This is a difficult statement to write. As many people already know, Muhammed Hassan passed away on K2, he was only 27 years old, and he is leaving behind his wife, 3 young boys and his mum. The reason why I have not yet commented on this earlier is for the respect of his family. I wanted to ask if it was ok to write about this as what I am sharing today is not just my story, but also the story of Gabriel, my cameraman on K2, who was also working for hours to try to save Muhammad.
I have unfortunately not received an answer from Muhammed’s family but because of all of the misinformation and hatred that is now being spread, I feel that I have to make this statement about what happened up on K2 on the 27th of July 2023.
I also feel angry at how many people have been blaming others for this tragic accident. This was no one’s fault, you cannot comment when you do not understand the situation, and sending death threats is never okay. Lama, myself and especially Gabriel, did everything we could for him at the time. This happened at the most dangerous part of the deadliest mountain in the world, and you should remember that at 8000+ meters, your survival instincts impact the decisions you make.
I am also extremely disappointed at all of those who are sharing photos and videos of Hassan’s dead body without consent, especially considering how fresh this whole situation is in everyone’s mind. It is extremely insensitive, and shows no respect for those close to Hassan, and for Hassan himself. He was a person who was important to so many people and he should not just be remembered as a person who passed on K2.
This is our recollection of the situation. Gabriel, Nima, Lama and me started our summit push at around 8pm on the 26th of July. We had good pace from the start and we could see the fixing team in front of us before we reached the bottleneck. The bottleneck is a dangerous place to be, there is snow and ice hanging over you, and you are walking on an extremely narrow path, on snow that can collapse below you at any time. We all need to walk extremely close to the mountain and go through this passage as fast as we can. Every minute you stay there increases the risk of accidents, not only for yourself, but for everyone above and below you.
When we reached this place, the fixing team had left the bottleneck and we could not see them anymore as they were around the “corner” of the serac (iceblock). We saw 6 people in front of us. Mohammed Hassan was in another team and was number 2, Lama number 7, me number 8 and Gabriel number 9 in line. Behind us were a lot of other sherpas and climbers trying to summit K2 that day.
Then at around 2:15 the accident happened. I did not see exactly what took place, but suddenly Hassan had fallen and was hanging on the rope between 2 ice anchors. He was attached to the same rope as all of us, it was pitch black and we could hear him to the left side of us, away from the path. We could also see that he was hanging about 5m down but we did not know if he slipped and fell, or if a bit of snow collapsed below him.
At first, nobody moved, probably out of shock and fear, then we realised that he was hanging upside down and was not able to climb up by himself. He must have fallen almost 5 meters and his harness was all the way down around his knees. In addition, he was not wearing a down suit, and his stomach was exposed to snow, wind and low temperature, making it extremely dangerous. With Lama and Gabriel, we first tried to get the attention of number 1, Hassan’s buddy who was before him. However, it seemed he couldn’t get to him either.
So the three of us set out to help him, along with number 3 in line who tried to also pull him up, clipping around the 4 people in front of us. Lama put down an additional ice anchor, I attached myself to this one and to the fixed rope as Lama climbed over to Muhammad, who was still hanging upside down. He tried helping him there alone, but it was impossible for one man to turn him around. Then, we made another plan, Lama climbed above and Gabriel went from below as I stayed next to the ice anchor since Lama was now only clipped to a rope to me. This way, we managed to turn Hassan around. He did not have any oxygen mask, neither did he have a down suit. His legs were twisted in an awkward position, most likely because of the way he fell. Gabriel gave Mohammad his oxygen and tried calming him while positioning him head up. Mohammad’s friend, who was number one in line, came down to Lama to help us. We had also added a new rope to Gabriel so that we could fasten it to Hassan.
As we were trying to move Hassan up closer to the path, an avalanche went off around the corner where the fixing team was. We got message that they had problems. At this stage, we decided to split up. Gabriel stayed with Hassan and his friend in the bottleneck. Worried for the safety of the fixing team, Lama and myself went forward to see how we could help them. Lama, Gabriel, the friend and me spent 1,5 hours in the bottleneck trying to pull him up before the avalanche and distress call from the fixing team.
When we got in contact with the fixing team we realised they were okay. Lama continued to the front and I stayed behind and asked the Sherpas if they were turning around. They said yes, and as we understood it that meant there was more help going to Hassan. We decided to continue forward as too many people in the bottleneck would make it more dangerous for a rescue. Considering the amount of people that stayed behind and that had turned around, I believed Hassan would be getting all the help he could, and that he would be able to get down. We did not fully understand the gravity of everything that happened until later.
Back in the bottle neck, Gabriel had managed to make a pulling system with 3 anchors and a rope, and Hassan’s friend was helping Gabriel to pull Hassan up, little by little. As they did, people were crossing them, trying to get away from the dangerous bottleneck that lies at 8200m. Everyone was exhausted, especially Gabriel who had been pulling and helping Hassan for so long. Luckily Halung Dorchi Sherpa from 8K came to help with the last meters, to pull Muhammad up to a little snow shelf in the bottleneck. Gabriel gave, again, his oxygen to Muhammad. He also gave him hot water and tried to warm his body as best as he could. We don’t know why, but Muhammad was not wearing gloves, so Gabriel also tried to warm his hands.
For an hour more, Gabriel stayed and tried to help. All he could do was to stay with him and talk to him. At some point, Gabriel had almost no oxygen left and realised that if he himself wanted to come home that day, he needed to fetch more oxygen. He had to go up in order to get one as he knew his Sherpa had an extra bottle, but was much higher up. In total, I think Gabriel spent almost 2,5h with Hassan in the bottleneck while people were passing by. I don’t think people understood the gravity of what was happening with Hassan as they were climbing, and that is why we see they are stepping over him to reach safety on the other side.
Gabriel stayed with them as long as he could before he had to leave to get more oxygen for his own safety. This was very very traumatic, for everyone involved and I can only imagine the physical and mental strength it took for Gabriel to do something so heroic and kind.
MingTemba, Makhpa, Lama, Nima and myself were still climbing up and we didn’t know what had happened behind us, but we saw people catching up. We heard that Hassan was getting all the help he could. Very soon after we reached the summit, Gabriel joined us. I asked him if they got Hassan up and he had said yes. I asked if he was alive, and Gabriel said that he was, but that he was in a very difficult situation. We understood that he might not make it down. It was heart-breaking. It was only when we came back down that we saw that Hassan had passed and we were ourselves, in no shape to carry his body down. You need 6 people to carry a person down, especially in dangerous areas. However, the bottleneck is so narrow that you can only fit one person in front and one behind the person being helped. In this case, it was impossible to safely carry Hassan down.
Back in Base Camp, we heard that people thought no one had helped him but we had. We had done our best, especially Gabriel. It is truly tragic what happened, and I feel very strongly for the family. If anything, I hope we can learn something from this tragedy. Everyone that goes up a summit needs proper training, proper equipment and proper guidance. From what I understood, Hassan was not properly equipped to take on an 8000m summit. What happened is in no way his fault, but it shows the importance of taking all of the possible precautions so that we can help ourselves and others.
And please, please, please. Be kind. Not just to those who went up to K2 that day and who have all lived through something very difficult. But most importantly, to Hassan’s memory and those close to him. Be respectful.
If you want to help Hassan’s family, I have seen that the following GoFundMe was set up for his family by Wilhelm Steindl, so if you want to help you can do so here: https://gofund.me/9a431977. I send all of my thoughts and prayers over to the family.
Thank you for reading this story ❤️