A Storyville documentary: the deadliest day in mountaineering history, when 11 climbers were killed during a descent of K2, the world's second highest mountain, in August 2008.
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This programme contains some strong language.
-No, Nanga Parbat.
-Oh, my God!
-Then we'll show you K2, your destination, OK?
We're on our way in.
'The doomed mission to climb one of the world's
'most challenging mountains...'
Ill-fated expedition to the top of K2 was airlifted to safety today.
'More than a quarter of those who try to scale it die in the attempt.'
Why did we split up?
'One of the worst disasters in the history of mountaineering
'and, in particular, on K2, the most dangerous mountain on Earth.'
I think people are interested in trying to know what actually
happened that day.
8,000m, you are in the death zone.
There is a struggle, there is a fight,
in every breath, in every thought.
Everything hurts. Every limb, every cell is screaming
"oxygen, oxygen, oxygen".
You don't feel the cold any more.
You don't think the same way.
You don't know if you're dreaming or if it's real.
Time seems to stand still.
Sometimes things go wrong, you know?
But the question you should ask yourself - what would you do?
You have to run this bit, because there's rock fall.
-Yeah, they've been running it. Go, go, go.
It's good to be back here.
It's nice to wake up to this sight this morning.
It's my belief that everybody has a love of climbing.
The first thing a child wants to do is climb something.
The art of rock climbing is relearning what you
intuitively knew as a child.
You get such big respect for this mountain
and all the climbers who did it before you. If you want to have
a nice story on the birthday parties, you climb Everest.
But K2 is for the real mountaineers.
-How are you?
-Pretty good view, I reckon.
-I think it's pretty hard to beat, actually.
There is a difference between people from the Himalayas
and people from the Western world.
There is difference, because the
western people are more adventurer.
They love adventure.
-Our people also like adventure, but they love climbing.
-Where are we?
-We are now climbing K2.
Everything is raw. It's glaciers, it's black mountains.
It fills you with respect.
K2 is absolutely the king.
The higher it gets, the more interesting it gets.
So when it comes to climbing 8,000m peaks, you want to do it,
but at the same time, you have this fear.
This is serious. This is for real.
If you make one step wrong, you're history.
Finally here. Such a relief.
Let's get the tents up, the stoves going and prepare for tonight.
For three months, we were on this expedition,
so when we reached Camp IV, it was already a magic moment.
The whole earth is beside you.
And then you look behind you and see another mountain.
And that's K2. It's a mountain on a mountain.
Ger was coming, I was filming.
I was asking Ger how are you feeling? And he was almost crying.
You could hear his voice, you know,
it's something that we already achieved.
It's already something, that's what he said.
We had a brilliant night. No clouds, there was nothing.
And then we went to the summit.
-I am. I'm scared to death.
We felt, overall, like this was our day.
So we moved up along the slopes above IV.
Fred and I started out a little more slowly.
Both of us felt really strong, very positive.
There were perfect conditions. We're talking about day in a million.
There was not a day like this that I can remember.
Cos it was warm.
Starting to get light enough to see the route up ahead.
Looking up, seeing a tightly-spaced group of climbers moving
They're not moving. What are they doing?
We are way back in time.
We are really late. I don't know what the fuck we're going to do?
-I was so devastated.
You put in so much effort for months and then you realise there is no way
we are going to be able to summit and come back down in daylight.
We just went down. It was simple as that.
Many of the other climbers there had been on Everest
or other 8,000ers before K2.
I hadn't been higher than 6,200.
I just wanted to come along, to see how high I could get.
When we finally got to the bottleneck, there was actually
a traffic jam.
The serac was the main danger. It's probably almost 100m high.
Slightly overhanging. And it could crack at any time.
This very, very delicate place is notorious.
Ice can drop at any time.
It's a Russian Roulette, that's what it is.
The main tactic to avoid the dangers of the serac is to be fast,
to minimise the time when you're exposed to it.
It was not with a good feeling we were waiting there.
