From the disappearance of Joel Wischnewski on Nanga Parbat to the sheer brilliance of Yannick Graziani and Stephane Benoist on Annapurna, 2013 has been a year filled with action, astonishment, angst and incredibility on Asia’s highest mountains. Famed mountaineers like Athur Hajzer, Maciej Berbeka, Alexey Bolotov, Zsolt Eross, Seong-Ho Suh, Igor Svergun, Yang Chunfeng, Rao Jianfeng and Marty Schmidt are gone. Ueli Steck’s robotic expressionism carved a new line on rugged canvas of Annapurna’s South Face. Kunyang Chhish East, K6 West and Kishtwar Kailash are no more unclimbed. Chang Dawa and Kim Chang Ho have joined the elite club of 14x8000er mountaineers. K2 and Nanga Parbat still stand tall to lure the winter climbers. The 2013 will be gone soon, but down the history lane, it will be remembered as an ‘eventful’ climbing year.
This year has generally been a tragic year for mountaineering. Series of tragic incidents and death of several renowned climbers dominated the winter, spring and summer climbing seasons. Apart from killings at Nanga Parbat BC and nine casualties on Everest, five climbers died above 7700m on Broad Peak. Five others perished above highest camp on Kangchenjunga. Gasherbrum I’s slopes also took five lives. Total of 44 climbers died at or above BC, while attempting 8000m peaks.
Known casualties on 8000m peaks, this year:
Nanga Parbat: 12
Broad Peak: 6
The year 2013 started with four teams (eight climbers) attempting Nanga Parbat in winter. None of them could achieve the summit, but unfortunately solo climber Joel Wichnewski went missing on Rupal Face. His body was recovered from the mountain, last month.
In Karakoram, Poles bagged the first winter ascent of Broad Peak on March 05, but the joy didn’t last long. Maciej Berbeka and Tomasz Kowalski couldn’t make it back to C4. Maciej presumably fell into a crevasse, whereas Tomasz’ body was located above 7900m and buried there, later.
Tragedies in Spring Season
45 year old Ice Fall doctor, Mingmar Sherpa, was first victim of spring season, this year. He fell into a crevasse between C1 and C2 on Everest. Eight others died on the mountain later, including Korean Seong-Ho Suh with 12x8000ers, and the unexpected death of Alexey Bolotov (11x8000ers) who was attempting a new route on SW Face.
On Makalu, Chinese climber Xiang Yang-Liu reached the summit on April 24th with three others. Unfortunately Liu fell to his death on descent.
The most awful situation of spring season unfolded on Kangchenjunga, where five climbers died of either exhaustion or fall, after reaching the summit. The deceased included Hungarian Zsolt Eross, who bagged his 10th 8000ers that day.
Catalonian Juanjo Garra died On Dhaulagiri on 26th May after fighting severe weather and extreme altitude for three nights. A broken ankle at 7900m left him stranded without shelter. His fellow mountain guide, Keshav Gurung, volunteered to stay with Juanjo and tried to bring him down. Juanjo was gone by the time help reached them. 66 years Japanese lady Chizuko Kono also perished on Dhaulagiri after failing to reach the top in bad weather.
A Disastrous Summer
While the memories of spring season’s catastrophic incidents were still fresh and mountaineering community was hoping for a better summer season, the unimaginable happened. Terrorists killed 11 mountaineers at the Base Camp of Nanga Parbat. The deceased included one Lithuanian, Two climbers from Slovakia, Three from Ukraine, Three from China, a Nepalese Sherpa and an expedition cook from Pakistan. Chinese victim Yang Chunfeng was most successful climber with 11, 8000er ascents. Rao Jianfeng had climbed nine 8000ers, while Igor Svergun was successful on five 8000m peaks.
The Nanga Parbat incident was followed by a period of chaos and uncertainty, but just as the climbing activities resumed, tragedy struck again. Artur Hajzer was gone. He suffered a fatal fall on GI.
Iranian young guns, Aidin Bozorgi, Pouya Keivan and Mojtaba Jarahi, completed a new route on Broad Peak, but were lost on descent. Search and rescue efforts continued for days, without success.
While the search of Iranians was still in progress, three Spaniards were reported missing on GI. Xevi Gomez, Alvaro Paredes and Abel Alonso summited in bad weather, but were never seen again.
On July 25th, excessive snow on K2 forced a group of more than two dozen climbers to turn back from C2, but Marty Schmidt and his son Denali decided to go up. Unfortunately a large avalanche killed them the following night, while they were sleeping in C3.
By the first week of August, the summer climbing season was almost over, but the bad luck continued. Czech climber Zdenek Hruby suffered a fatal fall after unsuccessfully attempting a virgin route on Southwest Face of Gasherbrum I.
Luckily, Fall 2013 proved to be a productive season on 8000m peaks, without any casualty and with a couple of historic ascents.
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