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Pakistan 2013: K2 Claims Two More Lives, Expeditions Cancelled

Monday, 29 July 2013

The climbing season in Pakistan is now coming to a rapid end as it appears that all attempts on K2 have now been cancelled. Summit bids had originally been expected this weekend but poor conditions on the mountain have made it impossible for teams to move forward. Unfortunately, not all of the teams heeded the warning signs and turned back and now two climbers have paid the ultimate price on one of the most dangerous mountains on the planet.

Late last week almost every team on K2 turned back at Camp 2 when they discovered that more than seven feet  (2.1 meters) of snow was blocking the route. Not only would that snow make it extremely difficult to climb any higher but it was also making things very unstable. Avalanches could be seen taking place on the upper slopes and that was enough to force most of the climbers to go back down. But the father and son team of Marty and Denali Schmidt, fresh off a successful summit on Broad Peak, decided to continue up to Camp 3 where they hoped to find less snow and improved route conditions. That wasn't the case however and ExWeb is now reporting that the two men have been killed in an avalanche.

It seems that the Schmidts did indeed manage to reach C3 last Friday as expected and they radioed back to Base Camp indicating that they had settled in for the night. But sometime after their last radio check-in the entire camp was swept off the mountain by a powerful avalanche. This was discovered yesterday when a team of Sherpas climbed up to Camp 3 and discovered that it was completely destroyed. There was no trace of the father and son.

My condolences go out to Marty and Denali's friends and family for their loss. I'm sure this is even more shocking after their fantastic success on Broad Peak a few weeks back.

Even before the sad news of the loss of two of their companions the other teams on K2 had already decided to go home. It seems that when they climbed up to C2 last week most of them saw the writing on the wall and that successful summits weren't going to be in the cards this season. K2 is an incredibly difficult mountain to climb even under the best of circumstances. Throw in unstable conditions and a penchant for avalanches and it just didn't seem like a recipe for success. By Saturday most of the climbers had already started packing their gear and planning their trek back civilization. That will take a few days and they'll now go with heavy hearts for the loss of their companions.

Elsewhere in Pakistan most of the other climbing teams on other mountains are wrapping up their expeditions as well. It has been a season with some good success stories, particularly on the Gasherbrums, Broad Peak and a Nanga Parbat. But it has also been a season of incredible sadness and loss. 11 climbers lost their lives on Nanga Parbat when armed gunmen stormed the camp and killed them execution style. A few weeks later, Polish climbing legend Artur Hajzer was lost while descending Gasherbrum I and three Iranian climbers perished after opening a new route on BP. Just this past weekend we also received word that the search has ended for three missing Spanish climbers on GI as well. Add in the deaths on K2 and you have far too many climbers losing their lives in just a matter of a few weeks in Pakistan. This will be a season that will be long remembered, but unfortunately it will be for all of the wrong reasons.

The mountaineering community will mourn the loss of their friends for years to come. Lets hope we don't see another season like this in our lifetimes.

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