By the age of thirty-six, American Scott Fisher had successfully climbed the big
mountains of Asia and Alaska. However, he had promised himself to conquer the
second-highest mountain in the world -- might K2 of the Karakoram Range in
Pakistan -- which over the years had cost 33 climbers their lives, 13 in 1986
alone. The unusual name of the mountain was coined by the British.
decided to attempt the climb when he met another guide from Seattle, Ed Viesturs,
in Kathmandu, Nepal, in May 1991. Viesturs had then just returned from a
successful climb of Mount Everest. Fischer had almost reached the peak of
Everest twice, but had to turn back due to bad weather or the need to rescue
others. The bitterness of those defeats fuelled his desire to climb K2 despite
the fact that climbers considered it the hardest peak to climb.
It is also equally difficult to descend.
Arriving in Pakistan on 8 June, 1992, they began their expedition with other
climbers from different parts of the world. While climbing, they noticed huge
glacier ice blocks looming in dangerous positions. Their routes had to be
changed accordingly because of them. As Fischer was preparing to make a long,
awkward step, an ice block shifted under his foot and threw him off-balance.
He plunged into a crevasse.
"Falling !" he screamed.
He became wedged between the walls of the deep crack. He felt a stab of
excruciating pain in his right shoulders. His arm had been torn from its socket.
"Scott ! Scott ! Are you alright ?" Viesturs called out.
"Ed, it's my shoulder. I need help !" Fischer responded.
Sliding to the edge of the crevasse, Viesturs grabbed Fischer's jacket and
harness, and pulled him to safety. By then, Fischer's shoulder was horribly
swollen. The two tried to return to base camp. When the pain became unbearable
for Fischer, Viesturs went by himself to get some help from other climbers.
Among the six members who appeared after two hours was a doctor, Burt Stefanski.
After injecting him with a painkiller, Stefanski grabbed his right wrist and
pulled. With a loud crack, the arm popped back into its socket. he was then
advised not to continue with the climb as it would be hazardous to his health.
For two weeks, he stayed patiently in the camp to rest while others continued
with the expedition. Soon, he received the news that the expedition leader and a
Russian had managed to reach the peak of K2. That spurred him to pursue his goal
in spite of a wounded arm.
"Whatever it takes, I've to make it !" he told Viesturs as they resumed their
climb. During the journey, they met with countless other problems. At one time,
they were almost hit by an avalanche while moving to rescue others. In another
instance, the mountain was struck by a fierce storm. Fighting against all odds,
they struggled upwards and soon emerged into the magical world of intense blue
sky. They realized they could go no further -- they had reached K2's summit. By
then, another climber had caught up with them. The remarkable beauty of the
mountain stunned the trio. Viesturs was so choked with emotion that the could
not talk. They whooped, raised their ice tools in triumph and hugged one
another. The thirty-five minutes they spent on top of K2 would be a time the
three would never forget.
Getting over their celebration, they realized their next task -- the trip
back tot he camp. They had to return to the camp before dark. Fischer was aware
that they could not remain in the snow-ravaged peak for long without shelter.
Just as they were all set to return, they were faced with another problem.
The footprints they made on the snow were hardly
visible. With instinct and courage, they finally managed to struggle
their way back to base camp.
After fifty-three days on K2, Scott Fischer had reached his goal. He knew
he had earned it !