Asia, Pakistan, K2, Women's Ascents and Tragedy

Publication Year: 1987.

K2, Women’s Ascents and Tragedy. French climbers Michel Parmentier, Maurice and Liliane Barrard were joined by Pole Wanda Rutkiewicz. Both women had already climbed two 8000ers. Apparently the expedition was not a happy one from the beginning. Maurice Barrard lost the expedition’s funds, passports and airline tickets in Rawalpindi. They reached Base Camp at the end of May. According to other climbers on the mountain there was little harmony among them from the start. In early June they got to 7000 meters and descended to wait out nine days of storm. They set out again on June 18 but progress up the mountain was slow. Above the fixed ropes and Camp III, Liliane Barrard was having considerable difficulty. They moved unroped. She took three or four hours before she would move up over a sérac. On June 22 all four bivouacked in a two-man tent without sleeping bags at 8300 meters. On the 23rd they left for the summit in lovely weather. Wanda Rutkiewicz became the first woman to reach the summit of K2 when she went ahead of the others who rested for an hour a half-hour below the top before going on to the the summit. When they got back to their bivouac tent at 8300 meters, the Barrards insisted on spending a second cold night there. On the morning of June 24 Parmentier started ahead to melt water at 7900-meter Camp III. Rutkiewicz followed. She looked back to see the Barrards descending slowly, apparently exhausted. They were never seen again. The two spent the night at Camp III and Rutkiewicz descended to Camp II with Basques Mari Abrego and Josema Casimiro, who had reached the summit on the same day as they had. She waited for Parmentier for two days before she descended. Meanwhile Parmentier was waiting for the Barrards. He finally left when it began to storm. He had to be directed down the route by Benoît Chamoux, who told him on the radio just where to go. He was uninjured, but Wanda Rutkiewicz had frost-bitten hands and feet. Austrians found Liliane Barrard’s body at the foot of the south face on July 19.