K2 2004 - 50 years later
The news that 5 Balti porters
drowned, swept away by the current of the river that parallels the trail that
brings expeditions in to base camp on K2, reached the Italian expedition
climbers already at the foot of the mountain through the communications
The tragedy occurred this
past Saturday in the initial portion of the long trip (100 kilometers in 5
days), just as the last group of italian climbers making their way to base
camp was less than a day's walk away from camp.
Due to the overcrowded number
of expeditions headed to K-2 this year because of the 50th anniversary of the
first climb, it had been impossible at Askole (the village from where the long
trek to base camp initiates), to find a sufficient number of porters to carry
in the more than 5 tons of materials and equipment destined for the K2-2004
expedition base camp.
In accordance with the
responsible government official--who coordinates the activities of the porters
leaving from Askole--it had been agreed that a portion of the equipment would
be left behind awaiting the arrival of new porters for the journey.
During the first portion of
the itinerary it is necessary to pass over the tempestuous rapids of the
Braldo river, often with very difficult mid-waist wading across the river. In
fact, just three years ago, a new trail was opened up with the additional
construction of a steel bridge for the river crossing. Unfortunately, it
involves a longer distance with a path which deviates from the original one.
Having arrived at the
traditional crossing, the porters: Sher Muhammed, Nazir, Jaffar, Hassan and
Noor decided to cross the river at the old crossing, by holding hands. This
had often been done in the past. This time they were betrayed by the strong
river currents. The rapids, engorged with the recent rains, dragged all five
of them a long way downriver, causing them to disappear in the rapids of the
On the scene a rescue was
attempted by pakistani military from a nearby base, who recovered 2 of the
bodies. A third body was found even further down the river valley and posed a
difficult retrieval operation before being extricated.
Agostino da Polenza, team
leader declared that this was truly an emotional tragedy for everyone involved
in the K2-2004 expedition. The Balti porters are our expedition companions.
We acknowledge the daily difficulties they incur to do their jobs so well.
There is still a long way to go to make that job a safer one.
copyright Italian expedition Everest/K2 2004 expedition
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