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Death on Savage Mountain

August 26, 2023
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Before you apply for a new job, check out our big story: a deep dive into the shocking story of a porter who died on the trek to the top of K2.


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But first: what really happened on K2.
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Savage Mountain

Alan Arnette


Footage from a K2 trek in July shocked the world — mountaineers walking past a 27-year-old Pakistani porter as he lay dying in their path.

Mohammad Hassan was tasked with carrying equipment for a rope-fixing team. But an accident at 27,000 feet left him dangling upside down. He ultimately lost his life on the mountain.

Insider’s Matthew Loh spoke with seven climbers and mountain guides who were on K2 that night, including two people who witnessed the immediate moments after Mohammad’s fall. Their interviews revealed a far grimmer story of neglect, fear, and desperation that led to his death.

K2 is dubbed the “Savage Mountain” because of its significantly more difficult and technical trek to the top compared to the world’s tallest mountain. Mount Everest has a 3% death rate for climbers, while K2 at one point had a 25% death rate.

The weather on K2 is also highly unpredictable, and July 27 appeared to be the only day this year when the winds were low enough (typically under 30 miles per hour) to summit it. So the pressure to succeed was on.

Mohammad was part of the rope-fixing team that left the last remaining camp before the peak. They were the first group to leave, but around two hours from the summit a fall left him hanging upside down with his legs twisted in the ropes around 5 meters beneath the trail.

Mountaineers noticed that his stomach was uncovered and that he lacked supplemental oxygen, a down suit, and even gloves. The rescue effort took more than 90 minutes — by then, he was no longer able to speak or move on his own.

Further down, some mountaineers who backtracked were taking drone footage of the trek. But they were horrified when they reviewed the footage. Dozens of climbers walked past Mohammad as he lay dying.

The footage went viral, first within the mountaineering community — many of whom were ashamed by what happened — and then among the public, which rapidly lost respect for the sport.

The Norwegian climber Kristin Harila was a major source of the public’s ire. During this trek, she broke the world record for becoming one of the fastest people to summit all 14 of the world’s 8,000-meter mountains. And she was accused of being one of the people to step over Mohammad.

Harila told Insider that she was not one of the climbers in the viral footage and recounted the steps she took to help. But she added that it was likely impossible to carry Mohammad down because of the dangerous and packed slopes.

The disturbing video shined a light on the many factors working against Pakistani porters.

Unlike Nepali sherpas, many of whom are used to life on the mountains, Pakistani porters often live at lower altitudes and come from lower social statuses. Within the mountaineering community, they’re known to be under-trained and unprepared.

July was Mohammad’s first time at an 8,000-meter peak. And looking into his past opened many questions about why he was even sent to the top of the mountain in the first place.


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The Insider Today team: Dan DeFrancesco, senior editor and anchor, in New York City. Diamond Naga Siu, senior reporter, in San Diego. Hallam Bullock, editor, in London. Lisa Ryan, executive editor, in New York City.
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