ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - At least nine climbers were reported dead yesterday on K2, the world's second-highest mountain, after an avalanche struck them on a steep gully at a height of about 27,000 feet, just below the summit, mountaineering officials said.
Those who died included South Koreans and Nepalese, the Pakistani television station ARY reported. Serbian, Norwegian, Dutch and French climbers were also near the summit, according to ARY. Other climbers are believed missing.
The accident occurred when a chunk of an ice pillar snapped Friday, breaking fixed ropes on the area of the peak just below the summit, known as Bottleneck, according to expedition organizers. A team of South Korean climbers was on its way down from the summit, according to Ghulam Mohammad, the owner of Blue Sky Tours and Travels. He said five members of the Korean team died, as well as two Nepalese climbers. The nationalities of the others who died were not known.
Several expeditions were on the mountain over the weekend, and some reports said about a dozen climbers were stranded at Bottleneck, a region known as the Death Zone because climbers' bodies begin degenerating from a lack of oxygen at such a high altitude. Climbers stuck above Bottleneck would be unable to descend because of the broken ropes, according to expedition organizers.
K2, a peak in northern Pakistan near the border with China, is considered the most challenging mountain for climbers, even more so than Mount Everest.
The area at Bottleneck is known as the most dangerous spot on K2. The fatality rate for those who reach summit is three times higher than on Mount Everest, according to mountaineering records.
The Pakistani army said that plans for a rescue were being discussed, but that the possibilities for success were limited.