A season in the mountainsdossierThe Norwegian, who this summer became the fastest to have climbed the 14 peaks over 8,000m, has seen her world record marred by controversy. Accused of having left the guide of another team to die during her ascent of K2, she denied on her social networks.
Just crowned with an incredible record, Kristin Harila finds herself in turmoil. The new holder – with her guide Tenjin Sherpa – of the world speed record for the ascent of the 14 peaks over 8,000 meters, defended herself following criticism accusing her of having abandoned a dying sherpa in order to to complete his ascent of K2, in Pakistan. With her Nepali guide Tenjin Sherpa, the Norwegian swallowed the 14 peaks in three months and one day (92 days), snatching on July 27 the world record previously held by the Nepalo-British Nirmal Purja.
This feat is nevertheless tarnished by controversy. Drone footage shared by other climbers shows her and her team hovering over the visibly injured body of Mohammad Hassan, a Sherpa from another team, who died shortly after as she continued her ascent of the summit, the second highest in the world, to break the record. They were at that time on the Bottleneck of K2, a narrow and highly dangerous corridor overlooked by seracs of an ice field, only 400 m from the summit.
“No one will remember your sporting success, only your inhumanity,” wrote one user on Instagram. “Sherpa blood is on your hands,” another added. Kristin Harila also came under fire for celebrating her ascent after returning to base camp on the mountainside.
Late Thursday, August 10, the 37-year-old athlete said on Instagram “having done everything for him (Mohammad Hassan)”, denouncing the “death threats” she has received since the accident. She assured that she had, in the company of her cameraman Gabriel, as well as two other people including “Hassan’s friend”, spent “an hour and a half” trying to get him back up after his fall. It is not indicated where the Sherpa team was, but many climbers were “behind them”, said the Norwegian.
The mountaineer then continued on his way, after an avalanche alert transmitted by his team. Gabriel stayed with Hassan, she said, sharing her oxygen and hot water with him. After another hour, the cameraman made the decision to leave, as he needed “more oxygen for his own safety.” When they came down, they found that Mohammad Hassan, 27, was dead.
Her team, made up of four people, “wasn’t able to get her body down” safely, because it would have taken at least six people to do so, defended the Norwegian who noted that the sherpa did not was not properly equipped. His death is “truly tragic […] and I have a lot of pain for the family”, she said again, but “we did our best, in particular Gabriel”.
Many users have come to the defense of Kristin Harila, noting the dangers incurred during such an ascent. Others wondered why the Sherpa had not been properly equipped, with one Internet user denouncing the unequal treatment between Western mountaineers and Sherpas: “The life of the locals is cheap.”