Tragedy and glory at K2: Catalan Sergi Mingote dies and is trampled for the first time in winter

The tragedy is again linked to K2, known as’ cursed mountain. The Catalan Sergi Mingote, co-leader of the Seven Summit expedition and one of the mountaineers who had set the goal of treading on K2 without oxygen, has died after suffering a fall. The 49-year-old mountaineer with eleven eight-thousand behind him, was descending after completing his third and last acclimatization rotation at Camp 3. For unknown reasons, he suffered a fall in the vicinity of that C-1, located at 6,000 altitude which ended at the advanced base camp (5,300 m). Immediately, his racetracker, a device worn by mountaineers to know their location in real time, indicated a straight and downward displacement of almost 700 meters.

Shortly after the accident, the K2 CB contacted Simone Moro in Manaslu, aware of the Italian’s ‘hand’ with the Nepalese and Pakistani authorities in everything related to helicopter rescues in his capacity as pilot. The request was that he expedite as far as possible all the procedures for the evacuation of Sergi Mingote by air. The first information indicated that the Catalan mountaineer was unconscious and with multiple fractures, but was still alive.

Simone has removed Rome with Santiago in those first minutes, has touched all his contacts, including the highest in the Pakistani Army. In Pakistan, the rescues are carried out by a company that depends on the Army and follows very strict security measures, such as two helicopters always flying when it is considered the Karakorum war zone. While one of the aircraft carries out the rescue, the other circles the area in anticipation of possible attacks from the ‘enemy’.

But while he was carrying out the formalities, from K2 they informed him of the worst news. Sergi Mingote he had not endured the serious injuries caused in the fall and had just died. Unfortunately, the urgent evacuation of a wounded person became the recovery of a corpse, although the news would not become official until hours later, out of respect for the family.

Reactions to the event have not been long in coming. The president of the Government, Pedro Sanchez, has lamented the death of the mountaineer. «Sad death of Sergi Mingote in the K2. He wanted to continue making history by being part of the first expedition to crown this mountain in the middle of winter and a tragic accident has ended his life, ”Sánchez said in a post on his Twitter account this Saturday. The President of the Executive Branch has sent a huge hug to the loved ones of this «great athlete» from Parets del Vallès, a town of which he was mayor by the PSC between 2011 and 2015.

For his part, the Minister of Health, Salvador Illa, a personal friend of the mountaineer, has been “dismayed” by the news of the accident that has killed Mingote. Illa stressed that Mingote was “a magnificent athlete, a former socialist mayor of Parets and a personal friend.” “A hug and all my love to Sergi Mingote’s family and friends,” he tweeted.

Summit is reached for the first time

The fatal event has coincided with a historic day when this summit was conquered for the first time in winter. In the early years of the conquest of the eight-thousand, climbing the highest mountains in the world became a matter of national pride. The countries even shared the eight thousand tacitly. The Everest for the English, the K2 for the Italians, the Nanga Parbat for the Germans, the Kangchenjunga for the North Americans … It should be remembered that at that time -fifties of the last century- Nepal still did not exist and the Sherpas were used for mere ‘burros de carga’ to carry equipment to base camp and high altitude camps thanks to its exceptional acclimatization. Even in the 1980s something similar happened with Polish mountaineering and the winter eight thousand, when the best Polish mountaineers of the time set out to scale the highest mountains in the world at the harshest time of year. They did it in seven. Although in their case they did not seek national pride, but quite the opposite, to escape from a political system that gripped them and deprived them of what they achieved in the mountains, freedom.

Seventy years later, history repeats itself. Although if those first conquerors of the useless raised their heads they would not believe what is happening in K2. It is the Sherpas, the heirs of those ‘pack donkeys’, who have made the winter conquest of the second highest -and most difficult- mountain in the world a matter of national pride, the only one that remained to be trampled in the most cold of the year.

And they have succeeded. A group of ten Sherpas belonging to three of the expeditions that this year have gathered at the foot of K2 they reached the summit at five in the afternoon, Pakistani time. To further influence their idea of ​​national achievement they have done something unheard of. As they approached the top, they have decided to wait ten meters from the top to, once everyone is there, walk the last few meters to join together and tread the summit at the same time while singing the Nepalese anthem.

The ten Sherpas who have achieved it, it should be remembered that with the help of oxygen, they are a true national team of Nepalese mountaineers in which they are the best together with the ineffable Nirmal Purja (he prefers to be referred to as Nims Dai), the ghurka which in 2019 managed to ascend to 14 eight thousand in just over six months. For the Seven Summit group is Sona Sherpa; by Mingma Gyalje, Mingma G himself, Dawa Tenzing and Kili Temba; and for that of Nims Dai, himself, Mingma David Sherpa, Dawa Temba, Pemchhiri, Gelje and Mingma Tenzi Sherpa. Checking your resume is overwhelming. Between all of them they add up to more than 150 eight thousand.

The use of oxygen at will in this achievement has been the debate this winter in the mountaineering world. Criticism has been generalized for its use at a time in which all sporting value is denied to the achievements of those who resort to it and the purest possible mountaineering is advocated. But there are also, and most are mountaineers, those who congratulate – and congratulate themselves – the Sherpas who have achieved it, because this summit takes the pressure that weighed on K2 as the only pending winter peak and opens the doors for those who want to do it from now on in a more ethical style. This is the case of the two mountaineers who are in Manaslu trying their first fully winter, Alex Txikon and Simone Moro.

The Italian had said it repeatedly and it was ratified when he received the news, after coming down from field 1, where he spent the night. “I’m glad they made it to the top and I sincerely congratulate them. In addition, seeing what they have done, I think it is very possible that in the next few days some of the mountaineers who are in the CB will be able to do it without oxygen, “he explains. The Poles opened the history of winter Himalayism. Then I reopened it and now that the Sherpas have also closed it, it’s very nice, “he adds. “In addition, this peak takes pressure off those who now want to do it in a cleaner style,” he concludes.

Alex Txikon is of the same opinion. I’m glad they made it. I congratulate you. It was not very clear to him after the problems they had in the high fields that the wind took them, but it is clear that they have had a determination to bomb tests. From now on, there will no longer be so much pressure on K2 or on those of us who want to try it without oxygen.

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