Page last updated at 14:41 GMT, Sunday, 3 August 2008 15:41 UK

Irish K2 mountaineer feared dead

Ger McDonnell - pic courtesy RTE
Fears are growing for Ger McDonnell, missing on K2

An Irish climber, missing on the slopes of the world's second highest mountain is now feared dead.

On Friday, Ger McDonnell, 37, from Kilcornan, County Limerick, became the first Irishman to summit K2.

He was descending with a group of Dutch mountaineers when they were hit by falling ice and cut off.

Climbing friend Pat Falvey said that at present it was thought anyone classified as "position unknown will not be coming back".

"We are absolutely and totally shocked. He's been on a number of expeditions with me," he added.

Mr McDonnell's satellite phone was found in some belongings two surviving climbers brought back to camp, the Irish Independent newspaper reported.

On the Norit K2 Expedition website it lists Mr McDonnell and two other members as missing, status unknown.

Ireland's president, Mary McAleese, extended her sympathies to his family "on their great loss".

"Following so closely on their righteous pride, and that of the country, at Ger becoming the first Irish person to scale K2, it is truly heartbreaking that they must now contemplate the loss of a beloved son and brother," she said.

K2, at 8,611 metres (28,251 ft), sits on the border between Pakistan and China, and is notoriously difficult to climb.

Weather patterns in the high-altitude Karakorum range where the mountain is placed are also extremely volatile.

The Reuters news agency said the Pakistani military was undecided whether to risk mounting a helicopter rescue mission because of the hazardous conditions, despite clear weather.

Mountaineer Chris Bonnington talks about the dangers of K2

"We're still discussing the possibilities of an operation because the altitude where the accident occured is very high," army spokesman Major Farooq Firoz, said.

"We can take a helicopter up there to drop medicines and supplies but carrying out any operation is very difficult."

Five climbers from a South Korean team were killed in the ice fall, expedition organisers told the agency on Sunday.

"They were returning from the summit when an avalanche at the Bottleneck hit them," Ghulam Mohammad, owner of Blue Sky Travels and Tours, said.

"Our liason officer at the Base Camp confirmed death of five."

It has been reported that four members of other teams also died in the ice fall.

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SEE ALSO
K2 climber missing after ice fall
02 Aug 08 |  Northern Ireland


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