Above 8,000, you can only trust yourself.
I wanted to traverse out to the right, to have a rest
outside of the fixed ropes.
It's exhausting to be in a queue, to wait.
You can't climb at your own pace.
Several others wanted to wait there until others had passed.
The bigger the chain, the bigger the chance that there is somebody
in this chain who is making a mistake.
Dren unclipped his rope and tried to pass me.
We were all shocked when he fell, but when he stopped he stood up
-So we thought he was fine.
-He's standing up. He's OK.
But then we saw him falling again and sliding further down.
-Right there at the end.
This is Eric at Camp IV.
I picked up my camera and I zoomed in trying to find him, locate him.
How can someone fall on this perfect day?
No wind, it's bright, it's great.
How is it possible?
Chhiring, I understood that you and Pemba are climbing.
Are you in the lead and has there been an accident, over?
Is he in a rut?
That is the rock. Down. Down.
Chhiring says he's moving.
Whoa. He's still alive.
We have to do something.
Is everybody coming down? Ask the question.
Chhiring , do you know if everyone is coming down at this point, over?
INDISTINCT RADIO CHATTER
Of course, we had a discussion.
Should we turn around to try to help?
We talked about it and then we said,
"Listen, the Serbian guys are going down.
"We know the Americans are there.
"I think it doesn't make sense to go down."
I was like, "I'm going to save this guy.
"I'm going to save him.
"There's no way he's going to die, not this day.
"No way. It's not going to happen."
I just shoot off.
He hit the rock, lose control.
Keep falling for 200 more metres, then stopped.
Then, I started coming down.
There were maybe two guys below me.
I came down pretty fast.
Maybe ten minutes.
He was wrapped in rope,
and just giving no signs of life.
Already...very pale and grey.
Cuts on the head.
Black nose, broken. Blood from mouth.
-Totally finished, almost.
If I knew that Dren was dead, I would not have gone up.
The Serbians, they want to take him down to base camp.
I say that that's impossible.
What we can do is, at least, bring him down to Camp Four
and give him a proper burial there.
8,000m. You're in the death zone.
'Every step is a burden. When you have a dead body,
'it's a hell of a load.'
OK, we have to go down like this, guys.
You have to stay not so close.
If you do fall, you release, OK?
It's our lives too, OK? Remember.
'Jehan Baig from Pakistan suddenly started acting really weird.'
'He's coming down on my right side, holding on to the rope,
'which goes around my lower legs.
'We're crying out...'
Release the ropes.
Release the rope!
'He did not make one single move to stop his fall.'
Instead, he just let go,
and he shoots off like a rocket,
straight out to the open air
and just disappears.
If you climb on K2,
it's very necessary that you have the right people in the team.
You have to trust each other fully for 200%.
Gerard said, "Hey, listen, it would be lovely
"if I can bring Pemba." Pemba is a Sherpa.
But a lot of people are thinking about a Sherpa
that he's just an ordinary guy who's bringing stuff up the mountain,
but Pemba was a really different guy.
He was a professional climber, like we were.
Yeah, yeah. Fantastic.
-Do we have boil-in-the-bag rice?
-You can take care of it.
It's the one thing that I'm concerned about,
that Pemba mightn't be too used to freeze-dried food.
It was clear for me that Gerard would be part of this team,
because I found a good companion in Gerard.
He was a climber who had the same ambitions as me.
Then you are pushing the limits, higher.
Then it ends up in the Himalayas.
Gerard was new for me, but Wilco knew him before.
I know Wilco, so I trust him.
It was very quickly clear that Gerard was a very qualified climber.
2003, I was the expedition leader on Mount Everest.
We had a small team.
Gerard, he had a huge passion and he had bursts full of energy.
Come on, Ireland!
He knew how dangerous, actually, mountaineering was.
He knew over 8,000m, it's not called "death zone" for nothing.
Every blood cell in your body has been deprived of oxygen,
which numbs your brain cells.
Making logical decisions becomes harder.
