Skier and Climber Fredrik Ericsson on K2

Fredrik Ericsson skiing on K2 in Pakistan.
Fredrik Ericsson doing what he loved--skiing down K2. Rest in peace.

Since I reported on the fall and death of skier and climber Fredrik Ericsson on K2 on August 6, 2010, more details have emerged about the tragedy. Ralf Dujmovits, husband of Austrian climber Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner who also climbed on K2, told a German news agency that it appears that Ericsson simply made a "careless mistake."

Fredrik Ericsson, Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, and American Trey Cook, Ericsson's climbing partner, left Camp Four on The Shoulder at 1:30 in the morning and began climbing toward the summit of 28,253-foot K2. As they climbed, weather conditions deteriorated with the wind and blowing snow. Six other climbers camped on The Shoulder, including guide Fabrizio Zangrilli, stayed at Camp Four in hopes that the weather would improve later.

At 7 a.m. the trio reached The Bottleneck, a steep couloir filled with ice. This section of the Abruzzi Spur route is extremely difficult with exposed ice climbing and danger from the hanging glacier above. At this point, Trey Cook decided to turn around, while Ericsson and Kaltenbrunner continued climbing. Kaltenbrunner radioed Ralf at Base Camp and said there was "poor visibility and extremely cold winds."

An hour later at 8:20 a.m., Kaltenbrunner again radioed Base Camp and in a shocked voice, reported that "Fredrik had taken a fall and flew past her." She said she was descending to look for him. She radioed a short time later and said all she found was a ski and that she could see nothing else due to poor visibility.

Gerlinde said that they were climbing unroped and that Fredrik had been in the lead. He apparently stopped to place a piton in the rock wall on the side of The Bottleneck, but slipped and was unable to self-arrest on the 65-degree ice slope. He fell over 3,000 feet down the mountain.

Gerlinde then descended in the bad conditions back to Camp Four. Fabrizio Zangrilli and Darek Zaluski met her as she descended.

Meanwhile, Russian climber Yura Ermachek descended from The Shoulder toward Camp Three until he could view the steep face next to the route. He spotted Fredrik's body and rucksack at about 23,600 feet but decided it was too risky to traverse the wall with both avalanche and rock fall danger to retrieve the body. Yura then talked with Fredrik's father in Sweden in the afternoon, who told him that he didn't want any of the climbers to endanger themselves and that Fredrik would be left in view of some of his favorite mountains.

Gerlinde, who was attempting to become the third woman and the first without supplemental oxygen to climb all fourteen of the 8,000-meter peaks, descended down to Camp Two through lots of falling rocks. She rested there until nighttime when cold temperatures would lessen rock fall danger and then continued down to Base Camp.

Ralf Dujmovits wrote about their friend and climbing partner Fredrik about the accident from Base Camp on Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner's website and said:

"Now, the only thing left for us to do is say goodbye to an amazing person. Fredrik Ericsson was not only one of the strongest climbers here at Base Camp, he was also one of the most popular climbers. Like nobody else, he was always in a good mood, showed a lot of optimism and had infected us with his love for the mountains and extreme skiing."

"Dear Fredrik, you were a fine person and we will all remember you very fondly. We are sending our condolences to your parents, your relatives, and your friends." So sad, but what a fine farewell to Fredrik Ericsson. He won't be forgotten.