By Tetsuhiko Endo
What started out as a week of great hope in the Karakoram has instead ended in tragedy with the Death of Swedish alpinist and skier Fredrik Ericsson on K2 on Friday. Ericsson and his partner, American Trey Cook, were hoping to become the first men to climb K2 and descend on skis.
After a previous summit bid that included Ericsson, Cook, Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, Kinga Baranowska, and Fabrizio Zangrilli was repelled by bad weather last week, it looked as if K2 would go unclimbed for another year. However, a rare stretch of unseasonably warm weather allowed one last hail mary attempt this week. But even the sun didn’t offer complete safety. All week, climbers dodged bowling ball-size rocks displaced by snow melt that careened down the mountain. By the time the climbers reached Camp 4, they were sleeping with their helmets on.
August 6th saw a return of the bad weather with all but Ericsson, Cook, and Kaltenbrunner electing to stay in their tents. The three pushed upward in whiteout conditions with Cook turning around below the Bottle Neck. Once into the Bottle Neck, Ericsson was fixing a rope ahead of Kaltenbrunner and lost his purchase. He was unable to arrest his fall. Kaltenbrunner returned to Camp 4 uninjured.
And so K2 has claimed another bright alpine star. In doing so, it has taken a son, a friend, and for those who didn’t know him, a person who inspired us all with his willingness to attempt what we could not, or would not.