Atop Deadly K2, Climbers Hit Perfect Storm of Tragedy

11 deaths make worst climbing incident since 1986

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Aug 6, 2008 8:18 AM CDT

(Newser) – This weekend’s disaster on K2, in which 11 climbers lost their lives on the world’s second-highest peak, was one of the climbing’s greatest tragedies. Though “the weather was perfect” when climbers set off Friday, the New York Times takes a look at how the treacherous slopes, a collapsing glacier, and some poor decisions combined to exact terrible consequences at the peak of “the mountain that invites death.”

Considered more difficult to climb than Everest, one climber calls K2 “the holy grail” for mountaineers. Two climbers were killed by falls from its notorious Bottleneck during the ascent; more died when an ice ledge fell and took the mountaineers’ ropes with it, forcing them to choose between descending without ropes or waiting for rescue. At least five who descended fell.

Dutch climber Wilco Van Rooijen is seen in a bed of a military hospital where he was taken after being rescued from K2's base camp, in Skardu, Pakistan, Monday, Aug. 4, 2008.
Dutch climber Wilco Van Rooijen is seen in a bed of a military hospital where he was taken after being rescued from K2's base camp, in Skardu, Pakistan, Monday, Aug. 4, 2008.   (AP Photo)
This undated file photo provided by the Pakistan Tourism Office in Islamabad shows the world's second tallest peak, K2, in northern Pakistan.
This undated file photo provided by the Pakistan Tourism Office in Islamabad shows the world's second tallest peak, K2, in northern Pakistan.   (AP Photo)
Irish mountaineer Gerard McDonnell, who is presumed to have died on K2, is seen in the registration book of the Alpine Club of Pakistan.
Irish mountaineer Gerard McDonnell, who is presumed to have died on K2, is seen in the registration book of the Alpine Club of Pakistan.   (AP Photo)
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