It is with sadness that I read that the bodies of the climber Tom Ballard and his climbing mate Daniele Nardi have been found on Nanga Parbat in Pakistan. Tom’s mother, the pioneering female climber Alison Hargreaves also died on a mountain in Pakistan, and it was this story, 24 years ago, that gave me one of my nicknames at school.
As we sat in a science lesson I was talking to my best friend Hina about the story. Alison Hargreaves had made it up to the top of K2 unaided, just months after having been the first woman to scale Everest unaided. Unfortunately on the way down, there was an unexpectedly bad storm that claimed her life. Hina said that she was silly to have attempted it at all as she had young children back home, but I countered that it was an incredible and inspiring thing to have done, and it showed that women could also climb unaided.
Hina replied “but she died” and I said “but she made it to the top first, she proved we could do it”.
“That’s it” said Hina, “I bet you’d do something just to be the first woman to do it. I’m calling you K2 from now on”. And she did.
My thoughts are with the families of the two climbers. I cannot imagine the sadness you are feeling – especially Tom’s sister who lost a mother, and now a brother, to the mountains. Please know that I’m thinking of you, and feel a debt of gratitude to the bravery of your mum. I couldn’t have asked for a better nickname.