Tragic ending to the K2 Expedition
I guess most of you have already heard the tragic news about
Micheles accident on K2. Anyway heres some info on what happened.
Some times life doesnt turn out as planned. June 23, 2009
was one of those days.
We were on our second acclimatization climb on K2. This time Michele and I
were feeling much better than on our first acclimatization climb. No
headaches. After spending two nights in our Camp 2 at 6350 meters we were
skiing down towards Base Camp. We had passed a steep and rocky section, that I
thought was the most difficult part of the ski descent, and we were out on a
big open slope. It was still steep and we were skiing very slowly,
speedcontrolling jump turns. While doing a turn Michele lost his balance and
fell backwards down the slope. He was sliding and tumbling for several hundred
meters. Since the slope gets less steep lower down I was sure he would stop at
some point. But he never did. All I could do was to stand and watch Michele
fall down the slope. In the end he fell over a rockband and disappeared into
the next bowl. It was horrible to watch!
I thought that if he had survived the fall he must be
severely injured so I had to get down to Michele as fast as possible. I
started skiing down the slope. Since there was a rockband separating the two
bowls I couldnt ski straight down to him but had to ski down to the bottom of
the mountain and then climb back up in his bowl. It took me half an hour to
reach Michele. While climbing up it was all quiet, I could see the crows
circling above Micheles body. Looking at the cliffs he had fallen over I knew
the chance of finding Michele alive was slim. But I never gave up the hope.
Unfortunately, when I reached Michele he didnt show any signs of life, he
wasnt breathing and had no pulse. He was dead!
Since the body was in a very dangerous spot, right below a
big Serac and on an avalanche prone slope, I didnt think much about what just
had happened but started to lower Micheles body down the slope. By traversing
a bit I could get to a fairly safe line below some cliffs. I lowered Michele
for about 200 meters before I came to a point where I had to traverse another
big avalanche prone slope.
New expeditions had arrived in base camp the day before the
accident. Among them, Fabrizio Zangrilli, Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner and David
Göttler had seen Micheles fall from BC and walked up the glacier to help.
Since it was already afternoon on a warm and sunny day the snow was wet and
heavy and the risk of avalanches was great. To bring Micheles body over the
dangerous slope would take us quite a long time. We would spend too much time
in the danger zone and therefore we decided to leave him on the mountain over
On the walk back to base camp it suddenly hit me what just
had happened. Michele and I were skiing down the mountain of our dreams. We
were smiling and having the time of our lives. In a second, tragedy hit and
Michele was gone. I have never experienced anything like it. It was the worst
day of my life.
The next day David, Fabrizio and his teammates helped me
bring Micheles body down the last 100 meters to the glacier. We made a snowpit
to store the body in while waiting for a helicopter. In the morning, two days
after the accident, the helicopter arrived. Micheles body was transported to
Skardu and onwards back home to Italy.
After the accident I lost all motivation to continue climb
on K2 and decided to give up and go home. All my thoughts go to Micheles
family. I cant imaging what its like to loose a son.
Michele was a good man. I will miss him.
Update: The mountaineer Michele Fait, 44 years died last night while he was
skiing K2. Early reports state Michele crashed while skiing into a canyon
area, which can be seen somewhat from base camp. Climbers found his body
2009-06-18 - Skiing on K2
K2, What a
mountain. It is 8612 meters high, but when I stand here in base camp, at 5100
meters, and look at it, it doesn't fell like it is more than 1000 meters to
the summit. It is a weird feeling when I know it is more than 3500 meters to
at 6300 meters
A few days
ago when Michele and I was on our first acclimatization trip we got to
experience how big the mountain really is. We left base camp at seven in the
morning and walked along the Godwin Austen Glacier for 30 minutes up to the
foot of K2 and the start of the Cesen Route. With ski boots and crampons on
our feet, poles in our hands and a heavy backpack filled with a tent, sleeping
bag, primus stove, gas, food etc. and a pair of skis strapped onto it, we
started the climbing. At the beginning it was a nice ski slope of 30 degrees
with perfect hard packed snow. Nice to climb on. We climbed on the right hand
side of a big snow slope close to a rock ridge to stay out of the danger zone
of a large Serac hanging above the left side of the slope. The ski slope got
steeper, between 40-50 degrees and the snow got deeper. I had a hard time to
stop dreaming about the upcoming ski descent on this perfect slope in soft
powder snow. But first we had to find a tent spot where we could spend the
night. I would have liked to ski down straight away but for our
acclimatization it is best to spend time on higher altitude. To find a spot
for the tent proved to be very difficult. We started the search at 5700 meters
but it wasn't until we reached 6000 meters, after a total of seven hours of
climbing, that we found a spot that we could imaging being flat. After some
digging and building we had a semi-bad tent spot with two of the corners
hanging in the air. Guess who got to sleep on that side of the tent? Not
surprisingly, I slept pretty good anyway.
morning both Michele and I woke up with a headache and it was blowing and
snowing outside. Great! After breakfast and a bit of fresh air my headache was
gone but Michele must have caught some altitude illness since he didn't get
well until we were back in base camp. After chilling in our tent for a few
hours it stopped snowing and cleared up so we put our skis on and started
sliding down the mountain. We took it easy in the beginning since I am always
a bit unsecure on a new mountain especially when it is steep and rocks around.