The longer that you're up at high altitude,
the more prone you are to your whole body disintegrating from inside.
It creates mucus, it creates fluids.
It actually starts to swell the brain, the lungs,
till eventually you won't survive.
Within high-altitude mountaineering, there is an unwritten code.
If it's the case that someone is dying
and you know you're going to put your own life at risk,
you should leave them.
-This 8,000m stuff was alien to me at this point,
so I was just following direction, you know?
Descending, Pat was in a bad way
and seemed to be moving exceptionally slowly
and stopping to rest.
When I saw the look on Pat's face...
I was getting pulmonary oedema, cerebral oedema, thrombosis.
I was being deprived of oxygen.
I started to die.
There was no energy there.
More than a lack of energy...
Actually, I think there was an awareness of a lack of energy.
I think there was also a knowledge that he knew in himself
that he was in trouble.
Pemba and, in particular,
Ger were the people that were encouraging me down.
If my team members hadn't helped on that day,
I may very well myself be encrusted onto the rocks
of Mount Everest for eternity,
never to come back home to see my family.
CHEERING AND CHANTING
They say that the most important thing when you go climbing
would be to select a good climbing partner -
somebody that you're compatible with.
I've been lucky, really.
You see in the rock?
Do you know if everyone is coming down at this point, over?
When the accident happened, Gerard was also asking,
"Do we have time enough to reach the summit?"
"Aren't we too late?"
Pemba said, "No, no, we can just reach the summit.
"There is time enough."
Then we said, OK. This is the decision - to move on.
We just moved on.
He had the big Korean team ahead, then you have the Norwegian guys,
then us in the middle with the Spanish guy in front.
We were climbing, climbing, climbing
and then you see the first guys reaching the summit.
Then you think, "Please, let it be the end,"
because you are really completely exhausted.
Alberto was kind of a mythic figure,
so I didn't see Alberto close up at all
until I met him when he was on his way down.
Then I asked him how far it was.
He said, "Yeah, a little less than an hour."
One moment you realise that it is in your reach,
you're going to feel that you're going to make it.
It's only a matter of time to keep on going to reach the summit.
HE SPEAKS IN OWN LANGUAGE
Gerard, Cas, Pemba, over.
Four guys of this expedition, you know,
half of the team, was on the summit of K2.
We're on the summit of K2. Woo-hoo.
Yo, yo, yo.
The light was exceptional, brilliant.
You are at the end of the Earth.
You're thinking, "This is it, you know, it's over, we've done it."
It's definitely a place of extremes,
but with those extremes comes extreme beauty.
In many ways, those very extremes, they're addictive.
He phoned me, and I was lucky enough that the connection was made.
He was elated.
He told me everybody was feeling good.
There was no problem.
Yeah, it was just hoping to hear from him, you know,
five or six hours' time.
We were all really strong, we were normal talking.
We didn't have problems with the altitude.
We were feeling very good.
We were having a good moment on the summit,
and now we are going down.
Marco was coming up, he said,
"Somebody has to take pictures of me."
I said, "Yeah, yeah. Up, up. Quickly, quickly."
Then you realise, "Fuck, we have to go down."
Now the surviving starts.
President McAleese has said her thoughts
are with the family of a County Limerick man,
who is among nine climbers missing and feared dead in the Himalayas.
..on the world's second-highest peak,
that may have killed as many as a dozen climbers.
..when as many as a dozen of them were caught out in a collapse
of an ice ledge just beneath the summit...
Straddling the border of Pakistan and China,
K2 is slightly smaller than Mount Everest,
but its reputation has always been much larger.
..another Pakistani, a French national
and an Austrian are missing.
They summited on the Friday. Friday the 1st of August, I mean.
Come Saturday, the internet was ripe with stories.
We heard the Fredrik Strang story
about pulling bodies off the mountain.
One of the climbers, an American guy, Nick Rice,
had his blog up on the Sunday.
He said that Gerard refused to come down the mountain.
