Helicopters Look for Kim, While Accusations Fly In Base Camp

Vitaly Lazo and Kim HongBin, 10 minutes before Kim's fatal fall. Photo: Vitaly Lazo

Pakistani and Chinese military forces are searching for the body of Korean climber Kim HongBin. He fell while descending Broad Peak on Monday. Asked by ExplorersWeb whether the rescuers have any hope of finding him alive, Korean journalist Oh Young Hoon said, “Well, nobody has seen him dead.”

While the two countries collaborate in the air, accusations and bitterness fill Base Camp. Vitaly Lazo, who tried to rescue Kim, openly accuses climbers of passing by and ignoring the stranded climber for hours, not even sending an SOS to Base Camp.

The search operation

On Friday, bad weather grounded the search helicopters. But at 5:08 am Pakistan time today, Base Camp reported that the weather looked better than it had for days. Helicopters were just awaiting the green light to fly, Oh told ExplorersWeb.

“Three people from Base Camp will join the aerial search,” Oh said. “Vitaly Lazo, a Korean cameraman, and a leader of a commercial expedition.”

Meanwhile, the Chinese embassy in Seoul released a statement yesterday (July 23) reporting it had sent two helicopters to the northern base camp (at 5,000m) of Broad Peak.

“The Chinese rescue team reportedly includes nine individuals and a drone,” Oh said. “Because of bad weather, however, they seem to have not yet started.”

Unfortunately, both search missions are proceeding independently, with no communication between Base Camps on the two different sides of Broad Peak.

Two helicopters search Broad Peak. Photo: Oswald Rodrigo Pereira

Vitaly Lazo: I Accuse

Meanwhile, Vitaly Lazo posted a scathing message yesterday on social media. He wondered how it was possible that the first SOS call only went out after Kim had spent the entire night — over nine hours — stranded on a ledge at 8,000m.

“The desire to conquer the summit at any cost, at any time, led a large number of unskilled tourists (tourists, not climbers) to negotiate difficult terrain at night. The principle of turning around at the turn-around point does not apply to them. Thus, people create problems not only for themselves but for those around them,” Lazo said.

Anastasia (Nastya) Runova, who fell onto the same ledge, was able to climb back on the route with some help from Little Hussein, Mr. Kim’s porter. But Lazo was bewildered that at least 15 climbers ignored the disabled Kim. “Yes, it was dark, but the light of his headlamp was definitely visible,” Lazo pointed out.

“After saving the girl, Little Hussein wept, because he was so tired that he could not save Kim — he had no strength left. Hussein asked people to help, but all the ‘hero-climbers’ were exhausted and passed by.”

Lazo wrote: “I can accept that they had no strength to pull a disabled person out. BUT I don’t understand why it was impossible to report the accident by radio or via InReach!”

Then he accused Runova directly: “Anastasia, your InReach was working! Gentlemen, you used them! One could press the SOS button and leave the device with Kim, one could write that the disabled alpinist was on the Chinese side waiting for help.

Pathetic, not heroic

“Now on social networks, you are brave men and heroes, conquerors of an eight-thousander…And I will say that you are pathetic, insignificant people who do not care about human life.”

Lazo and his partner, Anton Pugovkin, eventually helped Runova when she was approaching Camp 3. In his report, Lazo insists that had they known, they would have gone straight to Kim instead of staying with Runova, who was walking down on her own.

The Russian team has published a complete report on Risk.ru with all the details of the incident and their attempt to help Kim: who was there, when, and what happened. Although parts are difficult to follow for non-Russian speakers, despite Google Translate, the account is perfectly coherent.

After the SOS, confusion

The alarm sounded early on the morning of July 19, after Runova was helped up from the ledge and back to Camp 3. According to Lazo, she didn’t tell Lazo and Pugovnik about Kim when they met. It was Kim’s porter who first shouted the alarm over the radio at about 4 am. Unfortunately, it made people think that the Korean climber had fallen into a crevasse below the saddle. The British climbers were sent to look in the wrong direction!

