Kazakhstan climber Maxut Zhumayev has raised serious doubts as to whether Christian Stangl made the summit of K2. When Stangl returned to base camp at K2, there was much lively discussion amongst the other climbers about whether Christian Stangl did in fact make the summit. Ultimately though, Maxut said that none of the climbers there actually believed that he did make the summit of K2.
The following points were made by Maxut to explain his reasoning as to why he does not think Stangl made the summit of K2.
- Climbers at base camp were shocked to see how healthy Stangl seemed after coming back from the summit. He seemed energetic and not feeling the effects of the climb. He seemed to want to get back to Skardu as quick as possible
- The weather was not as good as Stangl said on summit day. Maxut said that it was a cloudy day, not a clear day as Stangl reported. The picture that Stangl showed of him on the summit was of a fairly clear day with only some cloud.
- Climbing was difficult on any route. There were avalanches and some of the rope had been torn to shreds others have reported.
- Some of Stangl’s bivouac gear was left under rocks a little away from the Abruzzi Spur. This included tent with poles, rusty ice pick, 370 page book, and food remains. Maxut asks as to why was it hidden under rocks?
- George Dijmarescu was at advance camp on the day and night that Christian Stangl was supposedly coming down K2. Every once in a while through the night he went outside his tent to see what the conditions were like. At no point did he see a headlamp of a climber coming down the Abruzzi Spur.
- All of the advanced camps 1, 2 and 3 on the Abruzzi Spur had no evidence that anyone had been there and used them at all. George Dijmarescu went up there and saw no evidence at all else to suggest that anyone had actually been there or come through there. The tents were exactly as they had been before and looked like they had not been used by anyone in recent days.
- George Dijmarescu was not even aware that Stangl had made the summit and returned to base camp till he came back down to base camp himself. He had seen no evidence that anyone had been on the mountain at the same time as him, or in the very recent period that Stangl was climbing. This is despite the likelihood that Stangl took the same route there and back.
- And lastly, Maxut said that none of the climbers at base camp believed that Stangl made the summit of K2. The story from Stangl just didn’t add up in their estimation.
Certainly this raises further discussion on what Stangl said and the counter claim by Maxut on these points.
As for Stangl looking remarkably healthy after coming back down K2, it could be said that he trains extremely hard and this training enables him to climb faster and with more strength than what would be thought possible. But would he look as energetic after coming down K2. He told the press he was exhausted. This is not the picture that Maxut paints of him when he came down.
Stangl did say that he took a slightly different route because the ropes were too slippery on the descent. He said he used his GPS to keep him on a route to make it back down. Is it possible that he went so far away from the normal route down the Abruzzi Spur that George Dijmarescu failed to spot his headlamp? Surely he had a headlamp to go down in darkness. He said that he climbed till about 12 midnight that night and then fell asleep for an unknown time under a rocky alcove. This means that he climbed far down the mountain for between 4 to 5 hours with a headlamp on. Is it possible cloud cover could have concealed Stangl from the view of Dijmarescu?
As for why Stangl’s bivouac gear was hidden under rocks not far from the Abruzzi Spur really opens up speculation. The impression is that he did not take a bivouac tent up with him. He did say on the way back he slept under a rocky alcove. This would indicate that no tent was taken up. So why was it hidden under rocks? And when did Maxut discover all of the bivouac gear? He was in no doubt though it was Stangl’s gear. Stangl has said that he had no tent with him when he made the summit.
The conditions of the day vary markedly between Maxut and Stangl’s account. Stangl said visibility was reduced at times, but his summit picture is of a fairly clear day. Maxut is implying this was not the case and it was not sunny like in the picture. Of course these stories can vary because of the conditions at base camp and 3000m above could be totally different with lower cloud cover than the summit. But what if Maxut is right?
Stangl never said that he used any of the camps on the way up or down. He in fact said he only slept once in a rocky alcove and didn’t use the camps. But there was no evidence that he went anywhere near any of the camps, according to Maxut. Stangl claimed that his GPS allowed him to take a slightly different route. How far was Stangl’s route away from the camps or did the new snow conceal his movements?
As for the summit photo there already has been analysis of it on this site. It appears to show the summit and the surrounding mountains. Chogolisa can be seen in the background and the glaciers below K2. This seems broadly to be in line as one would expect for a summit picture from K2. But there were at least 2 areas of concern about the photo.
A reader made a Google Earth screen shot of what it would look like from the summit of K2 looking towards Chogolisa here.
In the initial analysis of the summit photo it was noted that there was a line down the left hand side of the photo that could be not explained. Photos normally do not have a line down the side, so it needed an unusual explanation. A possible explanation given by this site was that the hardware failed slightly, maybe the electronic shutter and produced a line to the left. Or maybe the software failed slightly when converting it to a jpeg. Normally one would never expect this to happen, but if the photo is authentic then an explanation like that would have to explain the line that is several pixels wide.
A more sinister explanation for the line on the left of the photo is that it has been digitally altered in Photoshop 7.0 and it has been a sloppy effort to concealing what has occurred. In that view point, the picture was created in layers. Several pictures could have been put together to create the one on the summit. Thus the picture would be faked to make it look like he was on the summit. The details on the left of the picture would have been added in a layer to make it look like the mountains were in the background to Stangl.
If it has been manipulated then the ‘smoking gun’ of the photo would be the lines on the left hand side. Sometimes when people use Photoshop it’s the little details that they overlook when correcting the photos. And sometimes those trails are left on the photo that has been processed. Thus if it turns out Stangl did not make the summit those lines could be a ‘smoking gun’ and shows sloppiness when the photo was put together.
Also the EXIF information from the photo was missing. This is the information that shows the date taken, shutter speed, aperture and lots of other camera information. The only useful information in the EXIF is the date which showed when it was digitally created in Photoshop 7.0 which was the 13th of August.
A key to knowing whether Stangl made the summit or not of K2 will be hearing from George Dijmarescu on the K2 2101 expedition. He has been writing for Everestnews. The last report that he sent said that,” When you will hear the entire story, you will laugh.” It was not easy to see what he was referring to but it certainly occurred that he might be talking about the Stangl summit of K2 …. We will see whenever he updates what he was talking about there. It will be interesting to see whether he verifies all that has been written by Maxut.
Since a climber at K2 has raised serious doubts that Stangl made the summit, and claims all of the other climbers do not think he made the summit, then it will open discussion on what really happened. The problem with going alone to the summit is that he must provide all of the evidence. But GPS readings that he claims to have taken and further photos that have not been saved in Photoshop with the EXIF information would help the case that he in fact made the summit. There may be a case for not giving the summit to Stangl until better evidence is produced.