Page last updated at 08:58 GMT, Friday, 22 July 2005 09:58 UK

Everest climber suffers K2 setback

Terence Bannon
Mountaineer Terence Bannon is hoping to scale K2
The NI man who conquered Mount Everest two years ago has suffered a setback in his attempt to reach the summit of K2 without assistance and without oxygen.

Terrence 'Banjo' Bannon's team had hoped to reach the peak at the end of July but ran into problems.

Bannon is attempting to reach the summit along with team-mate John Fitzgibbon, who is originally from Cork but now lives in Boston.

If successful, they will be the first Irish climbers ever to get to the top of the so-called "mountain of mountains".

The climb on one of the world's most treacherous peaks is the Newry man's toughest challenge.

He said they hoped to reach the summit when they could find a suitable "weather window" within the timeframe of their climbing licence which is granted by Pakistan.

Speaking to BBC Northern Ireland from K2's base camp at 17,000ft, he said they had experienced "bad luck and avalanches".

We were totally exhausted and it jeopardised our summit bid
Terrence 'Banjo' Bannon

"About two weeks ago, we were just getting established... when we came back to Camp 1 it was gone because of an avalanche," he said.

"The same situation happened again, when we went off for the summit two days ago, when we got to Camp 3 it was gone.

"Our stash - our tent, gas stoves, food and equipment - was all buried underneath the snow."

It took a very long time for the team to dig through the snow to get to the buried equipment, he said.

"We were totally exhausted and it jeopardised our summit bid.

"Because the weather is so bad here - it just changes in minutes - there is a Polish-Bulgarian expedition in the same time-slot as ourselves and they are struggling to get back.

"This is because there are 160mph winds and they are actually fighting for their lives at the minute."

Dangerous feat

Banjo said his team were "relatively safe" at K2's base camp, but higher up it was predicted that new ferocious winds "are just going to rip the mountain apart".

Over the years, K2 has been called the "savage mountain" and "a death trap".

Fifty-one years ago on 31 July, two Italian climbers, Lino Lacedelli and Achille Compagnoni, braved wind, rain and storm to climb the second highest - and arguably - most dangerous mountain in the world.

Despite improvements in technology, the mountain is considered as dangerous today as it was then. It has a much higher rate of fatalities than Everest.

Two years ago, Mr Bannon and his team-mate New Zealander Jamie McGuinness, 37, reached the top of the world's highest peak, Everest, on 31 May.

It was the first time a team from Northern Ireland had reached the summit and followed the success of an Irish team earlier in the month.

Speaking at the time of that conquest, he described it as "a great sensation", but admitted that there were setbacks as he neared the top which made him think he might have to turn back.

It took the pair nine hours to climb the final 500 metres of Everest, using oxygen supplies and head torches to guide them.

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