Over the past several days I have written a couple of posts about the K2 controversy that first flared up when questions about Christian Stangl’s alleged summit photo and report came to light in the climbing community. Then, the story took another turn yesterday when Stangl admitted that he faked the report and that the one summit photo was actually from Camp 3. Now, the British Mountaineering Council has weighed in on the topic, posting an overview of the whole story while taking a few shots at the current climate in the high altitude mountaineering world that puts a lot of pressure on climbers to succeed.
Stangl wasn’t just climbing K2, he was also working on becoming the first person to climb the “Second Seven Summits,” which are the second tallest mountains on each of the continents. This is believed to be a much more challenging goal to achieve, hence the reason it hasn’t been done before. In their story, the BMC lays out the events as they went down on K2 to the best of what we know at the moment.
The story also says that Stangl’s main sponsor, Mammut, has issued a statement disavowing any knowledge of the deception and that they don’t support it in any way. They also quote the Austrian climber as saying that the pressure to succeed, and finally reach the summit of K2, came completely from within himself, and not from a sponsor or other outside source. After failing to reach the top on seven previous occasions, he finally wanted to show some results, and probably be done with the mountain that has haunted many mountaineers over the years.
In this day and age, professional climbing, or any other adventurous activity, is a competitive climate to say the least. Sponsorship dollars are tough to come by, and even if they’re not putting pressure on an athlete to succeed, there can still be an internal pressure to deliver the goods for their partners. It sounds like that pressure caught up with Stangl and it all got the better of him. As I said in the comments yesterday, I do applaud him for coming clean instead of perpetuating the lies for years on end. That had to take a lot of courage to do, and although his reputation is now in tatters, he can at least begin to repair it, and perhaps get past this trying time. A successful, and well documented, climb of K2 will be the best way for him to do just that.