American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Pakistan, K2, Discovery of Dudley Wolfe's Body

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2003

K2, discovery of Dudley Wolfe’s body. Most of the expeditions gave up toward the end of July and headed for home, but Araceli Segarra’s team, which included the Mexican, Hector Ponce de Léon, and American cameraman, Jeff Rhoades, remained and were, to their surprise, rewarded in August with more than a week of fine weather. Unfortunately, this brought different problems. The temperatures soared, avalanches poured from the mountain, and subsequently the Abruzzi was subjected to severe stonefall, cutting some of the fixed ropes and making climbing extremely dangerous. The Spanish also had to admit defeat at 7,100m and return home empty handed. However, one day during the expedition Rhoades and fellow film maker Jennifer Jordan were exploring the Godwin-Austen Glacier when they discovered the remains of human bones, alongside which were the remnants of an old canvas tent, clearly marked with the tag, Made in India. Later, some tattered clothing, labeled Cambridge (Massachusetts) came to light pointing toward the owner being a member of the ill-fated 1939 American-German expedition led by Fritz Wiessner. Then finally a glove was uncovered with the name Wolfe clearly written on it. It is presumed that the bones formed the remains of Dudley Wolfe, a rich American climbing novice, who had been invited on the expedition largely to help finance its execution. Wolfe ended up spending a long time at around 7,000m, and after Wiessner’s summit attempt, remained at Camp 7 (some have argued he was abandoned by Wiessner). A week later three Sherpas set out to try to rescue Wolfe but none of the four was ever seen alive again. These were the first four fatalities on the mountain, whereas Rehman and Iqbal were the 51st and 52nd respectively, both in 2002.

Wolfe’s was not the only body to be discovered in the area during 2002. In 1997 eight members of a 17-strong Japanese team made the second ascent of nearby Skilbrum (7,360m) but three days later their base camp on the Savoia Glacier was hit by a gigantic avalanche falling from the flanks of Angel Peak. Expedition leader, Mitsuo Hiroshima (second ascent of K2 in 1977), and five companions were buried in their sleep and killed. Last year the bodies appeared from the glacier and two of the surviving members traveled from Japan to arrange a proper burial.

Lindsay Griffin, High Mountain INFO

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