He said, "Refused to come down the mountain."
Anyone that knows Gerard knew what Gerard was about.
Something wasn't right.
Someone might throw some comment out on their blog
about what they think might be happening or, you know,
some rumour they heard and not realising,
"Hey, we are waiting for our loved ones."
We're hanging on every single word,
even how it's written
to get some kind of clue of what was going on.
Those guys are making big stories
even when the tragedy is still going on
actually on the mountain.
-MAN TALKS ON RADIO:
-..you're a bit clumsy...
It's always the same.
The real heroes, you don't hear.
The stupid thing is if we would have been successful,
which we were because we reached the summit,
there was only such a small piece in the newspaper, you know?
Now, because 11 climbers died,
it went all over the world.
Everybody wants to know how it was possible.
What happened to us was just a matter of...
it was such a successful story till we went to the summit.
We were the first expedition on the mountain.
We had a beautiful time because everything was really organised.
We had good food, we had good cooks.
Every detail was planned and organised.
We are a very strong team compared to other expeditions.
We were putting all our fixed rope.
Everything we were doing by ourselves.
Bringing up those ropes to 8,000m, it's a hell of a job.
First four till five weeks,
every day fixing the ropes 100m by 100m by 100m.
Then going back, just by the rope, going down to the base camp.
K2 base camp, over.
The snow conditions and the wind weather conditions
are also really bad for you.
Maybe it's a good idea to postpone
the project one day, over.
No. Not possible.
'We have to be ready in July.
'We want to quit this expedition in the end of July.
'Most of the accident happened in August.'
The humidity is getting bigger, you know? More avalanche danger.
CRACKING AND RUMBLING
We said, "OK, we want to go at the end of July."
That was the plan.
We were ahead of schedule.
In that period, all the other teams were arriving.
Very, very cold.
Very strong wind
The Serbian guys.
Resting in peace.
And the Norwegian team.
That's a lot of different cultures up there.
Sherpas from Nepal, high-altitude porters from Pakistan.
There were different approaches to the climbing.
The South Koreans are the main big, old style big expedition.
Sherpas - oxygen, a lot of rope, many camps.
The Norwegian expedition,
we were only four friends on a trip
trying to climb K2.
MAN SINGS IN OWN LANGUAGE
-Time to break out the whisky.
-That's a good idea.
I like whisky.
There is that element of remoteness that I love, however,
the bustle of this camp, I actually love it.
I get to meet a lot of different cultures.
Everyone was into the same thing.
Everyone's there to climb.
We ended up having a great time.
It was very quickly clear
that Ger was a very qualified climber.
Next to that, he is a very social boy -
more social than the average climber.
For me, the most important thing for all of these expeditions
is to have a good time and have a good laugh with your friends.
GER SINGS IN IRISH
Gerard was with at us a lot,
and we would sit with them as well.
Ger and Rolf were friends.
Both were the same kind of guys.
When I met Rolf in 2003, I...
..felt that I met a soul mate.
In 2005, we went to K2 to try to get to know the mountain.
The most important thing wasn't to get to the summit.
The most important thing for us
was to come home with good health.
We were there for 93 days.
We only got to a little higher than camp three.
So this time, I don't think we really thought we'd get to the summit.
Of course, you have to want that, otherwise you won't make it.
But it's so much that has to be right for it to happen.
What went wrong was the weather.
For three weeks it was snowing, snowing, snowing.
It was unbelievable.
80% chance of snow today.
-8km at 8,000m.
He was ready to come home. He said to me,
"I can't wait to have a good meal and a glass of red wine."
You know, he was kind of ready.
It was 60-something days, by that point.
But, if you get a weather window, you take it.
The end of July, the good weather came in.
But then everybody wants to use this window.
So we said, let's have a talk, let's try to work together.
-300 rope for bottleneck.
If we want to, more 50.
400 rope we are...fixing.
Couloir? We take 400m.
Then the Italians got 200m for traverse.
So 600m is plenty enough.
