The story of British climber Tom Ballard who disappeared from Nanga Parbat in Pakistan for ten days is particularly sad. Twenty-four years ago, his mother Alison Hargreaves (Alison Hargreaves) was also killed on another mountain in Pakistan, the notorious K2 mountain. Her story made the headlines for the wrong reasons.
The fact that the media is concerned is that she is a mother selfishly pursuing the dream of climbing the mountains, rather than taking care of her family-this kind of criticism is rarely directed at male climbers, who have left friends and family. It may not be balanced on Tom Ballard, and his family now has to accept a double tragedy.
The story of Alison Hargreaves on K2 has many familiar echoes. She died with five male climbers, and they all decided to continue climbing after the others on the mountain turned around. Why did they continue? There are many reasons why people take such extreme risks. The answer is never simple, especially for those of us who choose to live a more sheltered life. Her climbing background may provide some clues.
She and her husband Jim Ballard are in debt. Jim was forced to close the climbing shop he owned in Derbyshire, which had funded Alison’s previous expeditions. Unable to repay the mortgage, their house was repossessed by the bank. Alison recently started her career as a professional climber, and now she is the only breadwinner in the family. In order to consolidate her reputation as the top female climber in the UK, she began to seek to climb the world’s three highest peaks-Everest, K2 and Kangchenjunga within one year.
In May 1995, she climbed Mount Everest alone without any support. This kind of climb is usually compared to Reinhold Messner’s solo climb of Mount Everest in 1980, but the two climbs are not exactly the same. When Messner climbed the north ridge and deviated to the north wall below the second step, it was the monsoon season, and he was alone on the mountain.
His route is not only unique, but it is also the first time to climb Mount Everest during the monsoon season. In contrast, Alison climbed along the standard north side route of the North Ridge. She was supported by a commercial team and reached the Advance Base Camp (ABC) at an altitude of 6,400m. She was never alone on the mountain—other climbers were on the same route when she was—but above ABC, she has her own strict rules, which she obeys.
She carried all her equipment, excavated and camped by herself, and did not use supplemental oxygen. She refuses to be caught on fixed ropes used by others, and is known for refusing teacups provided by climbers she passes by. Just one month later, she started the second part of her mission in Pakistan, climbing K2.
She joined an American team, but just like on Mount Everest, she climbed alone above the base camp without any support and no supplemental oxygen. The expedition was plagued by bad weather, but this was normal on K2. One of her teammates, British Alan Sinks, sneaked into the early weather window. He reached the top of the mountain and returned home, while Alison was still taking a more cautious approach, which eventually cost her.
By August 6th, she had climbed twice to Camp 3 and Camp 4 once, climbing higher, slightly higher than 8,000 meters above sea level. Most of her team decided to pack up and go home, but she and the expedition leader Rob Slater decided to stay and try again. Although the base camp was basically empty at this time, a few climbers from other teams also stayed for the final attempt.
They set off for the summit on August 9. They arrived at Camp 3 but found that it had been buried by an avalanche. In most mountains, such an event can only happen due to a wrong decision-camping on an avalanche path. But on K2, there is no safe place to camp; avalanche risks are everywhere, which is one of the many reasons this mountain is so dangerous. They spent an hour trying to find their tent, and then proceeded to Camp 4, which fortunately still stood.
It dawned on August 12th. This would have been a good summit day, but they were exhausted from the long climb the day before. All climbers, including Alison, decided to take a day off in the camp. Whether they are strong enough to reach the top is a controversial issue. On August 13, 11 climbers left Camp 4 to the summit.
Alison left at 2 in the morning. The five climbers turned around before reaching the bottleneck gorge, the notorious part of the main summit route, where climbers must ascend below a huge Serak that could collapse at any time. Among the five more cautious climbers, there is Peter Hillary, the son of Edmund Hillary, the first to climb Mount Everest. Peter concluded that it was too cold, and he didn’t like this kind of weather. He decided to descend as much as possible, and then rolled down the mountain.
Facts have proved that this is a wise decision. A warm and humid air system is rushing into the valley from the south, about to collide with a powerful anticyclone approaching from the north side of China Mountain.