K2 Climbers Face Allegations They Left Pakistani Porter to Die

An investigation has been launched into the death of a Pakistani porter near the peak of the world’s most treacherous mountain, a Pakistani mountaineer said Saturday.  

The investigation was prompted by allegations that dozens of climbers eager to reach the summit walked past the porter after he was gravely injured in a fall. 

The accusations surrounding events on July 27 on K2, the world’s second-highest peak, overshadowed a record established by Norwegian climber Kristin Harila and her Sherpa guide Tenjin. By climbing K2 that day, they became the world’s fastest climbers, scaling the world’s 14 highest mountains in 92 days. 

Harila rejected any responsibility for the death of the porter, Mohammed Hassan, a 27-year-old father of three who slipped and fell off a narrow trail in a particularly dangerous area of K2 known as the bottleneck.  

In an Instagram post Friday, she wrote that no one was at fault in the tragic death. 

Two other climbers on K2 that day, Austrian Wilhelm Steindl and German Philip Flaemig, aborted their climb because of weather, but they said they reconstructed the events later by reviewing drone footage. 

The footage showed dozens of climbers passing a gravely injured Hassan instead of coming to his rescue, Steindl told The Associated Press on Saturday. He alleged the porter could have been saved if the other climbers, including Harila and her team, had given up attempts to reach the summit. 

Steindl added that the footage shows “a man trying to rub (Hassan’s) chest, trying to keep him warm, to keep him alive somehow. You can see that the man is desperate.” 

“There is a double standard here,” Steindl said. “If I or any other Westerner had been lying there, everything would have been done to save them. Everyone would have had to turn back to bring the injured person back down to the valley.” 

Steindl said July 27 was the only day in this season on which conditions were good enough for mountaineers to reach the summit of K2, which explains why there were so many climbers who were so eager to get to the top. 

“I don’t want to kind of directly blame anybody,” Steindl said. “I’m just saying there was no rescue operation initiated and that’s really very, very tragic because that’s actually the most normal thing one would do in a situation like that.” 

Harila told Sky News that Hassan had been dangling from a rope, head down, after his fall at the bottleneck, which she described as “probably the most dangerous part of K2.” She said that after about an hour, her team was able to pull him back onto the trail. 

At some point, she and another person from her team decided to continue to the top while another team member stayed with Hassan, giving him warm water and oxygen from his own mask, the climber said. 

Harila said she decided to continue moving toward the summit because her forward fixing team also had run into difficulties, which she did not further detail in the interview. 

An investigation has been launched into Hassan’s death, said Karrar Haidri, the secretary of the Pakistan Alpine Club, a sports organization that also serves as the governing body for mountaineering in Pakistan. The investigation is being conducted by officials in the Gilgit-Baltistan region that has jurisdiction over K2, Haidri said. 

Anwar Syed, the head of Lela Peak Expedition, the company that Hassan was working for, said he died about 150 meters (490 feet) below the summit. He said several people tried to help, providing oxygen and warmth, to no avail. 

Syed said that because of the bottleneck’s dangerous conditions, it would not be possible to retrieve Hassan’s body for his family. He said his company had given money to Hassan’s family and would continue to help but did not elaborate. 

Steindl visited Hassan’s family and set up a crowd-funding campaign. After three days, donations reached more than $125,000 Saturday. 

“I saw the suffering of the family,” Steindl told AP. “The widow told me that her husband did all this so that his children would have a chance in life, so that they could go to school.” 

About The Author

leave a reply: