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Healing time for K2 climbers

August 5, 2008 | 11:39 am

Nicholasrice_300_2By now, most people are aware of the tragic loss of life that occurred over the weekend on K2, the world's second-highest mountain, in northern Pakistan. Eleven people from several nations are reported dead. Most of the fatalities were the result of an ice avalanche that swept some climbers away at a critical juncture near the summit, and cut ropes vital for the descent, leaving climbers trapped and fending for themselves in the dark.

No Americans were among the victims, but Nicholas Rice (show at right on a 2007 excursion to Aconagua), a Los Angeles mountaineer who had aborted his summit bid just above Camp 3, was on the mountain while the tragedy was unfolding and has been in Base Camp trying to sort various reports and deal with the emotional weight of the pall that materializes when fellow climbers go missing or are reported dead.

On Tuesday, as an unusual rain fell at Base Camp at 16,000 feet, Rice wrote on his website, "It almost seems as thought the mountain is weeping for the recently deceased. After the tedious task of cataloging everything I had packed was finished, I nervously ate dinner and got to my satellite phone so I could be on time for my interview with NPR. I initially was going to avoid the media, as in most cases with tragedies, it gets you into trouble.

"But I decided to refrain from speaking about any specifics regarding the deceased (names and events) and try and use the media venue to get the word out that blame needn’t be assigned in this case; only bad luck could be blamed for the timing of the Serac fall and the fact that that day, and only that day, people were above the traverse in a position where they would be trapped if the ropes were cut. It was as fate would have it."

But Rice did run a list of the 11 victims — the same victims listed by Pakistan's tourism ministry, but with some different spellings — and comments he put together based on conversations with witnesses. Rice could not guarantee total accuracy:

1. Serbian, Diran — confirmed dead; fell below Bottleneck; body recovered to CIV by American doctor, Eric.

2. Pakistani, Mehrban Karim — confirmed dead; fell in descent after Hugues died.

3. Pakistani, Jehan Baig — confirmed dead; fell below Bottleneck during rescue of Diran.

4. French, Hugues D’Aubarede — confirmed dead; stuck above the traverse after Serac fall cut the fixed lines.

5. Irish, Gerard McDonell — confirmed dead; refused to descend because he was helping the others who were injured.

6. Korean, Park  Kyeong Hyo — confirmed dead; Serac fall   

7. Korean, Kim  Hyokyeong — confirmed dead; Serac fall

8. Korean, Hwang  Dong Jin — confirmed dead; Serac fall

9. Nepali, Pasang Bhote — confirmed dead; died in rescue of Jumich Bhote from Serac fall

10. Nepali, Jumich Bhote — confirmed dead; trapped in Bottleneck when rope cut by Serac fall

11. Norwegian, Rolf Bae — confirmed dead; fell in descent with Serac fall

—Pete Thomas

Photo of Nicholas Rice at Camp I on Aconagua in 2007 by Joshua Carnes