Maybe we need more.
-We don't need more.
-600m is plenty enough, I think.
-Seven? OK, Kim says 700.
We had a lot of meetings because if we are working together
let's be clear.
We are with a lot of people, we share all the workloads,
and 80% chance we will get to the summit without any problems.
First, leading. Second, help them. Third, making the bamboos.
MEN CONTINUE PLANNING
I always saw the base camp meetings
as a vital key to success.
It was our chance to get together
and do this as one team -
not South Koreans, Americans, Serbians, Dutch.
As one team.
There is one in the one survey team from every group.
The question is also, who is climbing in front. You know?
We say, listen, every team gives his strongest climber,
and that's the trail-breaking party.
Two good climber and one, two porter who, er, carry...fix rope.
These teams start one or two hours before other members from camp four.
We were thinking, if the strongest team go into this part,
fixing the ropes through the bottleneck,
we can just follow the ropes and go to the summit.
So it is a really safe plan.
They were really focusing on the summit.
Both Ger and Wilco were really...
..had the summit in their eyes!
You could see it.
There are always things you don't talk about,
and which you don't expect.
and one thing was that the leader of the high-altitude porters
who are making breaking-trail,
I trust this guy completely.
But what happened? He went ill. So no leader any more.
High altitude porters are Sherpas.
They're going to fix the rope
and the members from the Koreans
they're going to counter-check the rope,
whether it is fixed properly or not.
A new plan was that a Korean leader -
the climbing leader of the big Korean team -
he would check everything in camp four.
But he didn't.
The summit bid was delayed because people were wandering around,
like, "Hey, where's the gear?
"Where's the equipment? Where's the rope?"
We are WAY back in time.
We are really late.
The high-altitude porters, they just starting to fixing the rope,
and Pemba was not that kind of leader who said,
"Listen, we are going to do it like this!" You know?
It was, like, 10m from the tents or something.
There were ropes very, very early on.
Suddenly there's no more progression,
and people are just standing there waiting.
They yell back that they've run out of rope.
We were thinking, in God's sake, how is this possible?!
The only thing you can do is going back
and cut the ropes and bringing up.
And that's what we did.
We were delayed with two hours.
And that's too long.
You can't catch up two hours on a summit bid,
even though there were perfect conditions,
in the death zone, you are just losing more energy.
People think that we're mad.
How can you continue if someone died?
But if you drive a car, you see people crash,
you see people die in traffic.
You keep on driving because you think it's not going to happen to you.
Is he in the rock?
He's here. On the rock.
Right there, at the edge.
-How are you? Good.
-But not a great day today. A hard day for me today.
Was not a good day.
He said, you go, you feel strong,
you are strong, you go to the top with Lars.
I look back many times and every time I look back,
if he was looking at me at the same time, he was, like,...
thumbs up, and "keep on going".
I remember Ger warning us that when you get around the traverse
you will see the summit and then you will get summit fever.
It's so hard to turn around,
and it's so easy to just continue a little bit.
Just a half an hour and see.
CLIMBER CALLS TO CECILIA
I could see Lars on the summit.
He took Rolf's rabbit hat on
and danced on the summit.
We had just a few minutes, took pictures.
Even in our most crazy dreams,
we wouldn't have dreamt it to be that beautiful.
With that shadow of K2 into China.
I enjoyed the view, but the only thing that was in our head
was that we are not going to stay here for very long.
We are going back.
We have to get back to the ropes before it gets dark.
We are on the summit of K2! Woo-hoo!
The time passes by in a very strange fashion up there.
What may feel like a couple of seconds,
could actually be a minute, or vice versa.
It's very hard to tell.
You know that almost all the accidents in climbing
happen on the way down, on the descent.
You get exhausted, you relax, it gets dark, erm...
So that is a fact that every climber knows.
We caught up with Rolf further down.
He was so happy.
And congratulated us,
and we decided to descend together, of course,
down to the fixed ropes.
Slow but efficient.
