Media Reports

Press Release: 7 August 2008

Singapore mountaineers Dr. Robert Goh and Mr. Edwin Siew have abandoned their bid to summit K2, at 8,611m the world’s second highest peak. They expected to start trekking from base camp on 15 Aug and arrive in Islamabad around 25 Aug.

Their decision came a week after a large chunk of ice fell off the face of the mountain just below the summit, washing away the fixed ropes and leaving 11 climbers dead. Three climbers who survived were badly frost bitten and were evacuated by helicopter from base camp over the last three days.

The Singaporeans’ decision was taken with great reluctance and heavy hearts. Said Dr. Goh: “The mountain is so near, yet so far. The tents and equipment are all up there ready for us. But with 11 climbers killed when the weather was perfect, it was just too shocking for words.”

Initial hopes of a summit bid was dashed when they realized the odds were stacked against them:

The incident has left only two other teams at base camp — two Rumanian climbers with two Sherpas and two Pakistani high-altitude porters; and three Americans who came without Sherpas or porters.

The Singaporeans had their two Sherpa friends. All together, the manpower at base camp is very thin. Not only do the ropes above Camp 4 have to be re-fixed, if there should be an accident, there would not be enough people to mount a rescue.

Also, the weather for the next few days are expected to be bad. Going by the weather forecast for K2, specially done for the team by the National Environment Agency’s Meteorological Services Division, the winds will continue to be high for the next ten days and are likely to continue to be so.

Mr. Siew, 38, who is head of Training Development, is deeply disappointed, but said: “We know for certain that we can try to summit, but we don’t know for certain that we can come back alive.”

Said Dr. Goh: “Every survivor warned us about the serac which is very unstable this season. The chance of another avalanche is high, even if there is another good-weather window.”

The 42-year-old research scientist added: “I saw the Italian survivor stumbled into base camp. He grabbed my body and said: ‘Beware of the serac; it is very dangerous.’”

Since Saturday’s incident, the Singapore climbers have been helping in the evacuation of three injured climbers. With the last survivor evacuated , they discussed their options with the two other remaining teams as well as among themselves before making their decision to leave.

Reacting to the reports that some survivors had criticized climbers for being irresponsible and incompetent, Dr. Goh said, “We should not be angry at anyone. Each climber makes his or her own decision on the mountain whether or not to go up. You take the conditions as you find them and should not blame anyone. If there are problems on the way, you can always turn back.”

He added: “The challenge of the sport is not to summit at all odds. The challenge is to read the conditions, assess the risks, and be prepared physically and mentally to go up when conditions are right. But you must also know when to turn back.”

So will they be back?

Sad Dr Goh: “We have not discussed it yet. Our thoughts now are on going home to be with family.

“Anyway, the mountain will always be here.”