/ NEWS: K2: Survivors Recount Tragedy

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The last known survivor of the disastrous ice avalanche on the upper flanks of K2 has descended to base camp.

With the assistance of an American mountaineer and two Sherpas, Italian climber Marco Confortola was able to reach base camp and is currently awaiting helicopter rescue.

Read More: http://www.ukclimbing.com/news/older.html?month=08&year=2008#n45245
Luca Signorelli - on 06 Aug 2008
In reply to Jack Geldard - Editor - UKC:

I believe that it may be useful to provide a literal translation of Marco Confortola first report about the disaster, as given on the phone yesterday, and published today on website Montagna.tv. I tried to make the translation as literal as possible. While a bit early to decide how much this report reflects the actual events, I believe that Marco’s tale can’t be too far to what really has happened on K2.

To better understand the context of Marco’s report, it should be noted that he’s, by profession, a mountain rescuers.


“I’m back to the tent now, I’ve found everyone here. I’ve found Roby, our cooks. I’ve found Mario Panzeri, who’s come to get me at the glacier and take me back to the BC. I’m ok, luckily I’m strong headed. Only problem is that my feet are now aching a lot. I’ve been seven days on that mountain. It’s been hard. It’s been dreadful.

There were a lot of people leaving Camp 4 on summit day. From memory: there were five Koreans, Roby and me, 4 Norwegians, 5 Dutch up from the Cesen route, 4 Serbs from the Abruzzi spur, and many Sherpas and Pakistan altitude porters from different expeditions.

We’ve summited quite late. The problem was the material placed on the Bottleneck and particularly above that. At the beginning there were plenty of “professors” up there (Trans. Note: Marco means “people bragging about their climbing technical competence”), but then a lot are just not that good at it, or simply they didn’t want to. We decided that in this particular section five Sherpas would trace the route, but then it turned out that other people had gone forward (Trans. Note: they, instead of the Sherpas, had equipped the route)

They put a short piton on the traverse, and when later someone had his weight on it, it simply came out. They should have placed 200 or 300 meters of rope, some good rope, even if a bit heavy. Instead, they’ve placed the Pakistani’s rope. I don’t want to play the pedant part, but it was a disaster. One hundred meters of stuff you couldn’t even tie hay balls with. That mixed section was a bit delicate, rock and ice, but they didn’t calculate well the weights, and so everything was pulled out.

Ok, I’ve summited at 19. I was with the Dutch. I kept looking at my wristw*tch, kept looking at it, we were so late. On the top I’ve literally taken four pics, and then we started down. Problem is, during the descent, no one had the route flags we had previously agreed to bring. I had few of them in my sack, but not enough. And so, during the night, a bit tired, a bit confused because we had climbed without oxygen… disaster struck.

Well, several of them, really. I was climbing down, one of the last; I was above the big serac. Before me there was my good friend Gerard, I had nicknamed him “Jesus”. I told him “wait a second, I’ve heard a noise”, then this racket came, and we saw three Koreans tumbling down the steep slope and disappear. More or less at 8:30 pm. Then complete silence. I told to Jesus, let’s stop here, it’s dark now let’s not do crazy stunts, we risk falling down from the ‘balcony’, it’s the name of the big suspended serac, let’s pass the night here. I’ve phoned Agostino (Trans. Note. Agostino da Polenza) then.

Jesus and I we’ve dug two holes, two snow seats, it’s steep there, almost 60 degrees. We’ve waited for the dawn to come. We tried staying awake; I kept calling another guy who was sitting alone a bit down from our place, because if he had fallen asleep, he would have tumbled down on his own. I was calling for help to the others too, but I was sitting there without moving, warming his (Trans. Note: Gerard’s) legs because he felt colder than me.

At some point, after yelling and yelling, to my right, looking up the slope, I’ve seen Wilco coming; he’s the head of the Dutch expedition. He told me something, but my English is awful. I’ve asked from where did he come, he made some kind of sign, but I couldn’t understand there was this bloody wind and after a while everything was covered (Trans. Note: became cloudy)

Then Jesus got a bit to the left to take a pee, on the steepest part of the slope, and he called me “Marco, move”. I came, I looked down the couloir, and the fixed ropes simply disappeared down the serac. Slowly I’ve looked a bit down again… there are three people hanging from the slope: the three Koreans we saw falling the evening before, and not heard anymore. When we saw them tumbling down we thought “Ok, they’re gone, dead”. But they were still there. And so Jesus and I we abseiled down, I’ve tried to improvise a rescue, but it was not that simple, they were hanging upside down, if you were tuning one up, another went upside down again and so on. It was a mess, but I kept trying, and trying.

After 3pm I looked up and saw four strong Nepal Sherpas coming down,. They continued the rescue attempt (Trans Note: of the Koreans). I gave one of my gloves to the last climber at the bottom of the gully, he had none, lost everything in the fall, one of his boots too. The only thing I could do was to give him this glove, I had nothing else, I couldn’t stand it anymore.

I come down, do the traverse, descend the Bottleneck, and then at the bottom I hear this big booming noise. I look up and 400 metres above there’s this big avalanche coming down from the serac, and below some boots. I’ve recognized them – it was Jesus. Oh dear.

I went down a bit again, and then I simply collapsed, I fell asleep. And in the meanwhile Pemba has arrived, and has woken me up. He has given me oxygen, and helped me down to camp 4. If it hadn’t for him, I was going to die.

When we were almost to camp 4 I’ve hear another “boom”, an hellish noise. Another slice of the serac was coming down. There were eight people above us. Two Sherpas were passing near, and one of them got an oxygen bottle right on his head and an ice block too. And then the Sherpa (Trans. Note: Pemba) has sheltered me with his body like he was a lioness protecting his cub. He has shielded me until we got to the tent, then he went up again to look for the others, to look after Wilco.

The rest of the descent has been awful, particularly the last bit. But the worst moment, sincerely, was when I’ve seen those boots coming down from the serac, my friend Jesus boots. And then when the Sherpas arrived while I was attempting the rescue (Trans. Note: of the Koreans). I’ve tried everything and more, but I simply couldn’t do it, could not take them back home. In my role of mountain rescuer, I felt worthless, I felt useless."
Wrongfoot on 06 Aug 2008 - client-81-109-211-48.leed.adsl.virgin.net
In reply to Luca Signorelli:

Thanks very much for your time translating that.
Belay1 on 08 Aug 2008 - host81-149-233-167.in-addr.btopenworld.com
In reply to Jack Geldard - Editor - UKC:

Thanks for the translation.
A truly tragic day in the mountains..
psd on 08 Aug 2008 - 78-105-162-185.zone3.bethere.co.uk
In reply to Luca Signorelli:

Thank you. And thank you to Marco Confortola for showing that there can still be nobility on the high mountains.
Luca Signorelli - on 09 Aug 2008
In reply to Jack Geldard - Editor - UKC:

An interview with Marco done in Islamabad, where he recount his ordeal. Some of the smaller details differs from the transcript of the earlier phone call (for instance, he was the one who got an oxygen bottle on his head during the avalanche, not a sherpa), but the big picture is the same


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