K2 climber accused of stepping over a dying man to earn world record defends herself

Originally published at: K2 climber accused of stepping over a dying man to earn world record defends herself | Boing Boing


It’s depressingly easy to buy the original story, especially given the type of person driven to climb mountains for world records. I could not care less what kind of tall things you’ve gotten to the top of.


“I donated my cameraman, for Pete’s sake. For a whole hour, even. How much more do you people want from me?”


How about just fence the damn place?
The whole thing is just ego driven that helps no one. In fact, it puts everyone involved at risk.



As someone who has had to support the rescue of people and dogs off of 13,000ft+ peaks, I can definitely say if you get injured at 20,000+ ft. your rescue puts the lives of everyone else involved at significant risk. Weather and daylight windows are short, supplies are limited (especially fuel used to melt snow for water). Comfort is all that can be given to someone who is too hurt to rescue.

NOTE: I do have significant issues with the treatment and pay of native Sherpas and I think the whole system is disgustingly exploitative. You should not have to risk your life to make a living, if you want to risk your life for a big (western world size big) payday, that is a different story.


14th highest! Well, that is a hell of an accomplishment. Well, 1/14th of one, anyway.



Harila’s team had passed, stepping over 27-year-old Mohammed Hassan, a porter who had fallen from above and was lying across the trail…

So where were the Hassan’s team? Pushing on to the summit rather than going back to look for their fallen companion?


Yeah. This is a complex situation and unfortunately at that height there’s not a lot of options available. Accomplishing a rescue at that location is harder than simply climbing to that location, and that’s already hard enough (as evidenced by the fact that people die regularly doing this.)

It’s easy to judge on ground level and not in the death zone, but if the professional climbing teams said that getting out of the way was the best they could offer, I believe them. It’s a shitty situation, but yes, they absolutely could tell if someone was doomed at that level. And those decisions could just as easily be made about them were they to suffer an injury.


While I really do not like her justification I think there was nothing to be done. It’s called the death zone for a reason. Pretty much you get yourself out or you die, effective rescue isn’t possible. Look at that picture–think they could possibly carry someone down that path??


The video…makes her out to have done that which she was accused of doing.

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Maybe what we should be doing is stopping this from happening. It’s obscene that we justify this with “well there was nothing that could be done” as if life is just expendable. This is no different from the murderer Stockton Rush who killed 3 others for his greed, ego, and pride. We need to stop this type thrillseeking.

It is different though. The people in the Stockton Rush situation were misled and misinformed about the risks involved. Every single person that goes up to do those extreme climbs know exactly what they’re getting into and that if things go badly, they’ll be the ones left to pass. Life IS expendable when you’re operating in regions like this.

I can agree that far too many are going up there, but every single person who goes up there knows the risk. The eight-thousanders have killed hundreds, and for every five people that summit K2, someone dies.

Life IS expendable up there.


Stopping high altitude mountaineering isn’t feasible in any sense. The countries with the 8000’ers rely on the income, and so do the porters.

Reducing mountaineering to unnecessary “thrill seeking” is such a tired take, honestly. Exploration, pushing physical limitations and climbing are part of human nature. No less than any of the athletic and recreational activities that people constantly do. To ban this is to cut off human potential. Risky activities are part of the human experience. Climbing mountains connects us to nature in ways that non-climbers have trouble imagining. We should tackle problematic aspects, such as leaving garbage or poor treatment of hired guides and porters, but let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

I’ve read numerous accounts of this incident, and it’s FAR more complicated than portrayed in the single article. Here is a much more thorough and nuanced account of what happened from a variety of perspectives:

According to some of the Sherpa porters, he was inexperienced and ill-equipped and had been told many times that he should go back, but instead he went ahead of his team and had an accident the most treacherous part of the standard K2 route. There were also apparently communication problems where people didn’t know a rescue was necessary. Not that I’m saying more shouldn’t have been done.

