COLUMN: Perry Bergson — Jul 7, 2014

Perry
Perry Bergson
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Perry Bergson

I have an enduring fascination with Mount Everest.

While I’ll never climb it, and really wouldn’t want to, it was something that I once knew very little about. After devouring Jon Krakauer’s wonderful Into Thin Air that detailed a tragic day on the mountain that killed eight people, I’m haunted by the thought of New Zealand guide Rob Hall talking to his wife, home and seven months pregnant, to tell her that he wasn’t going to make it down the mountain.

“Sleep well my sweetheart. Please don't worry too much,” he told her, dying soon after.

While I’ll never climb a mountain, I understand the impulse. The desire to see what you’re made of as a person is sensible to this slow two-time Ironman.

Naturally when I saw the Fifth Estate documentary Into The Death Zone recently -- for probably the third or fourth time -- I spent part of a rainy afternoon researching fatalities on the world’s highest peaks.

In the Fifth Estate documentary, Shirya Shah-Klorfine, a Nepali-born Canadian, makes it to the peak but fails to make it down alive. There’s an awful image of her body lying near the trail, a big red maple leaf on her jacket.

There are 14 mountains in the world that are higher than 8,000 metres, which is 26,242 feet. Each has terrible lists of climbers who died on them.

Here is a list of the big 14 in order of height with some interesting facts culled from Wikipedia and further researched on other sites. I spent many hours compiling this column but I can’t 100 per cent guarantee that the list of climbers who died is complete.

 

1. Everest

-- 8,848 m or 29,029 ft

-- The best known peak in the world sits on the border between China and Nepal. It was famously climbed for the first time by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1952.

-- Canadians who died climbing it: Shriya Shah-Klorfine, May 19, 2012; Frank Ziebarth, May 21, 2009; Sean Egan, April 28, 2005; Roger Marshall, May 21, 1987; Blair Griffiths, Sept. 2, 1982.

-- The first Canadian to climb Everest was Laurie Skreslet on Oct. 5, 1982. The first woman was Sharon Wood in 1986.

 

2. K2

-- 8,611 m or 28,251 ft

-- The mountain with the second-highest fatality rate sits on the China-Pakistan border. It has never been successfully climbed in the winter; it’s widely considered more dangerous than Everest. It was first summited in 1956.

-- Canadians who died climbing it: Jeff Lakes, Aug. 15, 1995; Dan Culver, July 7, 1993.

 

3. Kangchenjunga

-- 8,586 m or 28,169 ft

-- Kangchenjunga is located between Nepal and India. Because of its religious significance, climbers don’t set foot on the actual summit. It was first “summited” in 1955.

-- Canadians who died climbing it: Christopher Grasswick; May 24, 2002.

 

4. Lhotse

-- 8,516 m or 27,940 ft

-- Located on the border between Tibet (now Chinese territory) and Nepal, it’s connected to Everest. It has been climbed fewer than 400 times, according to some sources. It was first summited in 1956.

-- Canadians who died climbing it: None.

 

5. Makalu

-- 8,463 m or 27,766 ft

-- Located just 19 km from Everest on the border between Nepal and China, the arduous trek to base camp meant few people climbed it. It was first summited in 1955.

-- Canadians who died climbing it: None.

 

6. Cho Oyu

-- 8,201 m or 26,906 ft

-- Located on the Tibet-Nepal border, it sits 20 km west of Everest. Although it’s considered by some to be the easiest in this group to climb, more than 40 people have died on it. It was first summited in 1954.

-- Canadians who died climbing it: Guy Leveille, Oct. 4, 2008.

 

7. Dhaulagiri

-- 8,167 m or 26,795 ft

-- Located in Nepal, it was first climbed on May 13, 1960. It was once thought to be the highest mountain in the world. It was first summited in 1960.

-- Canadians who died climbing it: None.

 

8. Manaslu

-- 8,156 m or 26,759 ft

-- Located in Nepal, an avalanche killed 15 climbers in 1972. It’s the fourth most dangerous to climb. It was first summited in 1956.

-- Canadians who died climbing it: Dominique Ouimet, Sept. 23, 2012.

 

9. Nanga Parbat

-- 8,126 m or 26,660 ft

-- Located in Pakistan, it has never been climbed in winter. It’s notorious as the location where the Taliban killed 11 climbers on June 22, 2013. It was first summited in 1953.

-- Canadians who died climbing it: None.

 

10. Annapurna I

-- 8,091 m or 26,545 ft

-- Located in Nepal, it has the highest percentage of fatalities to successful ascents. It’s about 30 km from Dhaulagiri. It was first summited in 1950.

-- Canadians who died climbing it: None.

 

11. Gasherbrum I (K5)

-- 8,080 m or 26,509 ft

-- Located on the border of Pakistan and China, its nickname is “Hidden Peak” for its remoteness. It’s also called K5 because it’s situated in the Karakoram mountain range near K2. It was first summited in 1958.

-- Canadians who died climbing it: None.

 

12. Broad Peak (K3)

-- 8,051 m or 26,414 ft

-- Located on the border of Pakistan and China, it sits just eight km from K2. It’s considered one of the safer climbs on this list. It was first summited in 1957.

-- Canadians who died climbing it: Hans Frick, May 16, 1985.

 

13. Gasherbrum II (K4)

-- 8,034 m or 26,358 ft

-- Located on the border of Pakistan and China, it’s another of the easier peaks. It’s very remote. It was first summited in 1956.

-- Canadians who died climbing it: None.

 

14. Shishapangma

-- 8,013 m or 26,289 ft

-- Located in Tibet (China), it was the last of this group to be summited, in 1964, because visas were restricted. You can actually drive a vehicle to base camp but a sharp ridge at the top means few have summited.

-- Canadians who died climbing it: None.

 

Just to provide some context, here are some mountains closer to home.

 

Mount Rainier

-- 4,392 m or 14,411 ft

-- Located in Washington state 90 kilometres south of Seattle, four climbers and two guides died on May 28, 2014 in a suspected avalanche.

 

Mount McKinley

-- 20,237 ft or 6,168 m

-- Located in Alaska, North America’s highest point is well climbed but has also claimed more than 100 lives. The original name was Denali, which means “high one” in the Athabascan First Nation language.

 

Mount Logan

-- 5,959 m or 19,551 ft

-- Canada’s highest peak, located in the Yukon, is still growing because of shifting plates. With the winter temperature around -45 C, it has a massive snow and ice pack.

 

Lookout Point

-- 1,392 m or 4,567 ft

-- Saskatchewan’s highest point, located in the Cypress Hills near the Alberta border, puts this province ahead of Manitoba, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick for tallest piece of land.

 

Perry Bergson is the Daily Herald’s managing editor. You can reach him at 765-1302 or by email at perry.bergson@paherald.sk.ca

 

Organizations: Taliban, Daily Herald

Geographic location: Nepal, China, Mount Everest New Zealand Pakistan Tibet India Cho Oyu Karakoram mountain Mount Rainier Washington Seattle Mount McKinley Alaska North America Mount Logan Canada Yukon Saskatchewan Alberta Manitoba Ontario Prince Edward Island Nova Scotia New Brunswick

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