From Stu in the USA office
26th July, 2011
Summit Update and Sad News
I write this note with great sadness to share that just a short time after celebrating summit success we were met with a tragic fall of one of our team climbers.
Yesterday after more than 12 hours of climbing our first member, Sophie, reached the summit and Wim and Andre followed a few hours later. Our HAP Farhad has broken trail for much of the way and without his effort it is hard to imagine they could have made the top. Farhad was some distance from the top when the three summiteers met him on their way down and they joined together for the main descent.
Down below the col Mike was descending along with Jeff and they were headed to C3. In the serac bands at approximately 7600m Mike had descended one of the fixed lines with Jeff just above when Jeff fell past Mike and went on another 300m. Jeff fall began in an area with seracs and after falling some distance on uneven slopes he disappeared into a large crevasse well off the route. Jeff's fall, which was seen from BC, was very serious and left little hope he could have survived. Mike was in no position to enter the crevassed area alone and with Chris's insistence returned to C3 to get more help to search for Jeff.
Over the ensuing hours 2 different groups (one including our HAP Said and another British group) attempted to reach the area where Jeff had ended up and they were both turned back by dangerous snow conditions. The other members returning from the summit had their hands full just getting back to C3 safely in the dark. They returned to C3 at approximately 2am after climbing for nearly 26 hours above high camp. In the morning the winds began to rise and any thoughts of trying again to reach where Jeff fell became impossible with the combined danger of the snow, the weather and the condition of the climbers. Descending safely became the only option and by 7am they had begun down.
After a near sleepless night and still suffering from the GI illness that affected them, Chris, Tim and Rob set out from BC very early to meet the descending group and reassess any chance to make a further attempt to search for Jeff's body. Still very weakened from the illness it was evident that they would not have the ability to mount any serious move to C3 even if the weather and snow conditions had allowed. It was with a very heavy heart that Chris made the final decision to call off any further search and had all members return to BC.
The remainder of our team is now at base camp after a very long 2 days. Tomorrow some members are scheduled to depart with porters and others to move over to K2. Given the events of the last 2 days that schedule may change. When they have had a night to rest and collect themselves they will update us with the next steps.
Our team members are devastated by the accident and send their deepest condolences to Jeff's family back in Hong Kong. We had waited to put this news out until we had contacted Jeff's family and ensured they were first to know. FTA principal Dave Hancock is already en route to Pakistan to help with team when they come out and to assist Jeff's family in any way he can from on the ground in Islamabad and Skardu.
We will have more news in the days ahead.