There is a good summary article about this and other similar incidents with the 8000’ climbing season here:

In one case, where a climber gave up his summit bid to successfully help a porter in trouble, the government awarded him with kudos and a free permit for a future season. There were many stories of heroism, as well as possible bad behavior.

High altitude mountaineering does have its issues, and there should probably be measures in place that help protect porters, limit overcrowding on summit bids and as a culture, encourage the mountaineers toward helping as much as possible without further risk to themselves. But please research more to understand the actual situation rather than paint all mountaineers and mountaineering as irresponsible and undesirable.


The Bottleneck mentioned is at 8200 meters. Even if a rescue were possible and initiated, it’s highly doubtful they would have been able to get down the two kilometers that represent the top of a rescue helicopter’s ceiling, not to mention the weather was probably not even going to allow that. I think the problem people have is that there’s a lack of respect or understanding for just how alien the world is up there. The moment this poor man’s oxygen mask broke, much less his injuries, he was in grave danger and nobody could help him. Even if a rescue was called in, the odds are pretty good that they would have considered it a Search and Recovery operation.

I live near Mt. Hood, and every year, just up the 3400 meters , there are climbers who run into problems that require rescue but due to weather or such cannot be removed from the mountain in time. Those are treated as search and recovery operations even though the person is alive.

And this is at a level that is far under half the height of K2’s Bottleneck.

Lots of arguments should be made about whether this should be happening at all, but since it’s decided that this WILL happen because there’s a TON of money in it for a lot of people, this is going to be the sad reality of life and death at 8000m.


Echoing lots of previous comments, but mountain climbers are weird. Once went to a talk by a distant work colleague about his Everest attempt. Said things like “On Everest, you can do everything right, but the weather can change unexpectedly and then you die.” And he was OK with that. His talk included photos of many climbing colleagues, and for several he mentioned that that person had subsequently died on a different climb. His team for the Everest attempt included a small group of Indian climbers whose aim was to recover the bodies of two Indian climbers who died there the previous season. They successfully recovered one body but left a new one, so they broke even. All these horrible things were normal for him.

These people are all fine with the idea that there’s a significant chance that they will die on their climb, and they’ll be assuming the same of all their colleagues. I cannot understand how anyone can think like that, but if they do, I can understand their reaction when someone cannot be saved.


… it’s as if they were still sending tourists down to the Titanic in cardboard tubes every week, to win little competitions :confused:

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Lion - we are in agreement, absolutely.

Sure, there are significant chances of dying when we do extraordinary things as humans. Or even ordinary things. If something is your passion though, your ambition, your great love, will you be willing to live your life cowed by the fact that you might die? When you might also die in a car accident, or from cancer, or being murdered? Or would you do the thing that makes life worthwhile?

I’m no Himalayan climber, but I hiked 1330 miles by myself on the PCT. Not Everest death rates (estimated at about 1%), but out of about 4000 thru-hikers a year on that trail, one or two might die, depending on the year. Am I “weird”? While I was on trail, I had never been happier in my life. Greatest experience I’ve ever had. No matter what went wrong or how scary things got, every day was amazing and I was almost constantly in a state of bliss. I wouldn’t give it up for all the world. People are different, with different risk tolerances and different passions and needs.

I can understand that you might not have the risk tolerance as an Everest climber and respect that you respect how they might accept it, and that a colleague is taking that risk and might die. I just don’t think mountaineers are weird for it.

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This actually happened to a friend of mine. Very experienced mountaineer. Very skilled. Paid his sherpas and crew well. Died. In of all things, an earthquake. April 2015 Nepal earthquake - Wikipedia

Yah, I think you’re right. It’s hard to say this without sounding like you’re defending poor treatment of native porters. Obviously nobody is in favour of that here. However this really feels like a complex and nuanced situation that the internet peanut gallery is all suddenly weighing in on based on a headline and a movie they saw once about climbing.