Text by David Roberts
On August 1, 2008, in a single disastrous chain of events, 11 climbers were killed high on K2’s Abruzzi Ridge in Pakistan’s Karakoram Range. One of the worst accidents in mountaineering history, it made headlines around the world. Surprisingly, along with outpourings of sympathy for the victims, the tragedy generated a virulent backlash.
The vast majority of the public assumed that the climbers on K2 (a much harder and more dangerous peak than Everest) had duplicated the scenario indelibly captured in Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air—affluent novices buying their way into a deadly ordeal. Web posts on the New York Times’s site commented, “Heroes my ass. No one should feel an inch of sympathy for these eggheads” and “They engaged in marginally suicidal behavior and wound up dead. To me, they were stupid and reckless beyond all limits.” Even the great Tirolean mountaineer Reinhold Messner railed against purported “K2 package deals” luring beginners to the mountain, and concluded that “something like this is just pure stupidity.”
- Nat Geo Expeditions