Archive for August, 2010

Pompili says Stangl wanted to climb K2 ‘No matter the means’

August 31, 2010

There has been a comment left on Torok Zsolt’s K2 blog purportedly by Giuseppe Pompili. He was part of an Italian expedition to K2 this year.

Pompili said that he was not surprised by the accusations against Christian Stangl. And here is why.

Before Pompili left K2 on the 27th of July he had a talk with Christian Stangl. Stangl had plans to go to Mt Tyree in Antarctica in December which was going to be costly and Stangl had said that he could not afford to make another attempt of K2.

This was because Stangl was also in competition with another climber to be the first to climb the second highest mountains on each continent. This climber is the famed Italian climber Hans Kammerlander. The other climber had climbed K2 thus Stangl might not be the first to complete all first and second highest mountains in the world. This pressure may have been telling on Stangl.

Pompili has allegedly said that Christian Stangl was so desperate to summit K2 that he would have been prepared to do anything to make the summit. He is suggesting that Stangl may have resorted to other means to claim the summit of K2, like the deception that Zsolt suggested.

The conversation that Pompili had with Stangl before he left now makes more sense to him now that he has heard the claims of Torok Zsolt that Stangl faked his summit of K2.

Time ran out for Pompili in later July without him being able to make a serious attempt on the summit. He had been climbing up the Abruzzi Spur. His tents were destroyed by the storms along with others before the 25th of July at camp 2.

Source: Torok Zsolt

Stangl says claims he did not make K2 summit ‘completely absurd’

August 31, 2010

Christian Stangl has responded to accusations that he did not make the summit of K2. Stangl says he knows from which corner these accusations have come from. He must be referring to Maxut Zhumayev and Torok Zsolt. He called the accusations completely absurd.

When he was on the summit he snapped the photo that has been published on his website and took a GPS reading.

He said that he was fresher than the other climbers because he arrived later. For example, Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner arrived in mid June. He arrived at K2 base camp on the 10th of July. This kept him in better physical condition.

Part of the reason that he made the summit, he said, was that he gambled correctly. The Innsbruck meteorologist had told him that there would be clear weather on the 12th of August. He took the chance that it would be and in the end it paid off and he made the top. He said luck was also with him as the terrain was nearly perfect too. Through the bottleneck he went as quickly as possible to minimize problems.

At the moment he is preparing for the climb later this year of Mt Tyree in Antarctica. It is the second highest mountain in that continent.

Source: OE24

The problems with Christian Stangl’s K2 summit photo

August 31, 2010

It has already been discussed on this site that there were 2 problems with the summit photo that he has produced as evidence of making the summit. The reason that this has been written is to go more in depth on the reasoning behind these problems especially the line down the left hand side and what that may mean.

Problem 1: EXIF missing

The first thing about the photo that was noticed was that there was no EXIF information. Two programs were used to find out this information: Photoshop CS5 and JPEGsnoop. JPEGsnoop is a free program that anyone can download and test this out on the summit picture.

Every digital camera will leave EXIF information about the photo. This includes: date taken, model of camera, aperture, etc.

When using Photoshop the EXIF information is lost when a file is saved for the web. Otherwise it retains the EXIF information if saves normally. Thus the photo may have been saved for the web.

Not having EXIF information in the photo meant it was impossible tell if it were authentic because the date taken, camera, shutter speed, maybe GPS were absent. It did not mean though that it was a fake, it just raised some suspicion.

What was in the EXIF of the file, though, was that it had been saved in Photoshop 7.0. It was saved on the 13th of August, the day that Stangl made it back to K2 base camp and then headed out to Skardu.

This lack of EXIF information in the photo led to an investigation as to whether the photo had been altered in Photoshop to see if there was any reason it might be missing.

Problem 2: The line down the left hand side of the photo and the lighter pixels on the other side of it

What was trying to be found was something to indicate that Photoshop tools had been used to change the photo. Was there anything obvious in the photo? Anything that looked like Photoshop may have been used was examined. The photo was enlarged to the pixel level to see if there were any cloning, extra layers, or other hints that Photoshop was used where it should not have been.

The problem was found down the left hand side of the photo. A darker line went up from the bottom left hand corner to near the top of the left hand side of the photo. Also there were some lighter pixels to the other side of the line on the edge of the photo.

