Last week on this website, one blogger commented on this month’s K2 tragedy, and those factors which most likely brought about the disaster: “ignorance or laziness.” Indeed, when hearing of lives lost and knowing that it could have been prevented with greater caution, one feels a sense of both sadness and frustration. But in the case of this most recent K2 incident, were at least left with an explanation for what occurred and, as blogger Josh Martzen wrote, “we can reflect on… what lessons can possibly be gleaned from this tragedy.” In the last three days, however, we have been afforded only the opportunity to reflect on two tragedies which transpired not through negligence, but pure fate. The news reports of the Mont Blanc avalanche, in the midst of conveying the great number of casualties and the rescue efforts that are helpless to recover the missing climbers, have all noted that weather conditions that day were good, giving no clue to the avalanche that would ensue. No measure could have been taken by the climbers on the 24th of August to calculate the likelihood of a serac breaking and claiming their life in a slide. In the same manner, Pavle Kozjek’s fall on Muztagh Tower was the result of chance; a cornice on which he was standing breaking way beneath him.
It is a great tragedy, but not always a shock, to hear of people who have been lost to the climbing community, be they famous mountaineers or friends. In this way, we are always aware of the risk we accept on even the most casual outing, and how we might prevent the accidents that result from negligent mistakes and calculated adversities such as weather. Rigorous attention to detail and preventative measures can be poured over and reconsidered in every conceivable manner, but even these efforts can be rendered meaningless, as has been shown in the most recent two days. Though Martzen’s blog calls to mind the obligation we as climbers have to reflect upon incidents of great loss and how they may be prevented, mountaineering embodies a complete and unwavering shadow of danger that is unyielding to any climber. The loss of Pavle Kozjek and the eight Mont Blanc climbers can be faulted only by the most fundamental nature of mountaineering.