A mountaineer has denied allegations that she climbed over and failed to assist a dying Sherpa during her record-breaking climb up the Himalayan mountain K2 on the Pakistan-China border.
Norwegian mountaineer Kristin Harila embarked on a climb up the world’s second highest mountain, K2 — the last peak she needed to ascend to secure the new record for the fastest climb up the world’s 14 highest mountains above 8,000 meters (about 5 miles).
Harila, 37, completed the journey up K2 with Nepali Sherpa Tenjen (Lama) Sherpa on July 27. Her climb up all 14 of the world’s highest mountains lasted 92 days, breaking a record by over three months that was held by Nirmal “Nims” Purja.
But the victory came with some alarming allegations and criticism surrounding events during the ascent.
At around 8,200 meters high (nearly 27,000 feet) on K2, a Pakistani Sherpa, Mohammed Hassan, fell off a sheer edge and was injured, The Guardian reported. Photos taken on that day appeared to show Hassan sitting on the ridge as climbers, including Harila, walked past him rather than try to save him. Video footage captured by two Austrian climbers appears to show the same.
The two Austrian witnesses, Wilhelm Steindl and Philip Flämig, told Austria’s Standard newspaper that Hassan had been left to die by the other mountaineers, according to The Telegraph in Britain.
“It’s all there in the drone footage,” Flämig said. “He is being treated by one person while everyone else is pushing towards the summit. The fact is that there was no organized rescue operation although there were Sherpas and mountain guides on site who could have taken action.”
Harila denied these allegations on Thursday, claiming that she and her team tried to help Hassan but that the conditions were too dangerous to move him. She added that her team did not see him wearing gloves or a down jacket and that he was not carrying oxygen when they found him.
“It is simply not true to say that we did nothing to help him,” she told The Telegraph. “We tried to lift him back up for an hour and a half and my cameraman stayed on for another hour to look after him. At no point was he left alone.”
She added: “Given the conditions, it is hard to see how he could have been saved. He fell on what is probably the most dangerous part of the mountain where the chances of carrying someone off were limited by the narrow trail and poor snow conditions.”
K2 is considered one of the hardest and most dangerous mountains in the world to climb due to its steepness and frequent avalanches. At least 11 people died while climbing K2 in August 2008, marking the worst climbing disaster to occur on the mountain, The Guardian reported.
The 2008 tragedy occurred at an infamous spot on the mountain known as the Bottleneck — the same area where Hassan fell and died.