The snow was better than we had expected, cold and just a little windpacked
and it was sloughing a bit. When the slope opened up I could do bigger turns
and carry more speed, just cruising down the mountain. I had a big smile on my
face, cause even if only a third of the mountain, we were skiing on K2. I got
900 vertical meters of nice skiing before I, totally euphoric, took my skis
off 30 meters from my tent in BC. I had just skied the coolest ski slope in
enjoying the skiing on K2
now have a few days of rest in base camp, charging batteries, before the next
ski adventure on K2.
I'm reading: Richard Branson - Business Stripped bare - Adventures of a Global
my MP3 player: No power
days of trekking up the Baltoro Valley we have finally reached the base camp
of K2 which will be our home for the next six weeks. This is where the
climbing on K2 starts.
we drove Landrovers on very small and bumpy roads to a village called Askole.
The drive was six hours long and one of the scariest I have ever had. At one
point we had to go through a small waterfall. The road was only as wide as the
car. On one side was a rock wall and on the other was a hundred meters drop
down to the river. The road was muddy from all the water and on our first try
we got stuck in the mud and had to back up. The second try we had to touch the
rock wall not to slide off the road. Fortunately we had a good driver and made
it through. I was happy to arrive in Askole in one peace. That car ride was
probably be more scary than anything we will face on K2.
To get all
our equipment and food for six weeks up to K2 we had to hire porters. The
farmers from Askole were happy to help us out. So happy that they almost
started fighting about the loads. It was a bit chaotic before we had
distributed the 40 loads to the porters. Unfortunately there where some guys
that showed hoping to get work that didn't get any. Hopefully they will get
some when the next expedition shows up.
The trek up
the Baltoro Valley is a long walk. We hiked for six days and about 5-6 hours
every day on small or non existing trails. It was rocks, sand and ice in an
uneven mix. For a weak guy like me that is painful. My feet were not exactly
happy after six hours of walking on rocks and glaciers.
halfway on the trek the porters wanted a break so we had one rest day in a
camp called Paiju. Our Guide had brought a live Goat for food. With my stomach
problems I wasn't so hungry for goat meat , neither was Michele so we gave it
to the porters. They got very happy and had a little meatfest on our rest day
up we got the better the views got. We passed some great mountains like the
Trango Towers, Mustagh Tower and Masherbrum and at that point I even stopped
whining about the pain in my feet. The experience culminated at Concordia.
From that great junction of glaciers you can view some of the finest mountains
in the world: Mitre Peak, Gasherbrum 4, Broad Peak and K2. If you go there in
beginning of June when there's not much people, like we did, it's a truly
Concordia we had a five hours walk up the Godwin Austen Glacier to K2 base
camp, including a tea break with two Austrian climbers at Broad Peak base
camp. Just to make a our day a bit more interesting, with a teacup in my hand
I got to watch a French guy fly down from high up on Broad Peak with a
Paraglider. Not a bad tea break.
have now arrived at K2 base camp which will be our home for the next six
weeks. Everything is good. The stomach problems that has been bothering me
since I left my Pizza diet and ventured into the Pakistani food in Islamabad
is now gone. My Italian mate Michele is my mentor on the food, he says that
you can never eat too much Pizza. ;)
We are now
getting ready to start climbing on K2, the mountain of my dreams.
If you have
the possibility, check out the Baltoro Glacier and K2 on Goggle Earth. It's
I'm reading: Anthony Kiedis - Scar Tissue
Music on my
MP3 player: Red Hot Chili Peppers - Californication
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Tissot, Giro, Scarpa, Primus, Garmin, Honey
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This update is a week old. I tried to send it on the 4th but for
some reason the email wasn’t sent. And after that I haven’t had internet
access until now.
Anyway, from now on the
updates will come regularly. /Fredrik
Expedition - Update 1
A lot has happened the
last few days. Some good and some bad.
I arrived in Islamabad
last Sunday without any problems. I didn’t miss any flights, all my bags
arrived, even the gear that I sent by cargo a couple of weeks ago was in
Islamabad waiting for me. Chocking!
But as always on my trips,
some things doesn't go as planned. This time it wasn't me but my climbing
partner Michele who got into trouble. When I was about to board the plane in
Frankfurt I got an sms from Michele saying: “Do you have Pakistan Visa? I stop
in airport because I don’t have Visa“. Apparently Michele had forgot to get
the Visa that one needs to enter Pakistan. That turned out to be a small
problem. Michele went to the Embassy of Pakistan in Milano last Monday and got
the Visa in one day and could get on a plane for Pakistan two days later. So
today when he joined me here in Skardu we could just laugh about that
A much less entertaining
thing was the news we got from the Ministry of Tourism. The other day I went
there on what I thought was the regular "sign some papers and smile" exercise
and I would walk away with the climbing permit for K2 and trekking permit for
Laila Peak. But that was not the case. We got the climbing permit for K2
alright but they didn't give us the trekking permit to go to Laila Peak. I
tried to ask them why and the funny thing was that they didn't have an answer.
