Weird History
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The Tragic Details And Unsolved Mysteries Of The K2 Disaster

Updated July 1, 2019 9.6k views15 items

Mountain climbing is a potentially treacherous hobby, but when the proper precautions are taken, it can be a fun and challenging sport. When those precautions are thrown out the window, or unexpected events occur, disaster strikes. This became clear with the infamous K2 disaster of 2008 when 11 people, including both visitors and guides, perished while ascending and descending the mountain together. 

On average, approximately one person perishes on the K2 mountain for every four who reach the summit, but what happened on K2 in 2008 became known as the most fatal climb of them all. Several international expedition groups had been waiting all summer for the weather to clear at the mountain on the border of China and Pakistan and started their expedition together on August 1. What followed is both a tragic and sobering reminder that adventure sports can be as unpredictable as they are exciting, and require careful planning. 

Many people still have questions about what went wrong and how 11 people lost their lives during the 2008 K2 climb. A 2013 Sundance documentary, The Summit, recalls the events of that fateful day, but the details of what actually happened remain a mystery. 

  • Hugues D’Aubarede Ran Out Of Oxygen

    Hugues d'Aubarede, a French climber, became especially worried during his descent. He quickly realized he did not have enough bottled oxygen to slowly and comfortably climb down to the nearest camp. 

    Descending "at all costs," d'Aubarede crossed paths with Cas van de Gevel. D'Aubarede told Gevel to go ahead, and moments later, Gevel watched a man he believed to be d'Aubarede fall down the mountain. Climber Marco Confortola also says he saw someone fall around this time. 

  • Rolf Bae Was Wiped Out By An Icefall In Front Of His New Wife

    After a Norwegian team of climbers reached the summit that evening, they began to descend. When they made it to a section of fixed ropes, Rolf Bae, who had decided not to attempt the summit and waited behind, volunteered to climb across first. Only seconds into his climb, an icefall tumbled down the mountain, sweeping away Bae and ending his life.

    His wife Cecilie Skog witnessed the event. The pair had only been married for about a month

  • Wilco van Rooijen Spent 60 Hours In The 'Death Zone' But Made It Out Alive

    Wilco van Rooijen was only one of two people to sleep unsheltered on K2 the night of the climb. Unlike the other unsheltered climber, Marco Confortola, van Rooijen became lost and was unable to reach help on either August 1 or 2. Sixty hours after beginning his summit, van Rooijen was found alive by Cas van de Gevel and Pemba Gyalje Sherpa. He was heavily blistered and eventually lost all his toes to frostbite, but he lived to tell the tale.

    Especially impressive is that van Rooijen spent this time in what's known as the "Death Zone" - an area of such high altitude that it literally begins to suffocate you. Pemba also spent 90 hours in the dangerous area that week, 70 of which he was attempting to rescue climbers. 

  • No One Knows What Happened To Karim Meherban

    Karim Meherban was a Pakistani porter hired to help Hugues d'Aubarede up the mountain. Both Meherban and d'Aubarede descended together and neither one made it down alive. Although some claim to have seen d'Aubarede fall from a lack of oxygen, Meherban's fate is something of a mystery.

    Cas van de Gevel allegedly remembers that he might have also seen Meherban fall, but varying reports claim Gevel never actually said this. Others believe Meherban was swept away or trapped by one of several icefalls that night.