Nine die in worst-ever K2 climbing disaster

At least nine climbers have died on the world's most dangerous mountain after a series of incidents led to chaos on the slopes of K2. Officials say a number of other climbers are missing and that the death toll could rise. In what was described as one of the blackest weekends in mountaineering, six of the climbers were struck by an avalanche while descending from the summit of the mountain, the second highest after Everest. Three more died in separate incidents.

The fatalities came after 22 climbers from eight expeditions reached the summit on Saturday and then began the perilous journey back down the mountain. "They were returning from the summit when an avalanche at the Bottleneck hit them," Ghulam Mohammad, a tour official, told Reuters.

While precise details remain unclear, it seems that a serac – a pinnacle or pillar of ice – gave way. This killed some of the group and destroyed a number of fixed climbing ropes on the steep gully known as the Bottleneck, leaving other climbers stranded. The Bottleneck is located at a height of more than 26,000ft (8,200m). Climbers call it the Death Zone. Fredrik Straeng, a Swedish climber, described the incident to the Swedish news agency TT, saying he believed more than nine climbers died: "I have carried down both living and dead people from the mountain. I panicked when a [climber] fell straight on to my back ... I was terrified that we would all be pulled off the cliff and screamed to him to use his ice axe, but he lost his grip and plummeted off a 300-metre cliff."

The summit of K2, on the border of Pakistan and China, is 800ft lower than Everest, but experts agree K2 is a more challenging climb and statistically it remains one of the deadliest mountains for fatalities. At least 70 climbers have died on the mountain, many at the Bottleneck. Officials said a team of climbers had begun ascending the mountain to take supplies to those still trying to make their way down. Helicopters were being readied to bring down injured climbers and spotter planes are standing by.

Last night there was confusion about the nationality of those climbers still missing. One report said five members of a Dutch team were still missing, while there was also no news about an Irish climber Gerard McDonnell, a French climber Hugues d'Aubarede and a third climber identified only as "Karim".

On Friday, Mr McDonnell had achieved his ambition of becoming the first Irishman to climb K2 after an earlier failed attempt. His friends and family were last night hoping that reports of a lone figure making their way down the mountain was Mr McDonnell. A Korean team lost five members, including two Nepalis.

Among those confirmed dead were three South Koreans, two Nepalese, along with Serbian, Norwegian, Dutch and French climbers. Norwegian media are reporting that Rolf Bae, 33, died in the disaster, while his wife is reportedly trying to make her way down with two other Norwegians. Unconfirmed reports said one Pakistani had died and some foreign and local climbers were unaccounted for.

In August 1995, six people fell or disappeared during a storm on K2, among them a British climber, Alison Hargreaves.

The head of the Italian mountaineering group Ev-K2-CNR, Agostino Da Polenza, told SkyItalia television: "According to the rumours from the ... base camp, there should be nine people dead and four still missing."

Major Farooq Firoz, a spokesman for the Pakistan military which is organising the search missions, said: "We were told that some climbers are still returning to the camps."

A Dutch expedition said on its website that three of its team were descending from Camp Three, at 7,350 metres. Two of them were suffering from frostbite.

The deadliest descent

*K2 is the second highest mountain in the world at 8,611m or 28,251ft.

*It was first conquered by Lino Lacedelli and Achille Compagnoni, part of an Italian expedition, on 31 July 1954.

*In an earlier attempt in 1953, climber Art Gilkey was killed, either in an avalanche or in a deliberate attempt to avoid burdening his companions.

*Those mountaineers who reach the peak have a much greater chance of dying while descending than on other peaks: 27 per cent have perished making their way back down – a rate three times higher than on Everest.

*1986 was known as the 'black summer': 13 out of 27 to try the ascent died. Polish climber Wanda Rutkiewicz became the first woman to reach the top, but Liliane Barrard – who became the second minutes later – and her husband, Maurice, did not complete the descent.

*On 13 August 1995, a storm caused six people to fall or disappear, the previous record for the mountain's deadliest day. Among them was Alison Hargreaves, the first woman to climb Everest without oxygen or sherpas.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
The data shows that the number of “unlawfully” large infant classes has doubled in the last 12 months alone
i100Mike Stuchbery, a teacher in Great Yarmouth, said he received abuse
Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
Sport
Rio Ferdinand returns for QPR
sportRio Ferdinand returns from his three-game suspension today
News
The Speaker of the House will takes his turn as guest editor of the Today programme
arts + ents
News
people

Watch the spoof Thanksgiving segment filmed for Live!
Sport
Billy Twelvetrees will start for England against Australia tomorrow with Owen Farrell dropping to the bench
rugbyEngland need a victory against Australia today
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of The Guest Cat – expect to see it everywhere
books
Sport
Tyson Fury poses outside the Imperial War Museum in south London ahead of his fight against Dereck Chisora
boxingAll British heavyweight clash gets underway on Saturday night
News
i100 Charity collates series of videos that show acts of kindness to animals
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Opilio Recruitment: QA Automation Engineer

£30k - 38k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: An award-winning consume...

Opilio Recruitment: UX & Design Specialist

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Publishing Application Support Analyst

£30k - 35k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We’re currently re...

Opilio Recruitment: Digital Marketing Manager

£35k - 45k per year + benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game