Death toll rises to eleven in K2 mountain avalanche

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Associated Press (AP) and CNN reported about midday UTC that the death toll in the Sunday's accident on K2 has risen to eleven.

Two Dutch climbers have been rescued by helicopter, the AP also said. CNN reports that two of the people killed were climbing up the mountain in an attempt to assist others.

AP says that about two dozen climbers began the accent of K2, the world's second-highest mountain, Friday after the weather had cleared. Climbers are listed as from the Netherlands, South Korea, Italy, Norway, France, Nepal, Serbia, Pakistan and Ireland.

Trouble began on Sunday when several climbers decided to turn back citing rope placement problems. CNN reports the group was climbing in two teams and both were descending from near the summit when an a large chuck of ice fell sweeping three people off the mountain.

Image: Adam Jacob Muller.

The ice triggered an avalanche which caused confusion within the party.

Wilco Van Rooijen, one of the two rescued Dutch climbers, spoke to AP via phone. He blames poor planning in addition to the avalanche.

"Everything was going well to Camp Four, and on summit attempt, everything went wrong," Van Rooijen said.

He told AP that a low-cloud bank caused whiteout on the mountain, but he chose to begin his decent from the area near the summit.

"There was a Korean guy hanging upside down," Van Rooijen told AP. "There was a second Korean guy who held him with a rope but he was also in shock and then a third guy was there also, and they were trying to survive but I had also to survive."

One stranded climber, Marco Confortola, an Italian who spoke with his brother by phone, described the events as hellish.

"Up there it was hell. During the descent, beyond 8,000 meters (26,000 feet), due to the altitude and the exhaustion I even fell asleep in the snow and when I woke up I could not figure out where I was," Confortola told the ANSA news agency.

A helicopter rescue for Confortola had to be delayed due to poor weather. He told his brother that he was able to walk down to the base camp.

CNN reports that this is the deadliest accident on K2 since records were kept in 1939. 66 people — not counting those in the latest incident — have died on the mountain since then.