National Geographic : 1979 May
We were wrong. As Jim describes that night in the following pages, there were moments of extreme danger but never a loss of hope. At midmorning on September 7 our telephoto lens picked Jim out on the Abruzzi route, slowly descending as John and Rick climbed to meet him. We saw the figures pass one another with only a brief pause, then Jim continued down alone. BY THAT NIGHT K2 had been scaled a second time without oxygen, and we began our retreat from the mountain. The cost to Jim Wickwire proved greater than we had realized, and without Rob Schaller's constant medical care on the trek out, Jim might not have survived the combination of pleurisy, pneumonia, and blood clots resulting from his night below the summit. That Jim did survive and that all of us re turned safely is a victory perhaps greater than that of reaching the summit. In a dozen attempts on K2 the mountain has claimed seven lives, heavy odds by any standard. In addition to the first American conquest of K2, we had achieved several other suc cesses on the Savage Mountain: Including porters, ours was the smallest expedition to scale the mountain, and the first to include women climbers. Three of our four summit team members reached the top without us ing oxygen. We had also established a new route near the summit, between Camp V and the Abruzzi Camp. Each ascent of a high and dangerous mountain, whether the first or a sequel at tempt, adds new knowledge and therefore a greater margin of safety for those to come. Certainly we climbed K2 on the shoulders of previous expeditions. We owed our suc cess to those who had tried and failed, and to those who had tried and won. Perhaps others will some day say that of us. Inshallah. ** i^r Barnacles on a leviathan, the tents of Camp IV cling to a humpback ridge at 22,800 feet. From here on up, steps take longer, breaths come shorter, and supplies run thinner. Climbers follow the dictum "carry high, sleep low" to conserve food, fuel, and their own energies. WILLIAMQ. SUMNER 639 g :: :.~.:~ ;;,~t~4~: f _; -I; It~ -: -*2" ir~ -:;-" ; ::";i~;l i ~i~~ *i :" 'd r ?