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Inquiry launched into death of Pakistani porter

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Inquiry launched into death of Pakistani porter

The K2, the world’s second largest peak in Pakistan’s northern Gilgit-Baltistan region, was the last mountain they needed to climb to set the world record

Aamir Latif 

KARACHI, Sindh Pakistan

Pakistani authorities have launched an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the death of a local porter, who fell from a narrow trail while attempting to ascend K-2 last month.

The probe stemmed from a drone footage showing a Norwegian climber and her team walking past Mohammad Hassan, who could be seen dangling upside down from a rope, and later died.

Porters, also called sherpas in the Himalayas, are highly skilled professionals who specialize in the logistics of mountain climbing.

Iqbal Hussain, the head of the fact finding committee, told reporters on Wednesday that the investigation will focus on the “moral values of mountaineering,” and a report will be submitted in 15 days.

In the disturbing footage taken by two other climbers, Austrian Wilhelm Steindl and Philip Flaemig from Germany whose ascent had been cancelled that day owing to bad weather, Norwegian climber Kristin Harila and her Nepali guide Tenjin “Lama” Sherpa could be seen walking past injured Hassan, instead of stopping and helping him.

They were on their way to set the world record that would see them becoming the world’s fastest climbers by scaling the 14 highest peaks in the world in 92 days.

The K2, the world’s second largest peak in Pakistan’s northern Gilgit-Baltistan region, was the last mountain they needed to climb to set the world record.

The disturbing episode did not end there as the drone footage also shows them stepping over the body of fallen Hassan, who later died during Harila’s ascent. All of the team members can be seen just walking over it.

The 8,611-meter (28,251-foot) K2, also known as the “savage mountain” due to its treacherous terrain, had never been scaled in the winter until last month when a 10-member Nepali team performed the feat.

It is the last peak of the 8,000-meter (26,246-foot) club to have been climbed in winter, 41 years after Mt. Everest, which was scaled in 1980 during the winter.

Some 300 mountaineers have made it to the top before, but all of them took up the challenge in either the summer or spring.

Even in relatively better weather conditions, 86 climbers have lost their lives trying to scale the mountain, which towers over Shigar in Gilgit-Baltistan, Kashmir, home to six peaks with altitudes of over 8,000 meters, including K-2.

Harila, 37, has rejected the accusation, contending she and her team “did everything we could for him at the time.”

In a social media post, the mountaineer said she, her cameraman and two others spent “1.5 hours in the bottleneck trying to pull Hassan up.”

She then continued her ascent following a distress call from the fixing team ahead, leaving others behind with Hassan.

“Considering the amount of people that stayed behind and had turned around, I believed Hassan would be getting all the help he could, and that he would be able to get down,” she maintained.

Her clarification, however, could not satisfy many, who accused her of responsibility for the porter’s death.

Foreign climbers have frequently been accused of exploiting the poor sherpas of Pakistan and Nepal, who often go up ahead of the mountaineers but are not rewarded accordingly.

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Aamir Latif is a Karachi-based senior journalist. He represents Anadolu, a Turkish news agency.

Courtesy: Anadolu Agency (Posted on 17.08.2023)  

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