K2 Summer 2022: Deaths on Broad Peak and K2

Down Climbing K2 Alan

After what had been a relatively safe season in this summer’s Karakorum region, we see more deaths on K2 and Broad Peak.

CTV News Channel out of Montreal, Canada, reports that Canadian Richard Cartier, 60, and Australian Matt Eakin of Australia died on K2. They were part of a small team using Adventure Pakistan Treks and Expedition logistics.

Cartier reportedly fell to his death below Camp 1.  Australian Matt Eakin of Australia was found dead at Advanced Base Camp. The details are unknown at this time, but it’s assumed they fell on the steep snow slope while descending from Camp 1. They and their teammates were descending after an acclimatization rotation to lower Camp 4 at around 7600-meters.

These incidents are eerily similar to the death of Sergi Mingote in January 2021. He reportedly fell down the same slope to his death. This section is considered straightforward by most K2 climbers as it is a long snow slope with angles between 20 and 40 degrees. However, it can be difficult when icy or slushy.

Fixed rope rig on K2

A fixed line is usually available to climbers, but not everyone clips in, underestimating the difficulty. The descent can be challenging after several difficult and tiring days high on K2, especially when passing the anchors that secure the fixed line to the mountain.

When passing an anchor and staying clipped in, the standard protocol is to arrive at the anchor and clip an additional safety line above the anchor to stop a fall when making the change. Then unclip the jumar and carabiner that are used to arrest a fall while moving and reattach them to the line below the anchor. Finally, the climber removes the safety and continues descending. While a straightforward procedure that is repeated perhaps several hundred times on a K2 or Everest expedition, it can be easy to make a mistake when exhausted.

On Broad Peak, Scottish climber Gordon Henderson is reported missing, but his home team now presumes he’s dead, according to this report from the RAF. He was part of the British Services Mountaineering Expedition. Italian mountaineer, Francois Cazzanelli, is quoted to have seen Henderson’s fall:

“Here [near the summit], he crossed paths with a British climber who was on his way down. As they passed each other, the Italian climber looked back and saw the British mountaineer suddenly losing his balance in the narrow passageway and crashing into a wall,”

Earlier this season, Pakastani climber Sharif Sadpara died on Broad Peak after falling through a soft spot on the summit ridge cornice. Afghanistan climber Ali Akber Sakhim, 34, died from altitude sickness near C3 on K2 on July 20, 2022,

My sincere condolences to all the deceased families, teammates, and friends.

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