K2: The Killing Peak

UPDATE
When we first reported about last summer’s disaster on K2 [“The Killing Peak,” by Matthew Power, November ’08], a few facts had not yet come to light. As Gerard McDonnell and Marco Confortola began their descent, they came across three members of a Korean expedition, injured and tangled in their ropes. Despite the memory fog of hypoxia, Marco recalled that after trying to save them, he and McDonnell began to head down, but then McDonnell turned around and went back to help. Because McDonnell and the Koreans were killed, what happened next became clear only after press time. Photographic evidence recently showed that McDonnell had in fact freed the Koreans, and that the entire group had begun the trek down. Marco had reported seeing McDonnell’s body that morning, but evidence now points to him having seen the body of Karim Meherban, a Pakistani porter. Gerard McDonnell was killed by icefall during the descent. Minutes later the Koreans and the Sherpas were swept away by an avalanche. It’s now clear that McDonnell had performed a selfless and heroic feat: a successful rescue attempt above 8,000 meters. He could have proceeded down and saved himself, but he sacrificed his life in order to try to save others.

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