Deadliest day in the history of K2 by Chhiring Dorje Sherpa

Chhiring Dorje, a 16-time Everest summiter who is one of the world’s best Sherpa mountaineers, once pulled off one of the most difficult and dramatic rescues in the history of mountaineering. He spoke about his get- wrenching memories with David Giddens of CBC Sports.  August, 2008 is considered as one of the most tragic month in the history of mountaineering when 11 skilled climbers died in a series of disasters happened on August 1st, 2008 while summiting K2.

David Giddens describes Chhiring Dorje Sherpa “a modest and friendly and deeply spiritual man, whose proudest accomplishment by far, is that he has led nearly 50 excursions to the world’s most forbidding peaks, without losing a single client”.

Chhiring Dorje was invited by an American expedition group to join their team for K2 expedition as a climber. To improve his resume as being K2 summiter is an important card, which was important for his Himalayan guiding business, and he knew it was risky but he entrusted on his own climbing abilities.

According to Chirring, delayed bid summit due to securing the route and fixing ropes and disorganization among various teams were some factors which made that endeavor a total disaster, “A Serbian climber was first to die. He was killed in a fall on the way up, heading towards the nightmarish traverse known as the Bottleneck. A small international group decided to attempt to lower his body to camp four. A Pakistani climber fell to his death during that process”.

Chhiring’s team opted against the summit bid after assessing the situation but Chhiring set out for the summit as he had to … this attempt was important for him, to improve his CV, to run his business and to feed his family.  He describes his ascent, “The bottleneck is by far the deadliest stretch of climbing on K2. The clearest way to picture it is as a steeply tilted field of glare ice. Sitting well into the death zone, at about 8,200 metres, and pitched at 60 degrees, the terrifying traverse is complicated by lying directly below a field of collapsing seracs. Crossing the bottleneck from side to side means 100 metres of creeping beneath frequent ice avalanches. There is no survival strategy for climbers caught in the path of these hurtling, city block-sized bombs of ice. When expeditions are going smoothly, fixed ropes guide and protect climbers as they cross this nail-biting feature. In the event of a slip, being clipped on a rope is all that spares a climber from a high-speed glissade to the edge of a sheer plunge into the void”.

Chhiring reached at the top of K2 safely on 1st August, 2008 at 6:15 pm. He shared that a Norwegian climber beneath him killed on the descent followed by a French then two Nepalese cousins, another Pakistani and an Irish climber, all swept away by series of icefalls in the bottleneck area. He remained there alone on the most dangerous traverse on the planet and without any ropes. After sometimes and moving down he saw lights of two Nepalese climbers. They decided to keep descending and look for a rope but one of them was even without an ice axe. Chhiring did not hesitate to help him ,most people would consider saving him a suicide mission but Chhiring tethered Pasang onto his harness and suspended his weight as the two men made their way down to camp. It was indeed risky and they also slipped and had a narrow escape as his ice axe stuck in a tinny crack in the ice.

As they pick their way across this treacherous surface, he recalls watching a movie which the famous climber Ed Viesturs has made, about his experience on K2. Chhiring and American team leader Eric Myers had watched it together and both thought, K2 is very scary! But here and now, Chhiring rescues Passang and himself by quietly thinking, “That movie was right! K2 is very scary!”


Courtesy and source: CBC sports


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