Line down Christian Stangl's summit photo

The following screenshots show the darker line and a lighter one right on the edge of the left hand of the photo. The photo has been magnified a lot to show this.

Line at the level of the mountains near the bottom of the picture

The following photo will show what was found near the bottom of the summit photo. This is where the mountains are including Chogolisa.

Screenshot showing a line running down Stangl's summit photo

As can been seen there is a darker blue color line running from the bottom of the picture. Also next to it are lighter colored pixels. This also runs up much of the left hand side of the photo. There is quite a contrast in brightness between the pixels on the side of the photo and those on the other side of the line.

Line at the level of the clouds

Further up in the clouds there is still the darker line and the lighter pixels on the side of the photo.

Line at the level of the clouds Further up in the clouds there is still the darker line and the lighter pixels on the side of the photo.

Line at the level of the blue sky

Next the sky has the same properties. But the lighter pixels have become darker than they were at the bottom of the photo.

Lines running down photo next to the sky

Higher up in the sky, the properties are still there but the pixels on the side of the photo have become darker. There is less contrast between them than at the bottom of the photo.

Line next to sky running up the photo of Christian Stangl's summit of K2

No lines hear top of the photo

Eventually the line ends before the top of the photo. There is no discernible difference between the pixels on the side of the photo here and those elsewhere nearby.

No lines at top of photo

There was vignetting at the top of the photo, but even with that effect removed the line was not present in this area.

Possible explanations

There maybe a few possible explanations for the line and contrast that is seen up the left hand side of the photo. These maybe as follows:

  • There was a hardware problem with the camera. The extreme height and lack of air pressure resulted in some sort of hardware failure. It could have been the electronic shutter mechanism or a problem with the lens. Against it being the electronic shutter, the kind of problems seen on a side of a photo would be seen with a dslr camera with a mechanical shutter not properly working. Also it would have been uniform up the side of the photo.
  • Camera had a problem converting the photo to a jpeg. A compact camera once a picture has been taken converts it into a jpeg. It may have incorrectly done that. Against that is that none of the pictures on Stangl’s website display this problem with any of the cameras used.
  • The photo has been edited with Photoshop to make it look like he stood on the summit of K2. The reason that there is no EXIF information is that it would have revealed the truth about the photo. Layers or cloning has been used in Photoshop to produce a photo that looks like that he was on the summit of K2.

Likely explanation: Photoshop used

The most likely explanation for the line down the side of the photo, in this sites opinion, is that Photoshop was used to edit the picture and make it look like Christian Stangl was on the summit of K2.

A flaw was found on this photo with no reasonable explanation as to why it is there. People, who use Photoshop and change their photos significantly, can leave a trace that they have made changes. In this photo the line down the left hand side could definitely be the result of manipulation of the photo.

A layer could have been created from another photo and that could have been placed on top of the background.

Or the clone tool could have been used. The mountains in the background could have been simply cloned onto the picture and whatever was there initially has been hidden by this cloning.

The reason that the line is still there is that it is such a small area and unless one really zooms in then it can’t be seen. The person who edited the photo just did not look hard enough on the left hand side of the photo.

What the lighter pixels down the side of the photo might be

Because there are so few lighter pixels next to the darker line, it is hard to say what it is or what it might be with any certainty.

If cloning of the mountains etc on the left hand side of the photo occurred then what are the pixels that are of a lighter color next to the darker line?

A possible explanation is that these pixels are the original background of the photo. There are not enough pixels to say that for sure, but there is chance that they are the original background to the picture. It is purely speculation but the Info panel in Photoshop does offer the ability to see the color and brightness of those pixels and make a guess.

In Photoshop the Info panel will tell the red, green and blue value for each pixel which is part of the photo. The higher the value for each then the brighter and more dominant it is. The highest value is 255, and the lowest 0. If all have the value of 0 then the pixel is black. If all have the value of 255 then the color will be the brightest white.

What is suggested by these readings is that because they have a higher value at the bottom of the photo, this could have been originally a snow background. The reason the values would have been high is that the sun was showing on them. Comparing the values of red, green and blue on other parts of the photo where there is snow including the glasses, the values here at the bottom are higher, but there is a similar higher value for blue. It may indicate brighter snow.

