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Top Mountaineer Defends Climbing Over Dying Sherpa On K2 While Trying To Break World Record

Norway’s Kristin Harila has spoken out after she and her crew faced backlash for climbing over the body of a dying Sherpa as they neared the top of Pakistan's K2 in an attempt to break a world record.

Kristin Harila
Sunil Pradhan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

An elite mountaineer on a quest to break a world record has spoken out amidst backlash she faced for climbing over the body of a dying Sherpa as she and her crew ascended Pakistan's K2.

Norway's Kristin Harila climbed the second-highest mountain on Earth on July 27, making her the world's fastest climber to scale all the world's peaks over 8,000 meters.

But now she is facing severe criticism as exposed footage reveals she and her team climbed over the body of porter Mohammed Hassan who fell off the treacherous 8200 meter pass known to many as "the bottleneck."

Climbing duo Wilhelm Steindl and Philip Flämig of Austria told Austria's Standard:

"It's all there in the drone footage."
“He is being treated by one person while everyone else is pushing towards the summit."
"The fact is that there was no organized rescue operation although there were Sherpas and mountain guides on site who could have taken action.”
“Such a thing would be unthinkable in the Alps. He was treated like a second-class human being."

Steindl added:

“If he had been a Westerner, he would have been rescued immediately. No one felt responsible for him."
“What happened there is a disgrace. A living human was left lying so that records could be set."

You can watch the footage below.

Harila, however, told The Telegraph her team did everything possible to save Hassan.

“It is simply not true to say that we did nothing to help him."
"We tried to lift him back up for an hour and a half and my cameraman stayed on for another hour to look after him. At no point was he left alone."
“Given the conditions, it is hard to see how he could have been saved. He fell on what is probably the most dangerous part of the mountain where the chances of carrying someone off were limited by the narrow trail and poor snow conditions."
“We did all we could for him."

Following her succesful summit, Harila took to Instagram to celebrate her achievement.

But commenters were quick to mention the fate of Hassan.

Many took exception to the tone of her emoji filled post in light of his death.

Harila eventually responded to the backlash with another post that detailed "all that happened on K2," writing:

"My heart and thoughts and prayers go out to the family and loved ones of Hassan and I feel very sad about this whole situation."

In her post, Harila gave her version of events in a carousel of images beginning with a photo of Hassan.

Harila shared her "recollection of the situation."

"The bottleneck is a dangerous place to be, there is snow and ice hanging over you, and you are walking on an extremely narrow path, on snow that can collapse below you at any time."
"Every minute you stay there increases the risk of accidents, not only for yourself, but for everyone above and below you."

She continued that "around 2:15 the accident happened."

"I did not see exactly what took place, but suddenly Hassan had fallen and was hanging on the rope between two ice anchors."

Harila added the team was unsure if he had slipped or if snow collapsed beneath him.

Harila claimed her team "set out to help him."

Hassan did not have an oxygen mask or a down suit and "his legs were twisted in an awkward position." Her teammate Gabriel then gave Hassan his oxygen and Hassan's friend also came to assist.

As they were attempting to pull Hassan, an avalanche "went off where the fixing team was," so the climbers decided to split up.

All in all, Harila said she, Gabriel and Hassan's friend stayed an hour and a half trying to pull him up before the avalanche.

They decided to move forward when the fixing team told them the other Sherpas were turning around, Harila believing they were going to help Hassan.

Harila and her team moved on thinking "Hassan would be getting all the help he could."

Gabriel and Hassan's friend were able to rig a makeshift pulling system to bring Hassan back up to the bottleneck.

Harila acknowledged:

"As they did, people were crossing them, trying to get away from the dangerous bottleneck that lies at 8200m."

Eventually, Gabriel had "almost no oxygen left" and needed to ascend to retrieve more from his Sherpa.

She wrote Gabriel spent about two and a half hours with Hassan. HHarilaalso claimed they only found out Hassan died after they descended.

Many on social media commented on the treatment and role of Sherpas as well as their lack of equipment compared to climbers like Harila.

Some felt the ascent is a knowingly treacherous one and everyone knew the risks involved.

But still, many claimed no record is greater than someone's life.

Harila completed her post telling her critics to be kind.

She included a link to a GoFundMe set up for Hassan's family then finished:

"I send all of my thoughts and prayers over to the family."