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Avalanche Tragedy on K2 - by Chris Burke

Posted by Leafcutter Creative Digital on
 It's a story title we hear a little too often. Probably out of denial I sometimes picture it as just the same good story tellers reliving that time maybe 20 years ago but no, it has happened again. There is good reason not everyone becomes an 8000m+ mountaineer. But for those that do, they never fail to come back from an expedition without a story to tell. It often involves death, often involves some hardship, often involves the weather and the cold, and always involves the power of the mountains. Chris Burke is a wonderful story teller but she's not one of those to live in the past. Season after season she comes back from the Himalayas with a new tale. Like a good classic it always seems to have all the ingredients for an adventure. We are so happy that she's been able to walk away from another basecamp, all be it with a slightly empty feeling and with the need to return. Chris has just been on an expedition to climb Broad Peak which shares a BC with K2 which she summited last year. The following post by Chris is an account of what happened on K2 and the subsequent happenings in BC and how our much respected Lakpa was there once more to do what he does best.  - Matt Eaton
  
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Early today, 20th, tragedy struck Broad Peak as an avalanche ripped through the lower section of the mountain taking 7 climbers with it.  At the time of writing and after extensive search, one climber remains unaccounted for.
Lakpa soon received a radio call from one of the injured.  Lakpa and many others from our camp and neighbouring camps, rushed to the scene to assist with rescue and recovery.   One of our good friends was lucky to have a part of their body protruding from the debris so that the person could be spotted and pulled out quickly.One of the worst injured climbers has a number of suspected fractures.  Lakpa climbed up to reach the climber, and applying his rescue and recovery expertise he (with the help of a western climber) lowered the climber down steep terrain to crampon point (around 450m linear distance) where the climber received aid from an awaiting doctor.  Lakpa said that as they lowered the climber, 2 more avalanches passed nearby causing them to move out of the way. When some climbers returned to base camp, they came to me and hailed Lakpa a hero – Lakpa would not like this.  He was simply doing what he knows and does well.  Margaret and I remained at base camp knowing the numbers of people at crampon point or below would be more than enough to assist there (with more climbers descending from K2 base camp).  I and several others co-ordinated by radio, as required, and Margaret and I provided first aid to the first Nepalese Sherpa to arrive back at base camp.Attempts to bring in a military helicopter for evacuation purposes today failed.  By reports, the military indicated that the weather was not good enough for helicopters to fly in (our LO said one tried) so we are hopeful that an evacuation can take place tomorrow morning.  I’m keen for the injured Nepalese Sherpa to be given a helicopter evacuation and have arranged for the company he is climbing with in Pakistan to be contacted and hopefully any paperwork required can be arranged with evacuation tomorrow.
 
The climber that is missing, presumed dead, is a Pakistani high altitude porter who was assisting another team at our base camp.  I won’t name him, as his family may still need to be informed and he will no doubt be named through appropriate channels.  Only yesterday, he was bringing gear back from crampon point for another climber and I walked the last 20 minutes to base camp with him.  We arrived at a melting section of ice where we needed to cross a creek.  He began smashing the ice with his foot to make a platform for us to step onto.  Without hesitation, he then extended his hand.  I took his hand as I heaved across the rushing creek, and we then walked the last few minutes together back to camp.   He made an impression on everyone at our camp.
 
 Late this afternoon, many high altitude porters gathered at our base camp to pray for their lost friend and tomorrow many people plan to search again to try and find him.
 
 Here, in these mountains, we hear avalanches often.  Just last night, in our dining tent (having returned from the mountain earlier that day) as a team we were discussing snow conditions that we had encountered on our rotation and the weather forecast for coming days, but with our up and coming summit pushes in mind.  As we left the dining tent for bed, a heavy wet snow fell, and it did not stop through the night – it was so loud at times, it sounded like rain.  Our timing sits behind many other climbers here at camp.  When I got up this morning, the climbers on a different timetable were already disappearing into the mist of the glacier.
 
 It is a sombre time at Broad Peak base camp – many have lost a longtime friend today.  Many have lost a friend they only recently met.  Meanwhile, avalanches continue to fall in the mountains around us.  We are tired.  We are sad.  We need time to absorb today’s events.
 
By Chris Burke
 
You can find out more about Chris Burke on our sponsored athletes profile page here, or visit her website here
 

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