Glory or Death in Karakoram

Swept away by avalanches, crushed by falling ice, slips and falls from the planet’s greatest mountains were the fate of four climbers, in which two of them perished and two severely injured.

Three members of Korean Expedition to Latok-I (7,145 meters) were seriously hurt due to an avalanche on June 21st, 2018 marking the first mountaineering accident of the year in the Karakorum Range of Pakistan. Climbers received sever injuries on shoulders, chest and back and were rescued by air rescue operation from Pakistani authorities. Latok is a small cluster of four dramatic rock peaks and Latok-I, notable for its extreme technical difficulty and is often compared with the 8,000 meter peaks.

On June 29th, 2018, an Austrian mountaineer, Christian Huber died on the Ultar Sar Peak in Hunza due to an avalanche. He was part of a three member team trying to summit the 7,388-meter meters high peak. Despite excellent conditions while acclimatizing, the weather took a turn for the worse and the mountain had been blanketed with over 70 centimeters of fresh snow.  In afternoon of Friday 29, when climbers were in their tents, an avalanche swallowed the tents and buried them under two meters of snow. British climber Tim Miller who survived with another British climber Bruce narrates the incident, “I was at the back of the tent and I ripped open a hole and managed to dig myself out. I then dug down to the other two who had been at the other end of the tent. When I managed to find them our partner Christian had unfortunately already suffocated. Thankfully I managed to save Bruce.”


The southeast pillar of Ultar Sar. The red circle is the col at 5,900 meters where the avalanche buried Miller, Huber and Normand’s tent

Then the recent tragic incident at K2 in the morning of 7th July, 2018 when the leader of the Quebec expedition, Serge Dessureault, made a fatal fall at 6700 meters altitude. Members of the expedition found the body near the advanced base camp, located at the foot of the “Wild Mountain” at 5300 meters above sea level. They took him back to base camp. Serge Dessureault was not at his first attempt at K2. He dreamed of becoming the first Quebecer to stand with his arms up to 8611 meters. With his experience in mountaineering, he has always advocated safety. He was waiting for a good weather window and snow to settle down and the window appeared on Thursday 5th of July with the improvement of the conditions of ascent. The incident occurred on decent near C II.K2 is recognized for its formidable side, its capricious weather, its inhospitality and its high death rate.

Serge Dessureault on Baltoro Glacier , a few days before a fatal fall by Jean- Pierre Danvoye

K2 is massive; It soars from the rubble strewn ice of the Baltoro glacier straight and steep, an enormous Karakoram pyramid.  From Pakistan side the pyramid rises an average of 9,200 feet in less than two and half miles dominating the Karakoram landscape.

K2 is the mountain of the mountains. For diehard climbers this an attraction, an ultimate challenge for body and mind and there is nothing to match.

Photo by Jean- Pierre Danvoye

The legendary climber Reinhold Messner has described K2 as the most beautiful of all the high peaks: “An artist has made this mountain.” According to Jim Curran, a climber and documentary maker, “a lot steeper than Everest. Basically, it’s a giant pyramid. There are no easy routes, they’re all hard. It also has its own weather system. The good weather rarely lasts long enough to complete an ascent.”

Dutch mountaineer Wilco van Rooijen who had survived in deadliest incident of 2008 on K2 wrote, “ A mountaineer’s death is tragedy for his family, for climbers it is an acceptable way to die. It’s hard to believe, but our passion is in the mountains. If you die in the mountains… it happens at the highlight of your life… You are living for your passion. If you die when you are 90, then that is great. But for mountaineers it’s acceptable to die where your heart is”.

by Aurangzaib buzdar

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