Fear made Meagan McGrath turn back on 2010 K2 expedition

Fear played a part in the reason that Meagan McGrath did not make it further on K2 in 2010. She realizes this now after having gone back to Canada. She has been doing some lectures about her expeditions in Canada. Of interest have been her memories of climbing K2 during 2010.

She joined Field Touring Alpine after her climbing partner pulled out their planned expeditions to Pakistan. They asked her to become a guide for their company as they both shared the same itinerary.

At first she made attempts of climbing Broad Peak. On the final attempt though, she turned back not feeling well above camp3 on the way to the summit. It was then thought it was altitude sickness that forced her to turn back.

When the attempt to climb Broad Peak was aborted, and Field Touring Alpine turned their attention to K2, McGrath decided that a safe approach would be her tactic. “I felt humbled by K2,” McGrath says. “There is so much hype about this mountain. I’ve read about how many people have been killed and promised myself that I would make good decisions and err on the side of caution.”

She listened carefully to what Fabrizio Zangrilli – leader of the Field Touring Alpine expedition to K2 – said about K2. He had been to K2 on a number of times before and knew the routes and dangers very well.

Eventually, there was only McGrath, Zangrilli and some porters left from the Field Touring Alpine expedition. Time had run out for the other climbers who had made little headway up the Cesen route.

On the final attempt she turned back between camps 2 and 3. She was feeling ill and realized that she could go no further. Her dream of climbing K2 was finished for that year. On the way down she was hit by a rock which hurt her. There was also an avalanche nearby that they had to wait to go by.

“The higher I went, the more frightened I got, so I decided to turn back. The rocks were flying down on me and it hurt like a son of a gun. Then I had to wait as an avalanche of snow went by for about 20 minutes. I realize now that it was the fear that made me ill.”

She said a little about the climbing accident where Fredrik Ericsson died. “We were sitting on pins and needles. Unfortunately, only two made it down. There’s a lot of conflicting stories, but it appears as if one male climber slipped and fell to his death.”

Trey Cook, Fredrik Ericsson and Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner set off for the summit. Cook had to turn back before the bottleneck because of frostbite that he had received on an earlier attempt. Ericsson slipped and fell after losing his holding from the bottleneck and Kaltenbrunner turned around to search for him, abandoning her own attempt.

McGrath was not part of the climbers who were at camp 4 on the summit day. Her final attempt to get there had ended days before. Thus she has no first hand knowledge on what happened.

McGrath believes that K2 is only for the best climbers. “If you aren’t a skilled climber, you’re toast. It’s very dangerous, with rocks and chunks of ice falling off the mountain constantly,” she said.

McGrath tried to climb a number of peaks in 2010, but failed more often than she anticipated. The list of attempts included: Lhotse, Broad Peak, K2 and Ama Dablam. She managed to climb Lhotse out of these , which is near Everest.

She said that she wants to return to K2 sometime in the future. But she does not when that will be. This year she plans to go back to Ama Dablam, a mountain that she attempted also in 2010, but failed because of lack of resources.

Source: Ottawa Citizen

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