Mountaineer Accused of Climbing Over Dying Man: We Couldn't Save Him

'We couldn't have done anything more,' an emotional Kristin Harila insists
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 14, 2023 2:30 AM CDT
Mountaineer Accused of Climbing Over Dying Man Explains Her Side
Children of Mohammed Hassan, a Pakistani porter who died on July 27 during a summit of K2, hold a portrait of their father and grandfather at his home in Tasar, a village in the Shigar district in the Gilgit-Baltistan region of northern Pakistan, Saturday, Aug. 12, 2023.   (AP Photo/M.H. Balti)

A record-setting Norwegian mountaineer pushed back Sunday against claims that she could have done more to save the life of a Pakistani porter who slipped off a narrow trail near the peak of the world's most treacherous mountain and died there after several hours. The circumstances of Mohammad Hassan's July 27 death on K2, the world's second-highest peak, sparked ongoing controversy, with two climbers arguing that he could have been saved if all those on the mountain that day had aborted their climb and focused on getting him down safely. The fallout from Hassan's death overshadowed a record established by Norwegian climber Kristin Harila and her Sherpa guide, Tenjin. By climbing K2 that day, they became the world's fastest climbers, scaling the world's 14 highest mountains in 92 days.

Harila told the Associated Press on Sunday that "in the snowy condition we had up there that day, it wouldn't be possible to carry him down." "I'm sure that if it was possible that we saw a chance to carry him down from there, everyone would have tried that," she said by Zoom from Norway. "But it was impossible." Asked if she felt the controversy had tainted her record, Harila said "of course," but did not elaborate. She appeared distraught at times during the interview and said she had received death threats. "We tried for hours to save him and we were on probably the most dangerous area" of K2, she said adding that she and her teammates were "taking a very, very big risk." Harila said Hassan didn't seem to have proper gear or training as a high-altitude porter and that it appeared to have been his first ascent. An investigation into his death has been opened by local authorities.

Harila said Hassan slipped and fell off the narrow path around 2:15am on July 27, dangling on a rope upside down. At the time, Hassan had been second in the line of climbers. Harila said she was eighth and her team members were in 7th and 9th place, respectively. As they tried to pull Hassan onto the path, an avalanche came down near where her forward fixing team was. After 90 minutes of attending to Hassan, Harila and a teammate moved in the direction of the summit to check on the fixing team, while her cameraman, Gabriel, stayed behind with Hassan, she said. Gabriel shared his oxygen with Hassan, gave him warm water and tried to warm him. She said Gabriel stayed with the porter for 2.5 hours but started running out of oxygen. Gabriel then moved toward the peak to meet up with Harila's sherpas who had extra oxygen tanks. At that time, there were also others attending to Hassan, she said. When Gabriel arrived at the peak, Harila asked him how Hassan was doing. She said Gabriel told her that he was "in very bad shape." On the way back down, she saw Hassan's dead body lying on the path.

(Read more mountain climbing stories.)

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