Sunday, August 03, 2008

The Tragedy on K-2

At least nine climbers seem to have perished in a tragedy still unfolding on the majestic but treacherous K-2 mountain in Northern Pakistan near the border with China. New York Times has the unfolding story here and here. In the group trying to reach the summit were Norwegian, Dutch, French, Italian, Serbian, Korean, Pakistani and Nepalese climbers. The accident seems to have occured after an avalanche struck on a steep gully at 27,000 feet near the most dangerous part of the mountain known as the "bottleneck".

Update I: 11 climbers are feared dead now but 3 men were rescued including 2 frostbitten Dutchmen who were plucked by Pakistani military helicopters. One of the Dutch survivors, Wilco Van Rooijen who is now in a military hospital in Skardu describes here the conditions and mistakes in preparation that contributed to the disaster.
Before his death, 61-year-old Frenchman Hugues d'Aubarede gave an account of the climb -with freezing temperatures, bad weather and beautiful vistas - via a blog. On the eve of his death, his last message from the foot of The Bottleneck was: "I would love it if everyone could contemplate this ocean of mountains and glaciers. They put me through the wringer, but it's so beautiful. The night will be long but beautiful."
Update II: Today on August 6th, New York Times has a story titled "Tragic Toll After Chaos on Mountain" summing up what is now known about how the tragedy unfolded.

K2 is known as the world’s hardest and most dangerous mountain for climbers, more challenging even than Everest. Farther north and 1,500 miles from Everest, it collects heavy snow and storms, and climbers have only a few days each year when they can try for the peak, usually in early August. “For a professional, seasoned mountaineer it’s more of the holy grail than Everest,” said the veteran American climber Ed Viesturs. “There is no easy way to climb K2.”

In a message sent back to friends, three South Koreans from the Flying Jump K2 Expedition expressed their awe about “the mountain of the mountains” and “the mountain that invites death.”

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