Weekend Warm-Up: Who Will Return

In the 10 years since commercial mountaineering in China has taken off, its evolution has been more about status than the need to connect with nature. In China, climbing mountains is considered a sport for the wealthy, and if you can afford such a challenge, then you’re likely well on your way in other areas, too.

But China’s slow discovery of climbing isn’t due to a shortage of climbs. Nor are there only status climbers in that country. There are some genuine, passionate, and dedicated ones too. When they find one another, a deep bond is created. This was true for Hao Xin, Hong Kong climber Ken, and Stanley, who moved from Hong Kong to Chamonix to pursue his love of climbing.


Together, they spent countless hours climbing and forging deep friendships. In the summer of 2019, they went to the Karakorum for the first time.

The Karakorum still has many unclimbed 6,000m peaks, partly due to the difficulty of reaching them. One particular remote peak stands out to them because of its beautiful spiky shape. Their boyish joy is infectious, but their attempt to be the first to summit it turns deadly.

Soon after the drive along the rough road to Askole, the climb begins. At their advanced base camp at 5,000m, Ken decides to stay behind while Hao Hin and Stanley set off toward the summit.

Soon after Ken loses sight of the pair. Two days after their expected return date, there is still no sign of them, so he calls in a Pakistani rescue helicopter, which spots their bodies in the snow, at the foot of an avalanche slope. Soon after the rescue helicopter spots the bodies, they are buried beneath snow from another avalanche.

Ken stayed behind at ABC and called in a rescue helicopter when friends Hao Hin and Stanley didn’t show up.


If there could be a silver lining to such a tragedy, it could be that Stanley and Hao Hin died in a place that so delighted them. “I just love climbing,” Stanley enthused during his climb to ABC.” I can’t really tell why.” He takes many selfies en route, grinning from ear to ear and delightedly pointing out each individual mountain that he recognizes from their long study of the area’s maps.

Returning the following August, when the avalanche risk is lower, their friends recover Hao Hin and Stanley’s bodies. “I don’t like it here at all,” one of their friends says, wiping away a tear.