ExWeb Interviews K2 Survivor Wilco Van Rooijen


Back on August 2nd, 2008, the mountaineering community was stunned by another tragedy of epic proportions when a giant serac collapsed on K2, killing 11 people in the process. At the time, there was confusion and panic on the mountain, with climbers from below scrambling up to lend aid where they could. It was one of the single most deadly days in the Himalaya, but for one man it became a test of determination and survival.

Dutch climber Wilco Van Rooijen was presumed to be dead, swept off the mountain like so many other climbers. But after spending three days at altitude on the second highest, and probably most deadly, mountain on the planet, he miraculously showed up at Camp 3, with plenty of harrowing stories to tell. Wilco wrote a book entitled Surviving K2, which has recently been released in English, in which he told about the events of that climb, from his perspective, for the first time. He also recently sat down for an interview with Explorers Web, in which he shares his thoughts on the experience as well.

In that interview, Wilco talks about what it was like to write the book, which incorporated diary entries from his wife, who waited for word on the whereabouts of her husband. He goes on to discuss his fascination with K2, his three expeditions to the mountain, and his controversial decision to continue on towards the summit on that fateful day, despite being so high so late in the day. He also calls Gerard McDonnell, one of the climbers who lost his life that day, a hero and explains how McDonnell worked to free two men caught in the fixed lines, in total disregard for his own safety. Something that may have ultimately cost him his life.

It has been more than a year and a half since the K2 tragedy, and as is so often the case in these events, the full story is still being told. Mountaineers experience different things, or see events from different perspectives, which sometimes leads to disagreements and confrontations after the fact. This event is no different, but it is interesting to hear what the survivors have to say about what happened none the less.

Has anyone read the book yet? I’ll need to see if I can track down an English version. It sounds like it would make for a good read.

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