Higher up the photo, the brightness does decrease for the pixels, but there is there is still a higher value for the blue color. This indicates a bluish background. It would not be unreasonable to claim that those pixels could be the color of the sky, but lighter than that in the main part of the photo.

Now all of this is speculation about those lighter pixels as there is little detail. It’s just that by using different tools one can discover more about a photo. These thoughts were just put in to further speculation about that area.

It would be more likely that the photo has been edited by Photoshop than the speculation on what a few pixels up the left hand side of the photo are.

Other explanations may be valid for what the lines are. However, what remains is an unsolved line and area to the left of the photo.

Original photo on Christian Stangl’s website

Maxut maintains that Stangl could not have climbed K2

August 30, 2010

Maxut Zhumayev has received a letter from Eberhard Jurgalski, a statistician of 8000m mountains, to ask him what he thought of the claimed ascent of K2 by Christian Stangl. To Maxut this has been an issue that has touched him quite a lot.

Maxut repeated that he did not think that Stangl made the summit or even could have made the summit. All of Stangl’s testimony just is a fabrication in his view.

Both Maxut and Vassily Pivtsov climbed the Cesen route at roughly the same time that Stangl was allegedly climbing up K2. This was a different route to the one allegedly by Christian Stangl. He went up the Abruzzi Spur but came down somewhere between the Abruzzi Spur and the Cesen route.

Maxut and Vassily went up the Cesen route hoping for good weather on the 12th of August, so that they could make a summit push or get near to the summit with the good weather. But as soon as they got above camp 3 the weather turned for the worse with strong winds and cloud.

On the 12th of August Stangl claimed to have climbed K2. He said that it was under good weather. But Maxut says that it was windy and there was cloud cover.

The ropes on the 12th of August were covered in snow and ice. It took some time for both Maxut and Vassily to clean these ropes to make them safe enough to climb up and down. Thus it would not have been easy for Stangl to have used the ropes.

Thus Maxut did not see Stangl at all over the time that Stangl claimed to have climbed K2. Rather he has relied upon witnesses and his own experience of climbing up K2 at the same time to come to the conclusion that there is no way Stangl made the summit.

He says that witnesses on the Abruzzi Spur have told him of the difficult condition of this route. They would have thought it impossible for Stangl to have climbed K2.

The finding of Stangl’s bivouac equipment so near to was further evidence of the deceit of Stangl, he thinks. Other people at base camp have also seen this. Adding to Maxut’s thought on the deceit of Christian Stangl was the thoughts of other climbers. Other climbers going up the Abruzzi Spur after Stangl did not see him or any trace that he went up there at all. Also those that saw Stangl after he allegedly came down K2 from the summit said that he was in really good condition, not the appearance of someone who was tired after climbing for 2 days. All in all the facts just do not add up to Maxut.

He believes that Stangl left early on the 13th of August to avoid scrutiny of other climbers. Maxut and Vassily came down later that day and Maxut was disappointed not have run into Stangl at 6am when he arrived at base camp.

The name of Christian Stangl will forever be associated with hypocrisy in the mountaineering world, he believes.

Stangl would have needed wings, in Maxut’s opinion, to have made the summit. And then to look and feel so fresh after climbing K2 just was not possible.

With Maxut reporting so strongly that he did not believe Stangl made the summit of K2, then it might be harder for it to officially recognized.

Source: Kazpatriot

Kazakhstan climbers arrive in Skardu

August 29, 2010

Kazakhstan climbers Maxut Zhumayev and Vassily Pivtsov have made the trek out of K2 and have arrived safely at Skardu. They are hoping to get from this city to Islamabad by jeep.

Source: Kazpatriot

Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner gives more details on the failed K2 attempt

August 27, 2010

Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner has given an interview with Spiegel and talked about her recent trip to K2. In it she describes what happened when Ericsson plunged to his death and other thoughts about K2 and climbing.

To outsiders they might find it hard to understand why people like her put their lives at risk each year on these dangerous mountains. But Kaltenbrunner said that that they were made to be climbers, it was in their blood. As for the dangers of climbing she says that she listen to what her gut feeling is. If she does not feel right then she will turn around.