They just said NO. We put in a second application for the trekking permit but
it didn't help. The answer was the same. I'm very disappointed that we can't
go to Laila Peak since that, along with K2, was the big goal of this trip.
It's hard to see anything positive in that now but I guess in a few days I
might find something.
Other than that I have
started to feel some movements in my stomach and lost my appetite. I must have
caught some sort of bug which is not uncommon when you travel to Pakistan. So
far it's not so bad and I've started to eat antibiotics. Hopefully it will be
all gone in a few days.
The good things then..
Well, we are on the way towards K2. It has been my dream for many years now
and finally it is happening. So things could be worse.
Tomorrow we will drive up
to Askole and from there we will start the six days long trek towards K2 base
camp. More news when we arrive in base camp around June 11.
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Background: K2 and
Laila Peak Ski Expedition 2009
This summer I’m going to
Pakistan with my Italian friend Michele Fait to try to climb and ski the
world’s second highest mountain K2 (8612m).
As acclimatization for K2
we will make an attempt to ski Laila Peak (6069m).
The expedition starts on
May 30 when we will fly to Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan. We will spend a
few days in the city for meetings with the Pakistan Alpine club to organize
climbing permit and with our trekking agency Karakurum Magic Mountain (KMM).
KMM helps us with all the logistics in Pakistan and will set us up with a base
camp team that will cook food for Michele and I when we are in base camp.
From Islamabad we have a
one hour flight up north to Skardu, the last town before we hit the mountains.
Skardu is our last opportunity to pick up gear and food that we need for our
two months stay in the mountains. Epi gas for our Primus stoves, chips and
chocolate bars are some of the things we will buy in Skardu. From Skardu a
five hours drive takes us to the small village of Hushe at the end of the
road. From there on we will continue on foot. Around June 6 we start the two
days trek towards Laila Peak.
is one of the most beautiful mountains in Pakistan - if not the world -with
its summit forming a perfect needle shape. The peak is synonymous with its
northwest face which drops down the mountains at almost uniform gradient
forming a giant ramp. Its northern and eastern sides consist of contrasting
steep granite. The mountain is located east of
the Gondogoro glacier and west of the Chogolisa Glacier in the Masherbrum
Mountains of Baltistan. Most people have set eyes on the peak after crossing
the Gondogoro La from Concordia.
The first ascent was by a four man British
team including Simon Yates, Sean Smith and Mark Miller who climbed the peak in
1987 via the west face from the Gondogoro Glacier. Simon Yates dedicated a
chapter in his book The Flame of Adventure on the ascent of Laila Peak.
With approximately 1500m ascent the
mountain can be climbed in alpine style in one day but many people will choose
to bivi on route then summit and descend on the second day. Climbing is
mid-grade with an inclination of no more than 55 degrees.
In 2005 Jörgen Aamot and I made two
attempts to climb and ski the northwest face of Laila Peak. On both occasions
the top section was too icy to ski so we turned around at 5950m and skied down
to the Gondogoro Glacier (4500m). It’s my favorite ski descent of all times.
Until this day no one has skied from the summit of Laila Peak.
This summer we will spend about two weeks
on Laila Peak. It will be the perfect warm-up for K2 and hopefully we can ski
from the summit this time.
K2 is the second highest mountain in the
world and is located on the border between China and Pakistan. Reinhold
Messner called K2 the "Mountain of Mountains" after his ascent in 1979. This
pyramid of a mountain is right in the heart of the Karokoram Range and can be
seen in its entirety from Concordia. It is at the head of the Godwin Austin
Glacier which unites with a second glacier at Concordia to form the famous
Baltoro Glacier. It is said to be the ultimate climb, since many consider it
to be much more technically challenging than Mount Everest.
The name K2 is derived from the notation
used by the Great Trigonometric Survey. On 10 September 1856, Thomas
Montgomerie made the first survey of the Karakoram from Mount Haramukh, some
130 miles to the south, and sketched the two most prominent peaks, labeling
them K1 and K2.
In 1954 the Italians Lino
Lacedelli and Achille Compagnoni were the first to summit K2. They climbed the
Abruzzi ridge. After the 2008 season K2 has been climbed 298 times but so far
no one has managed to make a complete ski descent of K2.
K2 is known as the Savage
Mountain due to the difficulty of ascent and the high fatality rate among
those who climb it. For every four people who
have reached the summit, one has died trying. Among the eight-thousanders, K2
has the second highest climbing mortality rate.
After Laila Peak we will arrive at K2 base
camp around June 20. Then we will use about three weeks for acclimatization
before we try for the summit. The route we will try to climb and ski is called
The Cesen Route and is the south-southeast ridge.
I will post news and photos regularly from
the K2 Expedition so that you follow our progress.
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