Not only was he a mountain enthusiast, but he had exceptional charisma. “Anyone who had the pleasure to spend even a few minutes with Matthew Eakin would no doubt come away with a renewed zest for life. A guy that constantly gave his time to others,” Australian adventure photographer and cameraman Rob Norman wrote of his friend Eakin after the 41-year-old fell to his death on 25 July while descending K2. “He lived the life he wanted, wore his heart on his sleeve, made the most out of this precious life we have and always did it with a smile his face.” Similarly, Cassie Davies, also a friend of Eakin’s, wrote: “He was a magnet that attracted people to him. He encouraged many of us to try things, just to dare, to put the investment in and make our dreams real.”
Call from the top of K2
That’s exactly what Eakin himself did. The Sydney lawyer lived out his dreams in nature: climbing, high-altitude mountaineering, mountain biking or skydiving. Matthew summited (with bottled oxygen) three eight-thousanders: Manaslu in Nepal (in 2017, but he was not at the True Summit), Broad Peak in Pakistan (in 2019) – and then this year on 23 July, K2. From the summit, he called his family and K2 Base Camp. What exactly happened to him the day after next on his descent can no longer be reconstructed. Two climbers found his body not far from the Advanced Base Camp. When they later tried to recover the body, a small avalanche had buried it.
Recovery expedition in winter
Six climbers from Australia and Canada who are friends of Matthew now plan to travel to K2 in the first three weeks of February to recover his body. They expect there to be little snow in winter at the site, the exact GPS position of which they have. “We have an opportunity to retrieve and bury him with dignity, rather than risk the possibility of snow melt uncovering his body sometime in the future. Our family, understandably, doesn’t want this for Matt,” writes Eakin’s sister, Danielle Bonnington. She has launched a crowdfunding (click here) to finance the recovery expedition. Matthews’ body is then to be buried near K2 Base Camp – where his teammate Richard Cartier had also found his final resting place. The Canadian had apparently, unlike Eakin, turned back at Camp 4 and then also fallen to his death on the descent. His body had been recovered.
Buried with dignity
“If it is safe for members of a search team, we believe that all climbers who die in the mountains while pursuing their passion should have a chance to be found and buried, to ease the grieving process for families and friends,” says Matthew’s sister, Danielle. “Our family is incredibly humbled by the offer of Matt’s friends to help to lay him to rest with dignity. We know their offer to help reflects their love for him.”
Update 28 July 2023: The Eakins family has announced that last winter the team failed to recover the body of the Australian who died in an accident last year. “The great mountain K2 has decided to keep Matthew. The avalanche and amount of snow that covered his body after his accident almost a year ago was too significant. It was simply impossible under the circumstances to find him,” reads a statement from the family, published a few days ago as an update under the appeal for donations.