. 

He reached the summit of Mount Everest (8848 m) in 1998 via northern route, using no artificial oxygen. In 2008 he climbed Gasherbrum I, in the alpine style. However, he himself valued most his two solo nonstop linked climb through the main ridge of High Tatras, Slovakia, in both summer and winter, attributing to them the highest sport value of his mountaineering performances.

He is a father of Matúš (1992) and Alica (2000), a brother of Katka, Zuzka and Maroš, and a son of  Amalia and Vladimir Plulík.

"Many will remember his unusual character and a shy smile."

Anyone who would like to add last words for Vlado or any personal memories is welcome to do so in the "Odkazy pre Vlada"  section. If you have more facts, texts, photos, videos or information about Vlado please send them to the following email contact: