Kristin Harila, a Norwegian climber who last month became the joint-fastest person to summit the world’s 14 highest peaks, landed in a controversy after photos and videos on social media showed her and her team stepping past a fallen sherpa on July 27, to reach the top of the world’s second highest mountain.
Denying all allegations, Harila said her team did everything they could to help the sherpa, as they completed their quest on K2 – along the Pakistan-China border, which stands at 8,611m (28,251ft) and is regarded as one of the most challenging and dangerous mountains to climb.
The fallen porter, who reportedly died a few hours later, was identified as 27-year-old Pakistani Mohammed Hassan, who was not part of Harila’s team.
The incident happened when the Norwegian was heading for K2’s summit to secure a world record and become the fastest climber to scale all peaks above 8,000m (26,000ft).
During the ascent, Hassan reportedly fell from an extremely narrow path known as a bottleneck.
Pictures showing people climbing over Hassan were shared by two other climbers, who were also on the mountain the same day, but had cancelled their ascent because of dangerous weather conditions and an avalanche.
Harila, however, has denied the accusations that Hassan was left to die.
Taking to Instagram, Harila shared a picture of Hassan and wrote, “There is a lot to say about all that happened on K2.”
“My heart and thoughts and prayers go out to the family and loved ones of Hassan and I feel very sad about this whole situation,” she added.
She also said she had been walking when she saw the other team Hassan was part of a few metres ahead before the “tragic accident” happened.
She said no-one was to blame for his death, adding that she had decided to make the statement to stop the spread of “misinformation and hatred”.
Harila said she did not see exactly what took place, but the next thing she knew, 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”.
Her team tried for an hour-and-a-half to fasten a rope to the guide and give him oxygen and hot water, she recounted, until “an avalanche went off around the corner”.
Meanwhile, tourism authorities in Pakistan’s Gilgit Baltistan, who are responsible for issuing climbing permits, said Friday they had opened an inquiry into the incident.
(With AFP inputs)