Nanga Parbat Ordeal Now Over

by Jack Geldard - Editor - UKC Jul/2008
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Karl Unterkircher was tragically killed on Nanga Parbat on July 15th. Unterkircher, aged 37, was an extremely experienced climber and mountain guide, with ascents of Everest and K2 without supplementary oxygen in 2004, and had completed various new routes in the Himalayas including the north face of Gasherbrum II in 2007. He was also chief of the rescue service in the Dolomites where he lived.

Unterkircher and his climbing partners Simon Kehrer and Walter Nones had ascended to an altitude of around 6000m when a snow bridge collapsed, plunging Unterkircher in to a crevasse. His friends were not only unable to rescue him, but they could not descend the difficulties below. They tried to extract Unterkircher from the crevasse for a whole night, but it was impossible. The tired climbers then spent two days ascending to a plateau at around 7000m.

Kehrer and Nones spent a total of 8 nights after the accident waiting at an altitude of around 7000m for the weather to clear enough to allow them to descend the 'Buhl' 1953 first-ascent route on the north east slopes. The Pakistani army sent helicopter support, but due to the high altitude of the plateau on which the climbers were stuck, the helicopter could only drop supplies and a satellite telephone:

"We are okay and will descend via the Buhl Route." Said Kehrer and Nones.

The rescue teams were able to keep in communication with the pair and on the morning of July 24th Maurizio Gallo told them via the satellite phone "The Weather looks good." Less than two hours later the climbers had descended to a plateau at 5700m, low enough for the helicopter to pick them up and take them to safety.

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