I read about this several days back, but haven’t seen it picked up in a lot place yet. Men’s Journal has posted an update to their story on “The Killing Peak”, which they first published last Fall, in which they took an in depth look at the events that occurred last year on K2 in which 11 climbers died.
It seems that some new information has recently come to light regarding Gerard McDonnell and Marco Confortola. Marco had stated on more than one occasion that he and Gerard were descending together and came across three Korean climbers tangled in the lines. Marco went on to say that they tried their best to untangle them, but they were tired, cold, and suffering from hypoxia, making the task a difficult one at best.
Eventually they decided to head down the mountain, leaving the Koreans where they were. But Marco said that Gerard turned around and went back up to try to continue to help. Confortola thought that he was not thinking straight and thought that his friend was suffering from Altitude Sickness, causing him to wander off in the wrong direction.
According to Men’s Journal however, there is new evidence that suggests that not only did McDonnell go back up to help the stranded climbers, he also managed to free them, and all four had begun the trek down the mountain. Unfortunately, Gerard was killed in an ice fall, and an avalanched claimed the lives of the Koreans and several Sherpas.
The indications are that McDonnell died because he selflessly stayed to try to help the others, and nearly managed to pull off the rescue. The level of resect for Gerard in the mountaineering community was already large, but this just moves him up off the chart. He is still missed amongst his peers, but this is the kind of spirit that everyone says he had. I’m sure the news doesn’t console his family, but it does underscore what an amazing man he was.
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