K2 update from Serguey: Avalanche struck above bottle neck, search chopper unlikely to go out

Posted: Aug 17, 2006 02:21 pm EDT

(K2Climb.net) Yesterday, correspondent Andrey Afinogentov of Russian Sport-Express had a detailed interview with Sergey Bogomolov. Serguey told him that the avalanche struck at 8350 meters, just above the Bottle Neck, only 2 hours climb away from the summit. A huge piece, 400 x 300 ft of frozen snow and ice came loose without a sound, and simply swept the climbers off the crest.

"Authorities have now decided to consider the missing climbers dead"

The survivors saw a solid trace of the avalanche down to below 7800 meters, where it split in two. The climbers were nowhere to be found. Using the Japanese expedition's fixed rope, Serguey searched 100 meters down via the Cesen route, but found no trace of his mates.

Serguey also told the news source that a search chopper probably won't go out, as it can only fly to 5500 meters and BC is now wrapped in fog. "Authorities have now decided to consider the missing climbers dead," he reports.

While called Ukrainians, Kazakhs and Siberian in normal life, in the mountains, everyone who speaks Russian is Russian to Russian climbers. Serguey said the team was probably the strongest 8000+ mountaineers Russia could assemble today; he had climbed Makalu and Lhotse with several of them. "We had an incredible spirit in our expedition," he said.

The interview was translated in full today by Elena Laletina. Go to RussianClimb to read it in full. Click here for interview (English)

The Kuzbass team from Siberia was led by Yury Uteshev on the Abruzzi Spur. Russian Serguey Bogomolov joined them after the Russian team planning a new route on K2s West face postponed their plans until 2007.

Last Saturday, the team was in Camp 4 intending to descend. But the weather suddenly improved on Sunday, and with the top being so close, they made a summit push on August 13 divided in three teams. The avalanche caught the first and the second group, leaving out the last party of Serguey, Irish climber Banjo and Polish climber Jacek.

Two of the Russian climbers dug out from the snow and tried to find their mates, joined by the 3 climbers of the last group. Expedition leader Yuri Uteshev, coach Alexander Foigt, Piotr Kuznetsov and Arcady Kuvakin were all lost.

The news were released on Monday by Banjo Bannon's home team. Tuesday, Banjo's expedition reported that the leader of the Russian team and their Liaison Officer had confirmed that the missing 4 Russian climbers died as a result of the avalanche,

Meanwhile, Russian news sources said that a mountain guide reported the Russian climbers missing Sunday, asking for a rescue helicopter. However, helicopters were grounded due to bad weather.

K2 have had only 4 confirmed summits in 2006. Most climbers reported they were forced to abort their summit pushes in fear of constant avalanches and rock falls, triggered by the warm temperatures.

This accident marks the second largest single-day tragedy on K2.

On Agust 13, 1995, six climbers; New Zealander Bruce Grant, British Alison Hargreaves (f), American Rob Slater, and Spanish Javier Escartín; Javier Olivar; Lorenzo Ortiz disappeared during storm.

In 1986, on August 10, four climbers died on K2 in the same day. British Alan Rouse, Polish Dobroslawa Miodowicz-Wolf (f), and Austrian Alfred Imitzer and Hannes Wieser all died of altitude-sickness/exhaustion. 1986 turned out the worst overall season on K2 after 13 climbers lost their lives on the Mountaineer's mountain.


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Russian Sergey Bogomolov, 52, has twelve 8,000ers bagged and climbs with a particularly heavy backpack: on of his K2 attempts a few years back, an avalanche swept his friends off the mountain right before his eyes. Image courtesy of RussianClimb.

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