Climbing mountains was a risky business but she manages that risk. She’s aware of the dangers but takes precautions to minimize anything serious happening to her.

She said that she cannot resist the lure of K2. When she went to the region in 1994 she was seduced by the beauty of it.

Last year Michele Fait died while skiing down the lower slopes of K2. He was the skiing partner of Fredrick Ericsson. Kaltenbrunner said that she watched him through binoculars as he fell and died last year. It was traumatic for her to see this.

The main problem on the Cesen route this year was falling rocks, she said. The temperatures had been very warm and rocks held together by permafrost were coming loose. Rocks were whistling past them on the way up and down. Even some larger boulders were coming loose and were a hazard when they were falling.

Summit push

Kaltenbrunner and a number of climbers including Fredrik Ericsson and her husband climbed up the Cesen route hoping for an expected weather window. Her husband stopped at 7600m because he thought it was too dangerous. Rocks were falling and he decided to turn back. Kaltenbrunner was concerned about him making the descent because of the rock fall.

They camped at about 7950m on the shoulder, which was camp 4. She had to melt ice for some other climbers because their stoves were not functioning. The next morning she set off a little behind Fredrik Ericsson and Trey Cook. They put marker flags on the way because of the reduced visibility. Eventually Trey Cook turned back because his fingers were feeling the effects of the cold. Previously he had frostbitten fingers after climbing up to camp 3 earlier in the season. The plan was to take 10 hours to reach the summit. It was not really cold only about -23 Celsius.

She and Fredrik took turns leading the way up towards the bottleneck. At times the snow was up to their knees. They were roped up the gully because of the ice fissure in the rock. When they reached terrain where they did not need rope they decided not to rope together for a time. This terrain was at 45 degrees.

When the terrain started getting very much steeper – 80 degrees – Ericsson wanted to hammer in some pitons so he could secure himself. Unfortunately the rock was not solid and she assumes that part of the rock holding the piton broke off. She was not looking up at that time. He was about 40m away from her.

After it happened she was in shock and thought this is not really happening. She gave no thought about going further. Somehow she thought that she could still find Ericsson. There was a remote possibility that he had fallen onto a ledge and there might be a chance of a rescue. Her husband radioed her later though to tell her that Ericsson had plunged about 1000m down the mountain.

On the way down she was very tense. Many of the ropes were damaged because of falling rocks. Also the rocks that were falling were posing a risk to their safety.

Floods near Skardu and the possibility of returning to K2

On the way to Skardu they came across a village that had been damaged by the recent floods. 15 people died, and entire houses and streets were destroyed. She said that it was shocking.

Kaltenbrunner has given no thought about returning to K2 yet. She has been talking to her husband about what happened which has been a help to her.

Source: Spiegel

Stangl says he spent only 30 seconds on K2 summit

August 27, 2010

Christian Stangl has given an interview with the Austrian Krone. These are some salient points.

He said that he took 2 photos while at the summit of K2. He did not spend very long on the summit though. He was only there for 30 seconds and then left.

He felt incredibly tired after the effort. By taking no oxygen then that meant that he would be more tired. The climbing was easier he said because he was not in waist deep snow because much of snow had melted and more rocks were exposed. While on the bottleneck he felt fear but went on regardless.

A big cat came within 5 feet of him while he rested under a rocky alcove at 5600m. His camera did not have batteries charged though to take a picture of it.

Of course there have been serious doubts raised about whether he even made the summit or got even near it. Many climbers if not all of them at K2 base camp believe that the whole story is a hoax.

Source: Krone (in German)

Some of Fredrik Ericsson’s clothing to return home

August 27, 2010

It has been reported some or all of Fredrik Ericsson’s clothing has been collected on K2. Apparently his body and clothing fell in an avalanche last week. An American climber found it. This was on the Cesen route. The clothing will be sent by him to Fredrik’s parents.

He died earlier in the month while climbing up the bottleneck and fell about 1000m.

Source: Kazpatriot (in Russian)

Torok Zsolt believes Stangl faked his K2 summit

August 26, 2010

Torok Zsolt has been part of the 2010 EU/ US K2 expedition and has given his thoughts and observations on the summit bid of Christian Stangl. He was climbing on the same route taken when Stangl was making his summit ascent and descent.

