In Memoriam: Remembering 2018’s ‘Eight-Thousander’ Climbers Still on the Mountain

December 21, 2018

Before paying respects to those nine mountain climbers who lost their lives in 2018 while ascending one of the “eight-thousanders,” which represent the 14 mountains on Earth that rise above 8,000 meters (26,247 feet), there is some solace in the sadness.

The data show that, while sometimes tragically treacherous, mountain climbing is not one of the most dangerous sports in the world. Skill, talent and an abundance of preparation and precautions safeguard the sport, at least numbers-wise.

Rulesofsport.com undertook an interesting study in which a strict measure by the numbers examined the world’s most lethal sports. “Research (was) undertaken by Bandolier – an independent journal about evidence-based healthcare written by Oxford University scientists,” the site noted.

Climbing, in fact, was not even among the top five. The dubious distinction of being in the No. 1 spot was base jumping, which shows 43.17 deaths per 100,000 population, putting odds of dying at 1 in 2,317, according to the study. Base jumping, it should also be noted, is largely illegal.

Mountain climbing definitely has many risk factors, which only increase with altitude. Almost every element of climbing is dangerous, from pulled muscles and broken bones to frostbite, physical duress, and falls; never mind unpredictable weather changes during ascents and descents. (A 2017 London Telegraph report shows that 75 percent of falls occur during descent.)

And on the subject of statistical danger, gearjunkie.com, in a study of the world’s most dangerous mountains, wrote in May 2018 that Annapurna in Central Nepal (26,545 feet), one of the “eight-thousanders,” is the most lethal.

“On this mountain, the 10th highest in the world, 191 climbers have summited the avalanche-prone peak,” the report cited. “About 63 have died climbing – making Annapurna’s fatality rate of 33 percent the highest among 8,000-meter mountains.”

It is with great respect for the sport and its boundless warriors that we pay homage to those who didn’t make it off the “eight-thousander” mountains in 2018.

K2

The world’s second highest mountain, at 28,251 feet, on the China-Pakistan border.

Canada’s Serge Dessureault, a Montreal firefighter captain, died from a fall in July of this year, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). “Serge had a reputation for being an experienced climber, very careful, always aware of the possible risks,” Chris Ross, Montreal’s firefighters association president, said in a statement from the CBC, adding that Dessureault’s passing had already created an “unbearable void and incommensurable pain.”

Just 15 days later, Kojiro Watanabe of Japan fell to his death.

“It appears he fell during the descent in the Bottleneck, a well-known challenging area,” the climbing blog alanarnette.com reported. “He fell around 8,300-meters.”

LHOTSE

Lhotse (center-right) pictured next to nearby Everest (left)

The world’s fourth highest mountain, at 27,940 feet, part of the Everest range.

Russian climber Rustem Amirov succumbed to altitude sickness in May.

According to The Himalayan Times, Amirov reached the higher camps without climbing Sherpas and oxygen support.

“Clever and strong as he was, he turned around just 100 meters from the summit due to bad weather,” a Facebook post from his family read. “The bad weather slowed his descent. At some point above camp 3, he suffered from acute mountain sickness. High altitude porters were sent to rescue him and help him down to camp 2. Unfortunately, it was too late. He was unconscious when he passed away and didn’t suffer any pain if that is of any consolation.”

MAKALU

The world’s fifth highest mountain, at 27,838 feet, 12 miles southeast of Everest.

Ang Dawa Sherpa of Nepal perished from altitude-related sickness in May.

Sherpa complained of sickness while returning from the summit point, according to The Himalayan Times.

“Efforts to rescue him by helicopters throughout the day yesterday went in vain due to the adverse weather,” the report stated. “He breathed his last at the base camp last night.”

CHO OYU

The world’s sixth highest mountain, at 26,864 feet, on the China-Nepal border.

Park Shin-Yong of South Korea in May died reportedly either from exhaustion or altitude sickness.

“In the evening I was informed that the rescuers had found the Korean in Camp 2 and helped him to descend to Camp 1,” Bulgarian climber Atanas Skatov wrote, according to Deutsche Welle, Germany’s international broadcaster. “That’s where he died. And his body is still there.”

DHAULAGIRI I

The world’s seventh highest mountain, at 26,795 feet, in Nepal.

A storm claimed Simone La Terra of Italy in April. His was the first death of the spring season, according to New Delhi Television.

The 37-year-old was blown off the mountain by a strong gust of wind. His body was recovered.

MANASLU

The world’s eighth highest mountain, at 26,781 feet, in Nepal.

Roman Hlávko of the Czech Republic is believed to have fallen to his death in September.

According to the Italian mountaineering site montagna.tv, it was reported that the 43-year-old “has not been heard for three days and the search and rescue efforts are being prevented by the bad weather that now surrounds the mountain.”

NANGA PARBAT

The world’s ninth highest mountain, at 26,660 feet, in Pakistan.

Tomasz Mackiewicz of Poland, during his seventh trek to the mountain in winter, reached the summit in January but things turned the very next day during descent.

“The weather had deteriorated with high winds,” according to alpinist.com. “Mackiewicz had become snow-blind, he had extensive frostbite, and he was disoriented and unable to move independently.”

Eventually, his partner had to secure Mackiewicz, suffering from acute altitude sickness, in a sleeping bag and go for help alone. Mackiewicz’ body was not found. He left behind a wife and three children.

SHISHAPANGMA

Also called Gosainthān, the world’s 14th highest mountain at 26,335 feet, in Tibet.

Bulgaria’s Boyan Petrov disappeared in May. His wife made the difficult decision to suspend rescue operations for the safety of the rescuers themselves.

“If for Boyan the battle is over,” she said, according to Sofia News Agency novinite.com, “let him stay in the mountain.”