Tribute to Gerard McDonnell, the first Irishman to reach the summit of K2, the second-highest mountain on Earth
Gerard McDonnell

In the history of K2, Ger McDonnell was the first Irishman to achieve victory and reach the summit. McDonnell, however, passed away on the mountain just a few hours after achieving his glorious feat in the year 2008. There is a great deal of mystery surrounding his passing as well as the specific events that took place on the perilous mountain.

At about seven o’clock in the evening on August 1, Ger had arrived at the top of K2. During the mission, there had been significant difficulties. A climber from Serbia had unclipped himself from the rope and dropped to his death. Six lines were set in the incorrect location. When they arrived at the peak, all of this had already taken place, but… There is video footage that I have seen from other climbers that was taken there. In their eyes, it appears to be the most incredible event possible.

It is possible that the temperature in the death zone would have been exceptionally low.
Taking a glance at the photograph of Ger, you will notice that the weather is lovely, the sun is shining, the sky is blue, and Ger is carrying the tricolour above his head. Indeed, he appears to be the happiest guy in the entire planet. On the other hand, they were unaware that it was becoming dark, that there had been a succession of avalanches and serac falls, which are similar to glaciers of ice descending, and that it was beginning to become dark.

All of the ropes that had been left out for them had been cut away, which meant that they did not have any obvious ropes to use to bring them back down. The climbers couldn’t locate the fixed ropes. Ger and Marco Confortola, an Italian climber, concluded that the best course of action would be to dig pits in the snow and remain there until the sun rose.

In the death zone, where they were located, the temperature would have been exceedingly low. It is quite likely that you will never be able to wake up if you doze off in the area designated as the death zone. At 4.40 in the morning, when the sun was just beginning to rise, they got up and began to walk around. They were singing songs to each other and attempting to keep each other awake. You simply have to remain awake.

They came across three Korean climbers who were entangled in their ropes as they descended to another portion of the mountain at the bottom of the mountain. They had been hanging upside down for quite some time since they were still linked to parts of the lines that had not been removed by the waterfalls. This meant that they had been there for quite some time. The first climber to be placed on the rope was in a very precarious position. Marco and Ger did all in their power to assist them in every way they could.

There was a slope of seventy feet on this section of the mountain, and people need to realize that it is not as simple as it may appear. You can’t just chop them down and let them free. They would have been able to fall to their deaths if they had just severed the rope. Ger decided to go back up to attempt to make some additional changes to the lines in order to try to assist the Koreans. Marco stated that after more than three hours of trying to help them, he felt that he could not do any more. Because of this, he departed.

To be of assistance to them, Marco and Ger did all in his power.

Marco stated that he attempted to contact Ger but did not receive a response. It is our belief that Ger then proceeded to ascend and perform a maneuver that is referred to as shifting the load. This maneuver requires you to ascend to the fixed point, then you must establish a second anchor point, and last, you must move part of the ropes over to the other ropes. However, Ger had been taught for it while he was living in Alaska, thus it is the most daring rope method.

If he had been thinking about it, he would have believed that this was the only way to retrieve these individuals from the mountain. Ger was never going to abandon these individuals, and it is something that everyone needs to keep in mind about him.

The head of the Korean team was searching for some Sherpas in order to carry out a rescue operation when they were at Camp Four. In the process of climbing the mountain, two Sherpas came upon a climber who turned out to be Marco. The climber was lying down in the snow. After receiving oxygen, he was able to regain consciousness once again under their care.

They reported that they had met up with the Korean climbers on their way back down and that another climber wearing a red and black suit was coming down behind them. This information was shared with individuals at Camp Four when they were in contact with them. That signified that we were aware that they had been finally let free. Ger’s life, along with the lives of the Koreans, was tragically lost when they reported that an avalanche had claimed the lives of the soldiers they had examined. Ger was the only one who wore a suit that was of the red and black colour scheme.

Ger relates his own tale through his notes and books, which account for forty per cent of the book. This book is basically about Ger’s life. Ger had a knack for climbing at great altitudes, and that was the thing about him. His ascent did not result in any financial gain for him. He did it because he was passionate about it.