It gets dark just 15 minutes after we get to the fixed ropes.
So we put on our head torches.
When Rolf gets there I ask him
if he wants to go first,
or if he wants me to go first.
He said, "Lars, I go first. You look after my wife."
Yeah. That's the...
the last thing he said.
I don't know if I heard anything but I felt it.
The ground was shaking underneath me.
LOUD CRACKING, RUMBLING
The last thing I saw was Rolf's head torch moving.
And then it was dark.
You must think I'm crazy saying this,
but, suddenly, I could hear his voice.
And it was so strong.
It was, like, saying...
.."You have to get down."
You're going down, thinking, follow the lines,
and there was camp four,
and in a few days we would have big party
with all the teams in the base camp.
The problem is you are so exhausted, and you are not that concentrated,
and everybody is going down at his own speed.
MEN PANT HEAVILY
We were looking up the mountain every hour.
And we were monitoring our radios all the time.
And we were getting more and more anxious about their safety.
We could see these head lamps and we were thinking,
"Oh, my God, Oh, my God! They're not moving very fast.
"What's going on?"
We started feeling...hopeless.
The whole thing was a little bit stuck, so it was not totally clear.
One moment you are not walking all together any more,
so you are a little bit separated, a few metres between you.
Everybody is just descending.
We came at the point where the fixed rope should be, but it wasn't there.
Marco was looking, I was searching, but we couldn't find it.
I was convinced that this was the right way,
but why wasn't the rope there?
The only thing you think is we must be
on the wrong side of the mountain, or we must have lost the way.
I expected by noon at the latest to hear from them.
And the phone rang when I was at lunch,
and I thought it was him but it was another friend.
She was like, "Have you heard from Gerry?"
I said "No, I'm really worried."
Then I went home from lunch and got on the Internet
and the first thing was trouble on K2.
First thing I thought of was,
"OK, when does the sun rise on K2?"
That's when they'll start moving again.
How many more hours do they have out there?
PANTING AND GROANING
We were not in a panic, we were just sitting wondering
why we couldn't find the rope,
but we were convinced that next morning at first light
we would find the rope again.
THEY SING AND SLAP LEGS IN TIME
For me the descent is not really the big problem.
I am so much fixed in the descending,
that I don't really know who is in front of me or back of me.
So, erm... Only thing is I know that I see light
and I was coming close to the light
and I saw it was Hugues, the Frenchman.
THEY EXCHANGE GREETINGS
You go past. You are quicker than me.
'I pass him, and I go on descending.'
-Take your time.
-All right, cool.
Then I noticed something is not OK with the rope.
I keep on descending.
Above 8,000m you are fixed in your own descending,
you don't realise what's going wrong on the mountain.
Then I hear some noises.
You think, "Oh, no. He's falling."
You don't really know what to do.
And I go on descending.
We could go up and get...
It was still nice and clear.
We could see some of the climbers at the top of the serac.
We were convinced that with the first light,
we would find the rope again.
I was going to the right, you know, to have a look over there.
I was going to the left to have a look over there.
Marco was looking somewhere.
We couldn't find it.
And then I started to realise that I'd got problems with my view.
I was getting more in panic, because I knew, fuck...
getting snow-blind at this altitude, it's finished.
No helicopters are coming,
the guys can't do something with a body of 80 kilos. It's finished.
I said, "Listen, guys, I have to go down, I have to go down."
So, I started just going down, without thinking any more.
Just going down.
This is base camp calling.
Do you know some information about Gerard,
the Irish guy from Norit expedition?
What I was hearing was Jimmy Bhote - Jumik - and Pasang, in trouble.
They were the Korean Sherpas.
And then Rolf and then Dren Mandic.
I didn't even understand that other people had died, really.
I was in shock.
I remember a phone call I had to my father-in-law.
I was so scared to make that phone call.
He was going to be mad at me for not looking after his son.
But instead he said...
.."You have to get off the mountain. You have to come home."
