Outside Magazine has put together the most comprehensive look at the August 1st K2 tragedy that I’ve seen yet. They uncover more details on what happened on the slopes of the second highest mountain in the world and compare it to the events of Everest 1996, finding some similarities and major differences as well.
Back on August 1st, a number of teams were making their way to the summit of K2. Some of the climbers would ultimately stand on the summit while others would turn back, fatigue and altitude taking it’s toll. The first problems they ran into were on the way up in a relatively steep and narrow climbing section called the Bottleneck. When they reached this part of the climb they discovered that the fixed ropes were not properly secured and this caused lead teams to slow down considerable while they set more ropes.
Although they were behind schedule, the climbers continued going up, and, as I mentioned, some reached the summit while others turned back. Later, a completely unforeseen disaster truck when a large serac broke off from the mountain and crashed down through the bottleneck taking out the fixed lines and sweeping a number of climbers off the mountain. With the ropes gone, the descent would be a harrowing challenge to say the least.
The Outside article goes much more into detail on these events, and supplies more details that weren’t known until now. For instance, before making the climb, the teams all got together and pooled their resources to fix the ropes through the Bottleneck. The strongest climbers from all the teams would work together to accomplish this task, and they would be led by Pakistani Shaheen Baig, who had experience on that portion of the mountain. Unfortunately, Baig took ill and was forced to turn back, so he wasn’t part of the team that fixed the ropes, resulting in a less than satisfactory placement of the fixed lines.
There is a lot more information like this in the story, with experienced climbers weighing in on the conditions on K2. It definitely helps to fill in some blanks as to what happened and what it was like up their on the mountain. As I’ve said before, there doesn’t really seem to be anyone to blame for this horrible accident. It was just a series of unfortunate circumstances that led to 11 people dying on the “Savage Mountain”, and while this article doesn’t look to place any blame, it does go a long way to clearing up the lingering doubts.
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