Karakorum 2008: Latest from K2

It seems that immediate crisis is now over on K2, and now we’re left to mourn for those that have lost their lives, and keep their friends and families in our thoughts. The stories about what happened are only now starting to make their way out, as the survivors tell their tales.

ExWeb posted one of their updates this morning with the news that Marco Confortola has reached base camp at last. He is believed to be the last person on the mountain, and is now awaiting emergency evacuation from K2. According to CNN.com the weather in the area is preventing military pilots from Skardu from coming to pick him up however.

As I mentioned, some of the stories about what happened are now starting to emerge, and in this story from the BBC, Wilco van Rooijen says that on the initial ascent, a number of the fixed ropes were laid incorrectly, causing a delay in the climb, and wasting precious time as the teams worked to correct the error. The fastest climbers were on their way back down from the summit when the serac collapsed, taking the fixed ropes with it. Wilco said that some of the climbers left stranded higher on the mountain began to panic as a result.

Wilco made similar comments to both Reuters and the Associated Press today as well. The Adventurist offers up those two previous articles, in which Wilco gives a personal account of what it was like on the mountain, and his own struggles to survive.

Sadly, some of those involved in the incident have already begun to try to place blame. There have been quotes in the media from some of the climbers who have aided in the rescue operations accusing the climbers of being too inexperienced and not being ready for K2. ExWeb addressed this in their article as well, where the caution media outlets to not be too hasty in their judgements. Many of the climbers were on their second and third trips to the mountain, and nearly all of them had a lot of experience on big mountains. This isn’t Everest ’96 where rich “climbers” were paying to be pulled up the mountain. K2 is the mountaineers mountain, and from what I can tell, the climbers were all quite experienced. It’s just a shame that so soon after the tragic events, that we’re already trying to point fingers.

Update: The Alpinist has published an update on Marco as well. You can find it here.

Kraig Becker

9 thoughts on “Karakorum 2008: Latest from K2”

  1. Nice post, Kraig. I am actually quite surprised that Wilco, Cas, and Marco have been talking about this incident already with the press. You would think it would be a couple weeks, but who knows. We may here more sides to this as the days tick away.

    No matter how you look at it, it is still a very tragic event. Let’s remember their friends, families, and associates.

    I have read that Alan Arnette was close to a couple of the climbers involved, including Gerard McDonell–Alan, I know you read this blog. My thoughts are with you, as well.

  2. Thanks Jason. You’ve been doing great work for the past few days on your coverage as well.

    I agree. I was a bit surprised that they were talking so openly about the events already. I thought it would be a few more days before we’d start to get more details. I’m sure there is a lot more to be told however.

    Sad situation no matter how you look at it, and you’re right, now is the to be thinking of friends and family and sending them positive thoughts.

  3. Marco was picked up by helicopter at dawn and is now in Skardu. The good news is that he says doctors are optimistic about his recovery from frostbite.

    But his story of what happened on the mountain is heartbreaking.

  4. Hi Renee! Thanks for the update. Good to hear that Marco should recover from the frostbite.

    And you’re right, this story is very heartbreaking, and the details will probably be even more so. 🙁

  5. Marco echos Wilco’s statements.

    The ropes on the bottleneck were “a disaster” – inadequate material. People did not do the things they said they would. This caused delays to the summit.

    Then on the descent – the serac collapsed and wiped out the fixed ropes.

    Marco and his friend Gerard (Marco called him Jesus) were caught out above the serac and bivouaced for the night. They saw Wilco the next day, but the wind was so strong they could not hear a word the other was saying, even up close. Each separated a bit to descend. Marco was making his way down through the bottleneck and then heard a sudden loud roar – a split from the serac 400m above. Marco looked over, and recognized something. “The boots of Jesus, my friend.”

    Marco fell asleep further down. Pemba had come up and found him, and saved his life. They made it to Camp 4.

    “The descent was devastating, he said, especially the last part. But the worst was finding the boots of Jesus.”

  6. Oh, that is really horrible! I’m so sorry for everybody and their loses.

    I backed down off of a much smaller alpine climb last weekend (the Petite Grepon in RoMo) and I’ve been wondering ever since how anybody judges “experience” and “preparedness” in the mountains. It seems like the steps from one grade climb to the next are so huge, it’s difficult to gauge whether or not you are ready by any standard. How does anybody know they are ready or capable of climbing a mountain like K2? How does anybody know they are “experienced enough” before they do it?

  7. I think you know when you’re ready or not. You always have a little trepidation on a big climb I’m sure, but in the case of these climbers, they were all VERY experienced.

    In the case of these events on K2, I’m not sure experience really had anything to do with it. Just a sad set of circumstances.

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