Morbid Fact Du Jour for February 11, 2018

Today’s Crashing Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Canadians Jim Haberl (born in 1958) and Dan Culver attempted K2 via the Abruzzi Ridge as part of a 1993 expedition led by American Stacy Allison. Haberl, Culver and American climber Phil Powers set out for the summit from Camp 4 at 8050 meters (about 26,000 feet). Conditions were perfect.  Here is an excerpt from the descent from the top as told by Jim:

It was 6:15 p.m. by the time I traversed the Bottleneck, only 300 meters above Camp 4. Dan was several minutes behind and I decided this was convenient as we could downclimb the Bottleneck separately. I continued facing out and very carefully began the descent of the gully. Occasionally, as the soft snow gave way and my crampons scraped on the rocks below, I instinctively fought to keep my balance. Fatigue and terrain combined and I had a few awkward stumbles in the Bottleneck, but slowly the worst of it was behind me.

Camp 4 was just below and, as in the morning, my crampons dug confidently into the hard surface. I began the traverse towards Camp 4 and glanced up to see that Dan was entering the Bottleneck. Summit day was almost over. Finally, I wanted to relax and enjoy our success.

The K2 Bottleneck

Seconds later my brain was brutally invaded by a loud, crashing noise, a noise which in an instant shattered the silence and the harmony of the day. I spun around to see Dan cartwheeling violently through the snow, rolling by me at high speed. I stared in horror. All I could see was Dan tumbling faster and faster, his blonde hair in the tangle of the fall. As he hit the hard snow below me his limp body began gaining momentum. Only a miracle would stop him. 

There was no miracle.

I watched Dan hit some small rocks 100 meters below then continue to fall down a broad chute gaining speed with every passing second. He disappeared from my sight. I wanted not to believe.

My throat seized up in a swell of emotion. Weakly I croaked for help. Camp 4 was only 200 meters away. I yelled for help again, hoping that someone would hear. Then I cried out for Dan and listened. Nothing. I followed the line of his fall and carefully picked my way down through the rocks. The marks in the hard snow became farther and farther apart, spans of more than thirty meters, as his body had bounded down the face. 


I found his hat.

My legs were tired and the steepening terrain of the South Face was the last place I wanted to be. I stopped on a ledge an started down the huge expanse of the mountain at my feet. There was no sign of Dan. Nothing. I yelled his name for what seemed the hundredth time. There was no response. I sat down on the ledge in disbelief. 

Dan was dead.

The salty taste of the tears rolling off my cheeks into my cracked lips brought me slowly back to the world of reality. I knew in my head that Dan was gone, yet my heart was yearning to refuse that logic. I was alone, sitting on a ledge just below 8000 meters and looking down the immense South Face of K2, wondering where Dan’s body would come to rest. I took no solace then, in the thin cold air, knowing that Dan’s spirit would remain with many of us forever. Thoughts like that were from another time. For me it was time to brave the descent of K2 without him.

Culled from: High: Stories of Survival from Everest and K2

Incidentally, Jim would suffer a similar fate six years later:

A well-known Canadian mountain climber and author has died in a climbing accident. Jim Haberl fell to his death when an avalanche swept him over a cliff .

Haberl, 41, of Whistler, British Columbia was climbing in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park with two friends on Thursday morning (April 29, 1999) when a huge slab of snow swept him over the side. He fell 400 metres and died of massive head injuries.


Fetal Skeletons Du Jour!

Skeleton: No 3 1985 Gwek Akin and Allan Ludwig

Cephalopthoracopagus monosymmetros (conjoined twins fused at head and thorax) delivered 1852; talipes calcaneovarus (fetal skeleton with clubfeet); and anencephalic skeleton wiht complete spina bifida (rudimentary brain development with congenital cleft of the vertebral column).

Culled from: Mütter Museum of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia

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