Fury as mountaineers celebrate reaching K2 summit after 'walking past' dying sherpa on the slopes

11 August 2023, 10:59

Critics accused Norwegian climber Kristin Harila (top right) of ignoring dying sherpa Mohammad Hassan (bottom right)
Critics accused Norwegian climber Kristin Harila (top right) of ignoring dying sherpa Mohammad Hassan (bottom right). Picture: social media

By StephenRigley

A top mountaineer has been forced to defend herself after claims that her team climbed over a dying Sherpa as they raced up the summit of K2 to secure a new world record.

Pictures showing climbers clambering past the injured Pakistani on a treacherous ridge on the same day that Norway’s Kristin Harila ascended have been slammed by fellow mountaineers.

They claimed a Western climber would not have been left to die and said the scenes would be unthinkable in the Alps.

Mohammad Hassan who died on K2
Mohammad Hassan who died on K2. Picture: social media

Read More: Woman nearly dies in Everest's 'death zone' - then refuses to pay $10,000 rescue fee to Sherpa who saved her life

Harila, 37, climbed Pakistan’s K2 on July 27, securing her 14th highest peak in just over three months to become the world’s fastest climber to scale all peaks above 8,000 metres.

During her ascent, porter Mohammed Hassan fell off a sheer edge at the top of the area known as the bottleneck, some 8,200 metres high. Ms Harila said her team did everything they could to save Mr Hassan but conditions were too dangerous to move him.

However Austrian climbers Wilhelm Steindl and Philip Flämig who were also on K2 say drone footage they later recorded hours after Harila and her team had passed the ridge showed climbers walking over his body instead of trying to rescue him.

“It’s all there in the drone footage,” Mr Flämig told Austria’s Standard newspaper.

“He is being treated by one person while everyone else is pushing towards the summit. The fact is that there was no organised rescue operation although there were Sherpas and mountain guides on site who could have taken action.”

Among those who passed him was Ms Harila.

Mr Steindl added: "Such a thing would be unthinkable in the Alps. He was treated like a second-class human being. “If he had been a Westerner, he would have been rescued immediately. No one felt responsible for him.

“What happened there is a disgrace. A living human was left lying so that records could be set."

Ms Harila told The Telegraph: “It is simply not true to say that we did nothing to help him. We tried to lift him back up for an hour and a half and my cameraman stayed on for another hour to look after him. At no point was he left alone.

“Given the conditions, it is hard to see how he could have been saved. He fell on what is probably the most dangerous part of the mountain where the chances of carrying someone off were limited by the narrow trail and poor snow conditions.

"We did all we could for him."