Wilco van Rooijen, the journey’s leader and a Dutch climber who survived the catastrophe and was taken to a military hospital in Pakistan, stated that inadequate preparations had been a contributing factor in the incident. van Rooijen is forty years old. There were other teams of mountaineers who were unable to ascend the peak because ropes were placed in the wrong places on the mountain by advance climbers, which ultimately led to the deaths of three of the climbers on his team. He claimed that this was happening. This is what van Rooijen claimed from his hospital bed in the town of Skardu in Northern Pakistan. “Everything was going well to camp four, and on summit attempt, everything went wrong,” he added. The most significant error that we committed was one in which we attempted to reach a consensus. Everyone was responsible for their own actions, yet there were some individuals who did not follow through with their commitments. With such inconsiderate actions, people’s lives are put at jeopardy. In his criticism of another group, he pointed out that they had only brought half of the rope that they were instructed to bring.

K2 survivor tells of his final moments with Irish hero Gerard McDonnell

The final moments of the life of the unfortunate climber have been recounted by an Italian mountaineer who ascended the K2 peak with an Irishman named Gerard McDonnell.
A touching speech was delivered by Marco Confortola, who is 37 years old, on how he and McDonnell, the climber whom he referred to as “Jesus,” struggled to survive. In addition, he disclosed that the Limerickman had spent three hours attempting to console a number of climbers who were nearing the end of their lives before he himself was murdered.

It was with McDonnell that the Italian had climbed to the top of the mountain, at seven o’clock in the evening, just as the sun was beginning to set.

The two people shared a hug, but they did not have much time to celebrate their success. The fact that they had witnessed a Serbian climber fall to his death had already caused them to be concerned about becoming stuck.

However, after a little descent, they came to the conclusion that it was too risky to go in the dark and ultimately chose to stop for the night.

In order to construct a temporary shelter for the night, Confortola used a stick to dig two tiny trenches within the ground.

Due to the fact that Gerard was having a hard time, I enlarged his hole larger in order to assist him in lying down for a short period of time. It was really chilly in Gerard. In addition, I was chilly, and I started shaking on purpose in order to generate heat. Unfortunately, I was squandering my energy, but I needed to warm up.

They had positioned themselves on the precipice of a steep cliff. “I made sure not to fall asleep, because I could have fallen over,” he replied in response.

They started their journey once more in the morning, and after a little while, they came across three South Korean climbers who were hanging upside down and were being held by a cable that was linked to their waists. Two of them weren’t conscious. McDonnell and Confortola attempted to correct them for a period of three hours, but their efforts were fruitless. They all passed away.

At that very instant, “for some strange reason,” McDonnell went on to start walking away from the situation. This would be the final time that Confortola would ever see his pal alive.

Having exhausted himself, he slept off, only to be roused from his slumber by a menacing rumble. A sudden avalanche was coming down, and I noticed it all of a sudden. The distance to my right was barely twenty meters. I stood there and watched as the body of Gerard swept by me,” he added.

Eleven climbers, including Mr. McDonnell, who was 37 years old and from Kilcornan, County Limerick, and was the first Irishman to reach the summit of K2, were killed on the Pakistani mountain, which is Everest’s slightly smaller but considerably more dangerous sibling and is known for being far more difficult to climb.

In twenty years, it was the biggest catastrophe to occur on K2.

Just the mention of McDonnell and Confortola causes his speech to become unsteady, and his eyes begin to flood up with tears.

“When you are up in the mountains, it’s easy to become friends, but it was particular with Gerard,” he explained to me. He continued by saying, “I used to call him Jesus,” while pointing above. Christ was a resemblance to him in every way, even his beard. He exuded a smile at all times. The blossom that he was.”

The Italian climber dismissed the notion that the six teams, which included competitors from Ireland, the Netherlands, Serbia, Italy, and two teams from South Korea, had exhibited bad judgment, had not adequately prepared themselves, and had contracted the so-called “summit fever.”

“We were well prepared,” he says the group. “We had made our plans and even the weather was good.”


On the subsequent episode of The Late Late Show, which aired on October 3, 2008, McDonnell’s mother, brother, partner, van Rooijen, and Pat Falvey all arrived. An endowment fund was established in his honor in 2009 with the purpose of providing high-altitude porters with training in first-aid and safe climbing techniques.

After trying the ascent on the tenth anniversary of McDonnell’s passing as an homage to him, Jason Black, who hails from Letterkenny, County Donegal, completed the ascent of K2 in July of 2018. A memorial plaque had been erected at the K2 base camp earlier in the month by Black, who also brought a piece of climbing gear that had been a present from McDonnell’s mother. The climbing gear had been used by McDonnell throughout his ascent of the mountain. During the same year, the inaugural anniversary bicycle event was organized, which consisted of cyclists traveling from Doolin in Clare to Kilcornan over the course of the event.


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