Thursday, July 30, 2015

Summer Climbs 2015: Controversy Brewing in the Mountains

There isn't much new to report in terms of the movements of the teams in Pakistan. Most have either left Base Camp for the return home, or are preparing to do so in the next few days. A few remain behind, holding out hope that they'l still get a crack at the summit on Broad Peak or possibly even K2, although the chances of either happening seem remote. But even as the summer season winds down, there is now controversy brewing in the mountains with the ethics of some climbers being called into question.

ExWeb has posted a disturbing article today that I'm sure will leave some members of the mountaineering community very disappointed. Apparently, in a video posted to Mike Horn's Facebook page the body of a fallen climber can be seen, which goes against the code of conduct that most climbers will abide by while documenting their expeditions.

According to the ExWeb story, the warm weather on K2 this year has melted a lot of the snow and ice there, possibly revealing the body in question. The fact that it appears in one of Horn's video has upset some other mountaineers, including Louis Rousseau, who wrote the Swiss climber an impassioned letter about the inclusion of the dead body in a video promoting his K2 climb. ExWeb has a copy of that letter, and has posted it in the article that I linked to above.

I have to say that while I haven't seen the video that Rousseau is referring to, so I don't know what context the body was shown. It could have been an inadvertent shot, or it could have been done on purpose. Either way, Rousseau is right that it is disrespectful to the climber, and his friends and family, to show images of the body, and I'm sure that the Swiss climbers would agree with that sentiment. I have no doubt that Horn will take the video down when given the opportunity. I don't know him at all, but he doesn't strike me as the kind of person who would try to capitalize on the misfortune of others.

Unfortunately, this isn't the only story that is brewing up controversy in the mountains of Pakistan at the moment. In the same article, ExWeb says that there are accusations coming from climber Andrzej Bargiel of climbers failing to assist in the search for Olek Ostrowski, who went missing on GII last weekend after attempting a summit bid and ski descent. Apparently just there high altitude porters went up to look for the missing man, with none of the other teams in BC offering to lend a hand.

Bargiel says that he had just descended from Broad Peak when he heard that Ostrowski had gone missing, and immediately left for the Gasherbrum Massif. In an interview with a Polish climbing magazine, Andrezej says the he feels ashamed for those who did not lend a hand, adding that they felt a summit bid was more important than trying to locate a missing compatriot. Worse yet, he says that there were climbers not just in BC, but in Camps 1 and 2 as well. None came to their aid.

Both of these stories are hard to read, and generally not indicative of the mountaineering community as a whole. Still, the latter story does give an indication of the attitude that climbers had on the Gasherbrums this year, and it is very sad that they wouldn't help search for Olek.

Hopefully this is just an anomaly and not a trend in attitudes.


Clyde said...

Video is still there and the shot was not an accident. Lousy video even without the poor taste of the skull.

As for G2, I saw a lot of stupid people when we climbed it: unroped on the glacier, going up after heavy snow, etc. Don't know the details of this incident but it's a hell of a longways from BC to above C1. Those in C1 can see most of the terrain with binoculars. If he fell on the Banana Ridge, it would just be body recovery not a rescue. You can't get lost there.

Kraig Becker said...

Thanks for your thoughts as always Clyde. It is disappointing that the video is still in place, and that it was intentional. Really a sad way to promote anything.

On G2 it seems that Olek went missing on his descent and is believed to have fallen in a crevasse. There has been no sign of him at all. Sad story all around.