By Tetsuhiko Endo
A spate of good weather has seen summits all over the Karakorum this week, according to Explorersweb.com. The third slovak climber to ever reach the summit of an 8,000er, Tomás Rigóci, topped out on Broad Peak, the 12th highest mountain in the world, while the Basque team of Alberto Iñurrategi, Mikel Zabalza, and Juan Vallejo followed him shortly after while also opening a new summit route. Meanwhile, a Czech team of Radek Jaros, Libor Uher, and Petr Masek topped out on Gasherbrum II, the 13th highest mountain in the world.
Due to weather conditions and loose snow, only one man, Colombian Felipe Ossa has managed to reach the same point as Kauffman and Schoening this year. However, hopes are high for another weather window.
And just as the men and women on GI are waiting for that opportunity, so too are the teams on K2. Although a late round of storms has pushed some off the mountain for good, there are summit teams still poised in high camps, waiting for a shot at the top this weekend. While they wait, they might be thinking about this fun fact: The mortality rate for people climbing K2 is 27 percent. That means anyone attempting the summit has a one in four chance of dying. Mount Everest, with it’s mere 9 percent mortality rate, looks like a gentle walk in the hills by comparison. No one has summitted the mountain since 2008, so you can bet, despite the grim odds, people are itching for a shot to put their name into the history books.
Climbers aren’t just making news in the mountains this week. Would-be K2 climber turned author and philanthropist Greg Mortenson hit the pages of the New York Times this week for his consulting work with the U.S. Army’s campaign in Afganistan. For those unfamiliar with the man and his best selling book Three Cups of Tea, Mortenson is responsible for the construction of more than 130 schools, mostly for girls, in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The book, detailing how he got these schools built and the development theory behind it, became popular with military wives, who then passed it to their husbands, says the Times. It has now become required reading for commanders in Afghanistan, and Mortenson is regularly called to lecture at military bases. Interestingly, Mortenson does not believe in a military solution to the problem of Afghanistan. His theory, as his past actions have shown, is to educate women.
Death comes quickly in the mountains. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the Poles, where some of the most horrific adventure disasters have taken place over the last 150 years. The epitome of polar expeditions gone wrong was that of Captain Sir John Franklin’s search for the Northwest Passage in 1845. After the ships became icebound, the 128 man crew spent three years dying of cold, scurvy, food poisoning, botulism, lead poisoning, and starvation. Forensic analysis conducted on recovered remains also point to cannibalism.
Despite having recovered bones and artifacts from the expedition, neither of Franklin’s two ships, the HMS Terror and the HMS Erebus have ever been found. Now Canadian researchers Ryan Harris, Marc-Andre Bernier, Jonathan Moore, and Thierry Boyer are off to the Arctic to change all of that. Their search will be guided by 150-year-old testimonies from native Inuit who encountered Franklin’s icebound ships, as well as 21st century sea-floor surveying tools. Check out the entire fascinating story on the BBC website.