Disaster on K2

Disaster on K2: Many Climbers Dead or Missing

A large number of climbers are dead or missing on K2 after an ice avalanche hit the upper mountain during a big summit push on August 1.Approximately 17 climbers were descending from the summit or the upper slopes late in the day when an avalanche struck near the Bottleneck, the narrow gully at about 8,200 meters that provides access to the 8,611-meter peak's upper slopes. Looming over the Bottleneck is a large band of seracs and ice cliffs. Falling ice appears to have wiped out fixed ropes installed in the Bottleneck and the delicate traverse above it. Some climbers may have been hit by the falling ice, and others were unable to descend without the aid of the fixed ropes.A large group had headed to the summit after midnight on August 1, after climbing the Abruzzi Spur or the Cesen Route (south-southeast ridge), which meet near Camp 3 on the Shoulder of the Abruzzi Spur. This group included climbers from France, Italy, Korean, Nepal, the Netherlands, Norway, Pakistan, and Serbia. An accident during the ascent slowed the climbers, and they didnot start the descent until evening. When the avalanche struck, approximately a dozen climbers were above the missing fixed ropes.

After the avalanche, a few climbers were able to descend the steep ice through the Bottleneck, and then continue down to Camp 4 on the shoulder of the Abruzzi Spur (southeast ridge) at approximately 7,600 meters. Others may have survived a night above the Bottleneck and then descended. As of today, August 4, the Dutch climbers Wilco van Rooijen and Cas van de Gevel have made it to base camp and been evacuated by helicopter for medical treatment. Pemba Sherpa also has descended to base camp, and the Italian Marco Confortola is being helped down the mountain.

The fate of the rest of the climbers is still unconfirmed, although media reports and Pakistani tour operators and officials have put the number of dead at 11. The missing climbers include a team from Korea, a Norwegian, a Serb, Frenchman, and several Nepali and Pakistani guides and high-altitude porters. In 1995, six climbers died during a single day on K2, including American Rob Slater. The worst season in K2 climbing history was 1986, when 13 died.

Date of Accident: August 1, 2008

Sources: K2climb.net, Noritk2.nl, Everestnews.com

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