Kim himself was perfectly healthy and endured the night standing on the ledge, waving to people to get their attention. By the time Lazo found him, he was already worn out after a night on the ledge. He said that he was very tired and cold, but his mind was clear and he was still standing.

In a previous report, Oswald R. Pereira reported that he had been trying to help Runova when he saw someone in a black suit rappelling down to the ledge. He thought that it was someone who was trying to reach Runova.

According to Lazo’s account, Runova fell while clipped onto a rope. Kim told Lazo that he had rappelled down that rope, thinking that this was the route.

Kim’s final accident

Lazo set up a belay, but Kim insisted on jumaring himself up. To Lazo’s surprise, Kim started to do it successfully, despite his fingerless hands. However, at a certain point, Kim’s jumar jammed. Lazo had already climbed back up to the ridge but went partway back down again and shouted to Kim, who was about five metres below him. Kim apparently shook the jumar, probably trying to clear it of ice or switch it to another rope. He unclipped it, then fell down the face.

ExplorersWeb has asked the Koreans who was with Kim when the incident took place, and where was the rest of his team. “There are five other Korean climbers in the team, two of whom are camera staff,” Oh replied. “No Korean accompanied Kim on the summit climb.”

Kim’s Korean companions are currently in Base Camp. One of them will join the helicopter search. At least one high-altitude porter, Little Hussein, accompanied Kim on his summit attempt.

For the time being, searchers decline to consider Kim dead. “Of course, I guess those in Base Camp and those here in Korea may have different levels of hope,” Oh said. “It’s hard to say whether the hope is realistic or not. If no trace of Kim is found within a few days, we’ll need to discuss when and how to have his funeral.”

ExplorersWeb has also asked Anastasia Runova for her version of the events. We are awaiting her answer.

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About the Author

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides

Senior journalist, published author and communication consultant. Specialized on high-altitude mountaineering, with an interest for everything around the mountains: from economics to geopolitics. After five years exploring distant professional ranges, I returned to ExWeb BC in 2018. Feeling right at home since then!

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Paul
Paul
1 month ago

Before accusing climbers at the top, it is important to ask what was doing the Korean Team. You could in the article at risk.ru that at 23:00 18th July there was info that climbers have problems. Koren team confirmed then that Kim safely descended!!
As well I do not understand how a company (Blue Sky Treks) could sent a guide with client without providing them basic radio connection with Base Camp??

+2
Internet Warrior
Internet Warrior
1 month ago

The only way you can prevent these cancerous tourists is to shame them publicly via their social media. Every time one of these “accomplished and brave” individuals claim their fame on social media, the best thing we can do is to denounce such rubbish and make an example for others.

+14
Kudrat
Kudrat
1 month ago

The plague that affected Everest climbing for years finally reached the great peaks of Karakoram. Sad news, and I do agree that shaming these “brave” adventurers on their turf (social media) is the only way to tackle this problem.

+8
Don Paul
Don Paul
1 month ago

They look like clueless tourists.

+2
Rose
Rose
1 month ago
Reply to  Don Paul

Not just clueless but so unexperienced that they put people lifes in danger.Nastya Runova was involved in a similar scenario in 2019 on Lhotse.When she was going up the mountain and her fellow climber Ivan Tomov going down she said that she saw him looking very unwell but didn’t do anything about it,one call could have saved him.The story about her rescuing him the next day is also very unclear.When Ivan was in the other tent agonising and needling oxygen during the night Nastia had a full bottle in her tent and her excuse was that she didn’t know that… Read more »

L.P.
L.P.
1 month ago

Let’s then also ask about the winter K2 tragedy. The night before setting off for the last time, Muhammad Ali, Snorri and JP Mohr let other climbers in their tent. Who are these climbers? I have been waiting for you all along to come forward to thank Sadpara, Snorri and JP Mohr for having saved your lives on that night. Are you giving something back to the families of the lost climbers? Are you giving something back to the independent climbing community?

+9
MuddyBoots
MuddyBoots
1 month ago

Social media created these “heroic/exceptional climbers”, and they promote their exploits on it shamelessly. It would be only justice for the truth about their mountain tourism to come out on social media. Yes, time to expose this charade for what it is: parasitic mountain tourism by those unqualified to be there, and who by their presence endanger others.

