A tragic end
31st July 2009
Michele Fait died trying to climb and ski K2 in June and we followed the expedition on PlanetSKI. Hereâ€™s his climbing partnerâ€™s account of the tragedy.
Michele was climbing with Fredrik Ericsson, the Swedish Extreme skier who is attempting to climb up and ski down the 3 highest mountain in the world, Everest, K2 and Kangchenjunga. Sadly he slipped and fell as we reported at the time.
What follows is Fredrik’s account of the accident.
“Some times life doesn’t turn out as planned. June 23, 2009 was one of those days.
We were on our second acclimatization climb on K2. This time Michele and I were feeling much better than on our first acclimatization climb. No headaches. After spending two nights in our Camp 2 at 6350 meters we were skiing down towards Base Camp.
We had passed a steep and rocky section, that I thought was the most difficult part of the ski descent, and we were out on a big open slope.
It was still steep and we were skiing very slowly, speedcontrolling jump turns. While doing a turn Michele lost his balance and fell backwards down the slope.
He was sliding and tumbling for several hundred meters. Since the slope gets less steep lower down I was sure he would stop at some point.
But he never did.
All I could do was to stand and watch Michele fall down the slope. In the end he fell over a rockband and disappeared into the next bowl. It was horrible to watch.
I thought that if he had survived the fall he must be severely injured so I had to get down to Michele as fast as possible.
I started skiing down the slope.
Since there was a rockband separating the two bowls I couldn’t ski straight down to him but had to ski down to the bottom of the mountain and then climb back up in his bowl. It took me half an hour to reach Michele.
While climbing up it was all quiet, I could see the crows circling above Micheles body.
Looking at the cliffs he had fallen over I knew the chance of finding Michele alive was slim. But I never gave up the hope. Unfortunately, when I reached Michele he didnt show any signs of life, he wasnt breathing and had no pulse.
He was dead.
Since the body was in a very dangerous spot, right below a big Serac and on an avalanche prone slope, I didn’t think much about what just had happened but started to lower Micheles body down the slope. By traversing a bit I could get to a fairly safe line below some cliffs.
I lowered Michele for about 200 meters before I came to a point where I had to traverse another big avalanche prone slope.
New expeditions had arrived in base camp the day before the accident.
Among them, Fabrizio Zangrilli, Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner and David Göttler had seen Micheles fall from BC and walked up the glacier to help. Since it was already afternoon on a warm and sunny day the snow was wet and heavy and the risk of avalanches was great.
To bring Micheles body over the dangerous slope would take us quite a long time. We would spend too much time in the danger zone and therefore we decided to leave him on the mountain over night.
On the walk back to base camp it suddenly hit me what just had happened.
Michele and I were skiing down the mountain of our dreams. We were smiling and having the time of our lives. In a second, tragedy hit and Michele was gone. I have never experienced anything like it. It was the worst day of my life.
The next day David, Fabrizio and his teammates helped me bring Micheles body down the last 100 meters to the glacier. We made a snowpit to store the body in while waiting for a helicopter.
In the morning, two days after the accident, the helicopter arrived. Micheles body was transported to Skardu and onwards back home to Italy.
After the accident I lost all motivation to continue climb on K2 and decided to give up and go home.
All my thoughts go to Michele’s family. I can’t imaging what it’s like to loose a son.
Michele was a good man. I will miss him.”
Michele Fait, 1965 – 2009
For more information about the trip see here.