Some of these details are much the same as was reported from Kazakhstan climber Maxut Zhumayev on Kazpatriot. But they will be presented because they are all important in determining whether Christian Stangl did make the summit of K2. Also they are first hand from someone climbing the same route though later than Stangl. That he left later than Stangl would give him and others a chance to see whether anyone else had in fact been climbing up the Abruzzi Spur.

The first hand evidence

  • Zsolt said that Stangl did not sleep in the advanced camp near the Abruzzi Spur. George Dijmarescu was at this base camp and did not report seeing him. It may have been expected that a climber going up this route would sleep there for the night to start their climb
  • Stangl could not have travelled the Cesen route according to Zsolt. The Kazakh climbers would have noticed him climbing up. That leaves only the Abruzzi Spur that he could have climbed up.
  • No one had climbed to camp 1 on the Abruzzi Spur. Zsolt said that when he and other arrived that there was no evidence that anyone had been there.
  • Zsolt says that it is impossible that Stangl climbed to camp 2 on the Abruzzi Spur. The House Chimney is below camp 2 and everything was covered in ice: the ropes and everything was covered in ice.
  • There was no evidence when they got to camp 2 above the House Chimney that anyone had been there before. The sherpas informed him that there were no footprints or any other evidence besides their own that someone had been there recently. It was not possible that anyone else had been there.
  • Stangl’s climbing axe was still in his tent at camp 3. Stangl’s tent and equipment were where they were before and unused. The tent was not setup so it would be destroyed by the wind. Stangl was not at this camp nor had touched any of his equipment.
  • Four people tried to reach camp 4 on the shoulder of K2 and were unable to. The weather prevented them. But they were also going through waist deep snow. This showed the difficulty Stangl would have had getting to camp 4. Once again there was no evidence that Stangl had been that far on this route.
  • Stangl claimed to have climbed to camp 3 and then the next day made the summit at 10am.Then he climbed down all day till he rested on a rocky alcove at midnight. Zsolt just doesn’t believe this was possible considering the tough conditions.
  • Zsolt asks how did Stangl climb the bottleneck then go across the traverse safely without a rope? Stangl was travelling lightly so a rope would not have been used on this section. Also since his ice axe was left at camp 3, did he in fact have an ice axe?
  • That Stangl claims to have descended between the Abruzzi Spur and the Cesen Route just are not credible to Zsolt. It would be a new route on K2.
  • Stangl arrived back at base camp at 6am. The cook was there and wanted to see a picture of the summit. But Stangl said that he was tired and did not show him the picture.
  • Stangl left base camp in a hurry. After only an hour after arriving back then he made his exit after packing all of his gear.
  • That Stangl made such an abrupt exit out of base camp says a lot, Zsolt believes.
  • The Pakistan porters found Stangl’s bivouac gear a distance away from the advanced camp for the Abruzzi Spur a few days later. It had been hidden under rocks. With it were a tent, poles, a 370 page book written by an Austrian climber, and sleeping bag.

What he thinks Stangl really did over those 2 days

What Zsolt thinks that Stangl really did for those 2 days is the following. He left base camp without anyone knowing, with his bivouac gear that was to be found days later after hidden by rocks. He set up his tent on the lower slopes of K2 somewhere where no one would know where he was. He then read the book about a Persian family for 2 days. And then 2 days later he came back into base camp at 6am and claimed to have made the summit of K2. Then he shortly left thereafter. He left so he would not have to face the scrutiny of others.

The dishonor such fakery brings

Zsolt believes that what Christian Stangl has done is to dishonor all of those lives that have been lost on K2. They had been trying to make the summit and it claimed their lives. By faking a summit of K2 Stangl has been dishonorable to them. It was against the spirit of mountaineering to do what Stangl did, he believes.

Source: Torok Zsolt

Kinga Baranowska arrives home

August 26, 2010

Kinga Baranowska has updated her website to say that she has arrived back in Poland. She arrived back in Warsaw. There had been a wait in Pakistan to get out of Skardu because of the recent floods.

While on K2 this year she managed to get as high as camp 4 on the shoulder of the mountain.

Source: Kinga Baranowska