As Climbing Tragedies Go, It Was Among the Very Worst

'Outside' revisits the 2022 avalanche that killed 29 on India's Draupadi Ka Danda II
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 30, 2023 9:10 AM CDT
As Climbing Tragedies Go, It Was Among the Very Worst
Draupadi Ka Danda II.   (Wikimedia Images / Amar)

On October 4, 2022, the summit was in sight; then tragedy struck in the form of what would prove to be among the very deadliest avalanches in mountaineering history. In a lengthy piece for Outside, Anna Callaghan revisits what happened that day on India's Draupadi Ka Danda II, or DKD2 as it is known, and attempts to unpack the thorniest of questions: Why? And could it have been prevented? Some 46 people—all but one participating in a 28-day advanced mountaineering course run by the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering (NIM)—struck out early that morning for the summit of the 18,600-foot peak. "All 46 climbers were together on the slope," writes Callaghan, "and almost everyone was attached to the fixed line with a carabiner, waiting to move up." After 5 hours of climbing, they began to reach the top. Then the "crack shot."

The avalanche swept 34 of the climbers into a crevasse, where they fell roughly 80 feet. "The snow that piled up around them hardened into concrete, entombing them alive," writes Callaghan. Only five of them would ultimately be pulled out alive; each had managed to land with their head above the snow. Of the rest, all but two of the bodies were recovered. It's unclear whether the Indian government plans to publish the results of an investigation into the avalanche, so Callaghan spoke with survivors and experts in a search for answers. There are no clear ones, though most fault the decision to group all the climbers together; another cites the dangers that familiarity can breed. NIM has been climbing on DKD2 since 1981 and had never experienced an avalanche there. (Read the full piece, which also explains why mountaineering and national defense go hand-in-hand in India.)

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