GB govt to investigate death of Pakistani porter on K2 after distressing video goes viral

Record-breaking mountaineer Kristin Harila denies climbing over Hassan

By Web Desk
August 12, 2023
The K2 is the second-highest mountain in the world - Saltoto Summit

An inquiry committee has been set up by the government of Gilgit-Baltistan to investigate the tragic death of Pakistani high-altitude porter Muhammad Hassan on K2 last month.

According to a notification, the GB secretary tourism, sports, archaeology and museum department formed the committee which will be led by Iqbal Hussain, director of the department.

Other members of the committee include Rahat Karim Baig, deputy director Baltistan, and representatives from the divisional and district administration, Baltistan tour operators association and the Alpine Club of Pakistan.

Videos and photos on social media revealed that a group of climbers walked past Hassan, who fell off a ledge and reportedly died few hours later at a narrow path known as the bottleneck, some 8,200 metres high.

Mountaineers Philip Flamig and Wilhelm Steindl, who posted pictures of the incident, claimed that Hassan was alive when people climbed over him.

"We saw a guy alive, lying in the traverse in the bottleneck. And people were stepping over him on the way to the summit. And there was no rescue mission," Steindl told the BBC.

"I was really shocked. And I was really sad. I started to cry about the situation that people just passed him and there was no rescue mission

Hassan was being treated by one of the climbers "while everyone else" moved towards the summit in a "heated, competitive summit rush", Flamig told Austria's Der Standard newspaper.

Norwegian climber Kristin Harila and her Nepalese mountain guide Tenjen Sherpa summitted K2 on July 27 and became the world’s fastest climbers to scale all peaks above 8,000 metres in just over three months. However, they have been heavily criticised, along with more than 100 other climbers who walked past Hassan, for not helping the Pakistani porter.

Although, Harila told the BBC she and her team tried everything to save Hassan’s life.

"It's a tragic accident... here is a father and son and a husband who lost his life that day on K2. I think that's very, very sad that it ended this way," she said.

"We were trying to save him, we did everything we could for many hours... it's a very, very narrow path.

"How are you going to climb and traverse and carry [a person]? It's not possible."

After facing abuse on social media in recent days, Harila also posted an update on Instagram, photo and video sharing website, in order to stop the spread of "misinformation and hatred".

Harila said she didn’t know how the incident took place but Hassan "was hanging upside down" on a rope between two ice anchors, with his harness "all the way down around his knees. In addition, he was not wearing a down suit and his stomach was exposed to snow, wind and low temperature, making it extremely dangerous".

Harila said that her team spent hour-and-a-half trying to fasten a rope to Hassan, while also giving him hot water and oxygen, until "an avalanche went off around the corner".

In order to avoid overcrowding the bottleneck, Harila said that she decided to move forward “considering the amount of people that had stayed behind and that had turned around” while believing that “Hassan would be getting all the help he could”.

"It was only when we came back down that we saw Hassan had passed and we were ourselves in no shape to carry his body down,” Harila added.