Hours passed at the base camp of Ogre II, a mountain located in northern Pakistan where two American alpinists were expected to return from a treacherous trek, but ultimately never arrived.
On August 21st, 2016, Kyle Dempster and Scott Adamson set out to summit one of Pakistan’s highest and most remote peaks. This was not their first attempt. They had tried once before but had to call everything off after Adamson fell more than 100 feet and broke his leg. After coming back and spending weeks to acclimatize to the harsh environment, they packed their gear and started their climb. Only this time, a terrible week long storm rolled onto the mountain. A combination of hail, sleet, and snow rendered their already near impossible climb even more challenging.
Everyone at base camp knew something happened when there were no signs of the two on their anticipated return day. A search party was formed consisting of locals, fellow alpinists, and rescue helicopters. At the same time, a GoFundMe campaign was started to raise awareness and rescue funds. The campaign quickly received almost 200,000 dollars in donations, but their search mission was soon called off.
"After an exhaustive, close-proximity helicopter search of the mountain yielded no signs of Kyle or Scott, the extremely difficult decision was made to call off the search. Kyle and Scott are not coming home, but their spirit, stoke, and smiles will live on in the hearts of many," Black Diamond Equipment announced to their public Facebook page on September 6th.
What happened to them exactly? Nobody truly knows. Unfortunately, these types of accidents are very common in the climbing community. Just in the last few decades almost 300 people have died while attempting to climb Mount Everest.
Last April, Nepal was struck by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake which triggered many avalanches throughout their iconic Himalayan peaks. One of the more significant ice and rock falls happened on Everest. Because April is climbing season in Nepal, many climbers and Sherpas were on the mountain and at base camp at the time. The true numbers are unknown, but it is speculated that 18 to 22 people lost their lives. It was dubbed the deadliest event to have ever happened on Everest.
This raises a very interesting question: how do you keep climbers safe while they are in some of the most remote areas of the world? An increase in communication between hikers and base camp has been attempted before using satellite phones. But devices made to measure heart rate could be more effective. If that device can report heart rates back to base camp in real time, rescue teams would have a better idea of what situation a lost climber would be in. Technology may be the future of safety.
One thing Nepal’s Government has been discussing in response to April’s avalanche is starting to require experience in order to climb their highest peaks. Too many people have attempted Everest with little to no qualification. Most think they are going to be able to summit without any problems. In the event of a similar avalanche, unprepared climbers will not know what to do. This requirement could help avoid many casualties. Another similar idea the government has mentioned publically is limiting the amount of climbing permits that are available for each climbing season. These ideas can help sufficiently, but how exactly can we avoid natural accidents more effectively
It is very difficult for some nations to spend their government funding on weather stations and scientific studies for base camps. Many countries simply do not have the resources to do so. For many who risk everything they have to climb these mountains, this is a major problem. Without knowing what possible weather conditions there are, it is very dangerous to have people on a mountain. It only takes one storm to cover a mountain when suddenly everybody climbing becomes disconnected from the rest of the world. These ideas may only be a temporary fix, but hopefully, more advancement in the safety of mountaineers is in the near future