Russian-American mountaineer found dead near Pakistan’s K2 peak

Climber fell off world’s 12th-highest mountain after refusing to turn back in dangerous winter conditions, organisers say.

Alex Goldfarb, extreme right, poses for a photo with members of Alpine Club of Pakistan in Islamabad in this December 29, 2020 photo [Karrar Haidri/Alpine Club of Pakistan/Handout via Reuters]

A missing Russian-American climber has been found dead after falling from the world’s 12th-highest mountain, having refused to turn back in dangerous winter conditions, the company that organised his ascent said.

Alex Goldfarb pushed on alone when his teammate failed to persuade him to give up their attempt to scale the 8,051-metre (26,414-foot) Broad Peak in the Karakoram range on the border with China.

“We are deeply saddened to have lost our climbing partner and friend,” said Laszlo Pinter, spokesman for the Broad Peak Winter Expedition 2021, on Tuesday.

“The helicopter search mission has found his body on Pastore Peak where he is presumed to have fallen off the mountain,” he said in a statement.

A medical doctor and a lecturer at Harvard University in the US, Goldfarb had volunteered to treat COVID-19 patients since the outset of the pandemic, his son Levi Goldfarb told Reuters news agency.

“He thought [mountain climbing] was beautiful,” Levi said. “He thought it was liberating, because up in the mountains it didn’t really matter who you were at sea level – a doctor, a lawyer, or even a thief, all of those labels were stripped away and you were playing by a different set of rules. He made great friends in the mountains, he saved lives and saved himself, and he travelled the world doing it.”

Bittersweet week

It has been a bittersweet week for the climbing community, which saw 10 Nepalese climbers scale K2 for the first time in winter, but also the death of Spanish climber Sergi Mingote on the same mountain.

Goldfarb was attempting a winter ascent of Broad Peak with Hungarian Zoltan Szlanko as part of a two-man, unsponsored expedition.

Their team described the attempt as “the cleanest style without any high altitude porters and supplemental oxygen”.

Szlanko, an experienced climbing instructor and mountaineer rescuer, deemed conditions too dangerous and insisted both should return, Pinter said, but Goldfarb pressed ahead.

Karrar Haidri, a spokesman for the Alpine Club of Pakistan, said the Pakistan Army found Goldfarb’s body on Monday.

Northern Pakistan is home to some of the tallest mountains in the world, including K2, the world’s second-highest peak [File: Amelie Herenstein/AFP]

Broad Peak is one of the so-called “8,000s”, the 14 mountains higher than 8,000 metres (26,000 feet).

It was first climbed in the summer of 1957 by an Austrian team, while a Polish quartet summited in winter in 2013 but two went missing on the descent and were declared dead days later.

Goldfarb had been missing since Saturday, the same day the Nepali team summited K2, the world’s second-highest mountain and the last peak above 8,000 metres to be conquered in winter.

Despite being famed for their climbing expertise, there has never before been a Nepali climber on the first winter ascent of a peak higher than 8,000 metres.

K2 is known as the “Savage Mountain” because of its punishing conditions: winds can blow at more than 200km/hour (125mph), and temperatures can drop to minus 60 degrees Celsius (minus 76 Fahrenheit).

Nestled between the western end of the Himalayas, the Hindu Kush mountains and the Karakoram range, Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan region houses 18 of the world’s 50 highest peaks.

It is also home to three of the world’s seven longest glaciers outside the polar regions.

Source: News Agencies