Belfast Telegraph

Monday 5 October 2015

Fears K2 team were consumed by 'summit fever'

Published 05/08/2008

Questions are being asked about the decision of 22 people to make a simultaneous summit bid on K2 last Friday amid suggestions that their judgment may have been clouded by a desire to reach the top.

Swedish survivor Fredrik Strang said there had been a long spell of bad weather before Friday, but when conditions suddenly improved a large number of climbers decided to make their summit bid -- but the weather soon turned again.

"We felt that this wouldn't turn out well and we retreated. The accidents could have been prevented," he said.

"These mountains attract more and more inexperienced and naive people who completely rely on the resources that are there, Sherpas, oxygen gas and weather reports."

His views were echoed by legendary Italian climber Reinhold Messner, who said that the risk was multiplied when small teams made simultaneous summit bids.

"They are strong people, but they do not now how to react . . . they don't know how to behave in the case of emergencies -- in the case of missing ropes, in the case of bad weather," he said.

Gerard McDonnell was a hugely-experienced mountaineer and had attempted to climb K2 in 2006, before becoming the first Irishman to scale the peak last Friday.

And his former team leader, Pat Falvey, last night dismissed suggestions that his group may have been afflicted by "summit fever".

Mr Falvey said the conditions for a summit bid were "text book" last Friday -- that there was no forecast for deteriorating weather.

"This serac is basically a lump of ice that keeps moving over a band of rock before eventually toppling," he explained. "It had been there for five years looking the same way as it did when they went up, but they are unpredictable and the group was hugely unfortunate."

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