Norway’s record-breaking climber defends feat after sherpa death

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A Norwegian climber who last month became the joint-fastest person to summit the world’s 14 highest peaks said her team did everything they could to help a dying sherpa as they completed their quest on K2.

A huge row has broken out in the climbing community after video emerged showing a long train of climbers stepping past a fallen sherpa on July 27 to reach the top of the world’s second highest mountain.

Kristin Harila, who with her Nepali guide Tenjin “Lama” Sherpa that day became the fastest people to summit all 14 of the world’s 8,000-metre (26,000-feet) mountains, has faced the bulk of the criticism despite spending 90 minutes trying to help.

The fallen porter has been identified as 27-year-old Pakistani Mohammed Hassan, who was not part of Harila’s team.

Karar Haidari, secretary of the Alpine Club of Pakistan, told AFP around 100 climbers summited K2 that day.

Tourism authorities in Pakistan’s Gilgit Baltistan, who are responsible for issuing climbing permits, said Friday they had opened an inquiry into the incident.

In a lengthy Instagram post on Thursday, Harila, 37, said she and her team “did everything we could for him at the time”.

  • ‘Heartbreaking’ –

Harila said she felt the need to give her side of the story due to “all of the misinformation and hatred that is now being spread”, including “death threats”.

Britain’s Daily Mail headlined its story: “‘Egotistic’ mountaineer is pictured celebrating reaching the summit of K2 just moments after climbers ‘walked over dying porter’.”

Harila said she, her cameraman and two others spent “1.5 hours in the bottleneck trying to pull him up”.

She then continued her ascent following a distress call from the fixing team ahead, leaving others behind with Hassan.

Her cameraman, identified only as Gabriel, was among those who stayed with Hassan, sharing his oxygen and hot water with him “while other people were passing by.

“Considering the amount of people that stayed behind and had turned around, I believed Hassan would be getting all the help he could, and that he would be able to get down.”

Gabriel left after another hour when he needed “to get more oxygen for his own safety”, she wrote.

When he caught up with Harila, “we understood that he (Hassan) might not make it down. It was heartbreaking.”

On their descent, they discovered that Hassan had died.

  • ‘We had done our best’ –

Her team of four “was in no shape to carry his body down” safely, she added, noting that it would have required at least six people.

His death was “truly tragic… and I feel very strongly for the family”, she said, but “we had done our best, especially Gabriel”.

Hassan was “not properly equipped for the climb”, wearing neither a down suit nor gloves, she noted.

There was harsh criticism for Harila on social media despite dozens of other climbers being in the same situation.

“Nobody will remember your sporting success, only your inhumanity,” wrote one critic on Instagram.

“The blood of sherpas is on your hands,” said another.

Other Instagram users defended Harila’s actions, however, noting the dangers involved.

©️ Agence France-Presse

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