Irish climber feared dead

 

Gerard McDonnell, the Co Limerick climber who scaled the second highest mountain in the world on Friday, is now presumed to have died on his descent.

Mr McDonnell and six colleagues vanished yesterday after they were hit by falling ice at about 8,000 metres while descending the K2 peak on the Chinese/Pakistani border.

In a statement this afternoon Mr McDonnell’s family said they were extremely proud of Gerard’s many heroic and brave achievements.

“The last few days have been a roller coaster of emotions as we celebrated with joy his historic achievement, and now must try to come to terms with the untimely loss of a great son, brother and friend,” it said.

The family appealed for privacy from the media.

President Mary McAleese conveyed her sympathies today to Mr McDonnell’s family.

“My thoughts today are with the McDonnell family as they come to terms with their great loss,” she said.

“Following so closely on their righteous pride, and that of the country, at Gerard 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.”

The President met Mr McDonnell earlier this year following his participation in the Beyond Endurance Irish expedition to the South Pole.

More than 50 climbers have died on K2 since 1952 — at least 22 of which died while descending from the summit.

Mr McDonnell, who lived in Alaska, failed to reach the summit of the mountain two years ago after he was hit by a rockfall and was airlifted to hospital.

K2 is regarded as more challenging than Mount Everest because of its steeper routes and unpredictable weather.

Only 189 climbers have reached the summit since the 1950s, compared with around 1,400 for Everest.

Additional reporting: PA