I didn't want to lose my husband,
but I lost...
..of course, my best friend.
And...our future like I was hoping it would be.
I was just climbing down and then suddenly,
those Koreans were hanging over there.
I was just thinking, "What the hell are they doing here?"
I didn't understand anything about it.
I had some spare gloves, so I gave the gloves.
I didn't ask what happened. Maybe they were hanging all night long.
But at that time, I was just, you know, shocked about it.
I said, "Listen, I have to go down
"because I'm starting to get snow-blind."
He said, "Yeah, yeah, but help is on the way, so go ahead."
I'll send help.
They are all up there by themselves.
They're not moving anywhere.
They're just sitting still, just waiting to get help.
The South Korean expedition leader, Kim, was arranging a rescue mission.
But I said, "Guys, they're not standing up, moving one metre,
"and you're telling me
"that I should go up there when the ice is still falling down?
"There is no fixed lines, there's no ropes. I mean, that is just insane."
This is not a guided tour.
We cannot physically pluck people off this mountain.
Copy that. Copy that.
I was so thirsty, you know.
I knew I'm getting crazy in a few hours,
because when you don't have water
at that altitude for such a long time, you won't survive it.
HIS BREATHING ECHOES
'I looked up and I saw that
'Marco and Gerard were with those Korean guys.'
That's it. That's it.
OK. You're all right.
HE GASPS FOR BREATH
I had to go down, down, down.
Of course I was exhausted, but there was no other way, so I had to do it.
I just went down without knowing,
because I was just following the terrain.
When someone leaves somebody for dead,
they're thinking of their families at home,
they're thinking of them surviving.
They've gone into this situation where
they feel that everybody knows that if you die, you die.
And they make that decision on that basis.
Ger McDonnell was one guy I knew
that couldn't actually make that decision.
Ger did not have it in him to look in their eyes
and to live at a later stage to say, "He did not do his best."
Go ahead, Pasang.
He had gas, oxygen.
Everybody wants to survive.
'It doesn't matter if you have a child or a wife at home.'
It was the last moment I saw Gerard and these other Koreans.
But I don't know what happened with them.
'Why are me surviving?'
It's just a matter of stupid...
being unlucky on the wrong time, the wrong place.
Wilco, our expedition leader, is packed up with the helicopter
because he's frozen his feet
and there's a second helicopter for Marco.
He froze his hands really badly,
so he can't use his hands to get the ropes any more.
to climb one of the world's most challenging mountains.
'Italian, Marco Confortola, was rescued from K2
'nearly five days after an avalanche
'swept some climbers away and stranded others.
'..and badly frostbitten from trying to help save others in the group.
'Instinct, he says, makes you want to do that.
'Confortola says the expedition was plagued by inexperience and poor equipment.
'He says some ropes and spikes easily broke.'
Different people were saying different things.
There was a lot of confusion, a lot of stories.
The Marco story became the story.
This guy had had a horrific experience up there.
He was in pretty bad shape, both mentally and physically.
I said, "Look, I need to find out for sure, you know,
"what went on up here, you know? I have to go to Pakistan."
It was really frightening,
because we didn't know what we were going in for.
And I mean, I guess half of me still believed Ger was alive
and the other half didn't believe it.
The following day, we got to meet Wilco and Cas.
I'm sorry, I'm just totally in denial.
But he said he saw Ger fall and his story of that.
I can tell you, in my heart there was still hope.
-I know it's ridiculous.
-Yes, I understand.
-But he is dead?
-Yes, I'm sure. Absolutely.
Because that was what Marco told us directly.
'Wilco and Cas, they were obviously nervous'
because our brother had died, you know, and they were alive.
Why did you split up? Why didn't we look to each other?
The only explanation is because we were too long at high altitude.
Marco's account was he was sitting there with Ger and then there were
three people ahead of them, and all of a sudden those people disappeared.
And so, they took such a fright, they decided, let's just sit here
and wait until daylight, right? And then he says you came along. Then...