+7
Josh Briggs
Josh Briggs
1 month ago

Another shit show. Sad. People think we care if they climb a big mountain. Or any mountain fort that matter. We don’t. Nobody does. Climbing is and should be for personal reasons, not to share on social media. Nobody cares what we do up there so stop thinking it’s important to anyone but yourself. Maybe then will inexperienced people stop this behavior.

+16
Anna
Anna
1 month ago

0
mona
mona
1 month ago

@Exweb it appears from the reports that nobody else had any extra rope to spare? For example, when Runova fell, it was said that everyone was on the same rope and practically stopped because of that. Later, when Lazo tried to help Kim out, it’s also not clear if he set up the belay with the rope already there or with his own rope. Just curious to understant this aspect better..

+1
Anonymous
Anonymous
1 month ago

The narrative presented here is incredibly confusing. Please write a more organized article next time if you want people to be able to follow it instead of just the clickbait title.

0
MuddyBoots
MuddyBoots
1 month ago
Reply to  Anonymous

Agree it is confusing, but not the fault of the author, who is halfway around the world and trying to analyze these different accounts, most of which are self-serving. The ’96 Everest tragedy was unique in that there was a skilled climber/journalist who was a witness to much of the story and who know most of the other players and could collect their accounts firsthand. And there is STILL debate about what happened there. Maybe there will eventually be a coherent and mostly verifiable account of this tragedy.

+4
Update
Update
1 month ago
Reply to  Anonymous

Please do not fault the messenger, Angela, as she is gifted writer, skilled researcher, and well connected to many mountaineers. Angela is one of the best word-smith’s in reporting anywhere of any kind. She goes above and beyond, most likely losing alot of sleep during peak climbing season, to give us the latest in reporting on the big mountains. She’s almost always first to report the “breaking news” for any and all mountaineering on the big mountains. Most likely, its AP (Associated Press) following her for breaking news, as all the big news syndicates are many hours to many days… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Update
Michael Parker
Michael Parker
1 month ago
Reply to  Update

A question please from a Himalayan trekker but not a climber. I understood that a permit is required for the climb. Can proof of experience be required before a permit is issued? I believe that the numbers of climbers allowed was going to be restricted. Has this been implemented yet ?

+3
Anonymous
Anonymous
1 month ago
Reply to  Update

If the author’s job is to write/they are a journalist, it is reasonable to fault them for failing to present a coherent narrative. If there are conflicting reports as there are here, presenting them both is fine. But just jumping all over the place makes it just as confusing for the readers and doesn’t really help clarify or communicate what actually happened.

+1
Don Paul
Don Paul
1 month ago
Reply to  Anonymous

Dear Anonymous – she’s the best journalist covering Himalayan climbing, hands down. Someone just died in a horrible accident and no one wants to be blamed. The same thing happened during the Winter K2 disaster – we got lots of conflicting reports and there was plenty of fingerpointing among the climbers. A good journalist will tell you all sides of the story and let you decide for yourself what happened.

+3
Rose
Rose
1 month ago

Part of Ivan Tomov diary in 2019 Lhotse about Nastya, the translation is not perfect: “Andrey came awake at 13:30, and Nastya came exhausted at 18.00.Andrey no longer wanted to move with Nastya, she was too weak and slow. For example, before camp 2 they moved for 13 hours for the fact that he was waiting for her all the time. Then he got to Camp 3 in 4 hours, and she got in 10 hours. At the same time, she arrived completely exhausted and inadequate, and if he had not committed himself to pulling up a tent, she herself… Read more »

mona
mona
1 month ago
Reply to  Rose

Thank you Rose for sharing this. Could you also share the link to the original?

0
Rose
Rose
1 month ago
Reply to  Rose

https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=10217659443105359&id=1457778342
Needs translation,his girlfriend posted it on Facebook after his death to reveal what he’s been through there.

0
Not a mountaineer
Not a mountaineer
1 month ago

Any updates here?

0
Himal GHALE
1 month ago

great Job you did Pakistani and Chinese military forces,

0
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