Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner gives more details on the failed K2 attempt

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

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