No, no, that's not correct.
Because we started together.
-So you bivouacked all together, you never came along later?
'They had their information about the little bit'
Wilco couldn't remember and the little bit Cas couldn't remember.
And what they heard Marco could remember,
and they drew a map for us, the terrain,
where they thought things occurred.
Marco is a very emotional boy and he got confused.
And in the end, he was so tired.
'They didn't know any more.'
Cas and Wilco had been airlifted off the mountain.
There was no debriefing with the remainder of the team
and they actually didn't know.
He was just getting more and more confused.
We needed more, you know what I mean? It wasn't enough.
For some reason, we felt we needed to talk to Pemba.
Marco had left by the time we got there, but Pemba
and the rest of the Norit team were hiking out, and that takes two days.
-That is a...
-We say "headcase".
By the time Pemba got to Islamabad, Marco was gone
and all the major news people left, too.
It never occurred to them that maybe he'd have something to say.
HE SPEAKS ITALIAN
What Marco did on the mountain, nobody can take that away from him.
He was a hero on the mountain. The family always...
Just today, the family have said,
"Marco did what he could do. He was a hero."
HE SPEAKS ITALIAN
But the stories were changing from Marco, from what he originally came out with.
He said that Ger was out of his head,
that Ger abandoned him,
but in a day or two, the stories were rife in the papers.
Marco was the last living witness to have seen Ger,
so to hear these stories that Ger was out of his head,
he was hallucinating, his body was splattered all over the mountain...
This was heartbreaking for us.
He changed his story several times,
which certainly didn't help
make things clear.
And, you know, his story had a lot of clout because everyone else was gone.
Everyone else had perished. So... you can say whatever you want.
There's no-one there to... contradict what you say.
Except for Pemba.
You see, all we have is a story to cling on to, and now
all the stories are different, and it's very hard, do you know?
Every story is different, and that's all we have, with nobody...
But why we are asking - because now I want you... The story says
that you were a little bit lower than the body on your right.
'Pemba was the missing piece of the jigsaw.
'He held the key to a lot of people's questions.'
Ger had given his camera to Pemba at the summit,
so Pemba had Ger's camera, coming down.
And he continued to take pictures of what was happening.
It was obvious then why Ger refused to come down the mountain.
There was people in trouble.
Ger was never going to...
Never going to leave them.
'It would have destroyed him to just leave the Koreans.'
It would have ate away and it would have haunted him,
day and night, I think.
At first, we weren't told that Ger had gone back up.
That came out a little bit later.
Ger was true to his nature to the very end. That's who he was.
In our own team, we would have done everything for each other,
but what did Gerard - not only in his own team,
he fought for his life and even for the life of the Koreans.
It's hard to explain, but as mountaineers,
we understand, you know, that we are taking risks,
and if there is an accident, yeah, we know that we have to live with it.
If there is a heaven, we will meet each other in the future.
We will laugh about it and say, "But we did it," you know?
"We did it."
Often times, when somebody does lose their life,
what's went on is held up under the microscope.
Some people might say, "They should have done this,"
and, "they shouldn't have done that."
Just because you survive a mountain doesn't make you an expert,
and I don't think it gives you any right to say that
somebody made a mistake, you know?
Because when you weren't there, you don't know.
Only the mountain knows.
In August 2008, 25 climbers from several international expeditions converged on high camp of K2, the final stop before the summit of the most dangerous mountain on earth. Just 48 hours later, 11 had been killed or simply vanished, making it the deadliest day in mountaineering history.
In a century of assaults on K2, only about 300 people have ever seen the view from the planet's second highest peak. More than a quarter of those who made it didn't live long enough to share the glory.
At the heart of this documentary lies a mystery about one extraordinary Irishman, Ger McDonnell. At the very limit of his physical resources, he faced a heartbreaking dilemma. Through recreations, archive and home movie footage, and interviews with survivors and families, the film creates a forensic, vivid version of events that is emotive, engrossing and, at times, deeply shocking.