News: K2 Accident Update


Text by Kirkpatrick Reardon
Photograph courtesy Charley Mace, showing Ed Viesturs traversing K2’s Bottleneck

News Updates:
NG Adventure Blog: K2 Survivor Wilco van Rooijen, In His Own Words

New York Times: Chaos on the ‘Mountain That Invites Death’

NPR: Climber Barely Missed K2 Avalanche ExWeb special: A magic mountain named K2

L.A. Times: Dutch K2 survivor describes chaos after avalanche Italian Climber Reaches K2 Base Camp, Will Be Flown to Hospital

More From National Geographic ADVENTURE:
David Roberts’s "The Bitter Legacy"

Time Line: The First Ascent of K2

K2 Vs. Everest Fast Facts


Eleven are feared dead after a serac collapsed last Friday near the summit of 28,250-foot K2, located in the Karakoram of northern Pakistan and arguably the most deadly mountain on Earth.

"At this point, the various reports are so mutually contradictory that some of them have to be wrong," says Contributing Editor David Roberts, who regularly reports on mountaineering for the magazine (read his feature "The Bitter Legacy" about the first ascent of K2). "However, if indeed 11 people died in a single event, that would make this the second worst Himalayan tragedy in history. The worst occurred when 16 climbers were killed in an avalanche on Nanga Parbat in 1937—seven Germans and nine porters." In 1986, 13 climbers died on K2, but in a series of storms and accidents, not a single event.

The Accident
Taking advantage of clear skies and low winds last Friday, 22 climbers pushed along the Southeast ridge to the summit of the mountain. But on their way back down, a large block of ice broke loose in a steep couloir at 8,200 feet.

"I can’t be sure, but my guess is that the serac that collapsed was this big ice cliff hanging over the Bottleneck, which, while climbing K2 in 1992, I jokingly called the Motivator—the idea being that you want to get out from under it as soon as possible," says alpinist Ed Viesturs, the first U.S. citizen to climb the world’s 14 highest peaks.

Continue reading this story >>


  1. Cahya
    August 5, 2008, 11:53 am


  2. J9
    August 7, 2008, 12:50 am

    Can someone tell me in a serious fashion why these people did not turn back after they realized that they were seriously behind any reasonable schedule to summit? If I read correctly some of them were summiting at nightfall? Are mountaineers all suicidal now? I feel as if we are watching a bad “reality” show play out whenever summit attempts are made — its scary & ugly — only the depraved want to watch people willingly killing themselves.

  3. rob
    October 2, 2008, 10:09 am

    For J9. There’s no time schedule on k2. It’s used to come back in the darkness. First ’54 italian summit made it in the night. K2 climbers must consider spending the night there. Delays can happen all along the step to and from the summit. Pemba, Confortola, Wilco and others showed skilled to get out from there. Some spent lot of energies trying to help fellow climbers hit by ice fall. In my opinion the tragedy was misfortune.

  4. iqbal
    June 16, 2010, 6:55 am

    I m’ working as a tour and adventure guide since 13 years.
    I have worked with one Photographer Mr. Gelen Rawal from National Geographic.
    Just would like to know about, whether he is still working with the same magazine or not.

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