Text by Christian Camerota
Take a tumble on a pair of K2 skis and you might twist an ankle. Fall on K2 skiing and it will likely spell disaster.
A solemn reminder of the inherent danger on the mountain's stolid slopes, Italian adventurer Michele Fait slid down an ice sheet to his death while skiing the SSE spur from atop an acclimitization camp on June 23. Fait and Frederick Ericsson had planned on scaling K2 and becoming the first people to ever make a complete ski descent of it before the tragic accident occurred.
Ericsson had been chronicling the pair's trip on Powder Magazine's website and, a few days before, even went so far as to report that the harrowing car ride through a waterfall to arrive at the mountain "was probably more scary than anything we will face on K2." Their first days on the slopes held great promise, with Ericsson commenting on the good quality of the snow, the excellent weather, and his excitement at the prospect of a push for the top.
The two arrived at K2 Base Camp on June 18 and had allotted three weeks for acclimitization, having plotted a course up the Cesen Route on the SSE ridge. At the time of Fait's accident, they were on their way down to Base Camp at 16,700 feet from an overnight stay at Camp 2, at an elevation of just under 20,000 feet. With Ericsson skiing well downhill from him, Fait apparently lost his edge on a patch of ice and was sent tumbling down the rocky slope to the base of the wall some 3,000 feet below. He was dead when Ericsson reached him about 20 minutes later.
Due to the avalanche-prone nature of the area, Ericsson and a guide who had come up to help from Base Camp were forced to secure Fait's body to the snow overnight. The two returned with eight other mountaineers the next day, holding a moment of silence for the fallen skier, wrapping his body, and burying him nearby.
Ericsson's updates have ceased and word is that he discontinued his trek following the loss of his friend. The event again justifies K2's moniker, the "Savage Mountain," which alludes to the difficulty of its ascent and its high fatality rate. Of the mountain's recorded 302 ascents as of 2008, roughly one-fourth (77 in total) have perished in their attempt to scale it.