The South Korean climber Kim Hong-bin is almost certainly dead since last Monday, but signals from his satellite phone could still be located later – at 7,000 meters on the hard-to-access Chinese east side of the eight-thousander Broad Peak. Whether Kim’s body lies there or only his satellite phone is still open. The South Korean news agency Yonhap reported on Friday that the Chinese authorities had allowed Pakistani rescue helicopters to search for Kim on Chinese territory. The Chinese had set up an operations center near the site of the accident to assist in the search effort, it said.
15 climbers passed by without helping
Kim Hong-bin had reached the summit of Broad Peak at 8,051 meters on Sunday. The 56-year-old thus became the first disabled climber to stand on all 14 eight-thousanders – with bottled oxygen. According to other climbers, Hong-Bin fell about 20 meters while descending at about 7,900 meters after a snow bridge collapsed. The South Korean survived the fall. Russian climber Vitaly Lazo, who had climbed up to help with the rescue, lamented that some 15 other descending climbers had not helped Kim: “All the ‘hero climbers’ were exhausted and passed by.”
Lazo rappelled down and belayed Kim, who had remained uninjured but weakened on a small snowy ledge. As the Korean man pulled himself up the rope with his jumar, he apparently had trouble with the device. According to Lazo, Kim unlatched himself from the rope, stepped to the side, and fell again – this time apparently with fatal consequences.
Hong-bin’s wife later asked to quickly search for her husband. “Kim is a strong person who has overcome many difficulties so far,” she said through tears at a press conference in Kim’s hometown of Gwangju. “The current situation is not very good, but I don’t give up hope.” Objectively, however, the likelihood that the climber survived the fall and the days that followed is close to zero.
Search for the three missing from K2 continues
But the recovery of the mortal remains alone would certainly help the bereaved to come to terms with the tragic loss. This is also true for the families and friends of Muhammad Ali Sadpara from Pakistan, John Snorri Sigurjonsson from Iceland and Juan Pablo Mohr from Chile, who did not return from their winter summit attempt in early February. After no traces of the trio were discovered either during rescue flights or on satellite images, the three climbers were declared dead 13 days after their departure. Currently, a five-member team led by Sajid Ali Sadpara, Muhammad Ali’s son, is searching for the missing men.
Today, Saturday, Sajid and Co. set off for the second time towards the summit zone. “(We) Will resume search, both physical and by drones; above 8000m and beyond (the) Bottleneck (key point of the route at around 7,900 meters),” the 22-year-old wrote on Twitter. “I am hopeful of finding a trace and answers.”
During their first ascent, the team had climbed to an altitude of 7,800 meters and had drones flying to about 8,300 meters – without discovering any sign of the missing.
P.S.: Several teams have set out to summit attempts on K2, including that of Samina Baig, who wants to be the first Pakistani woman to stand on the second highest mountain on earth.