Matthew Eakin died on July 25, 2022, on his descent from the summit of K2, the world’s second highest mountain, in Pakistan. It’s unlikely the exact circumstances of his death will ever be known, but he fell on the Abruzzi route and was found just a few metres above Advance Base Camp.
Eakin was found by two climbers, and just after they left to get help a small avalanche struck and buried him. Over the following two days, teams attempted to dig Eakin out of the snow and ice, but despite their very best efforts were unsuccessful at that time. His remains are buried, but his location is well known.
An expedition is now being organised from with climbers from Australia and Canada to attempt to find Eakin and bring him home. “A very generous group of Matt’s close friends has offered to go to Pakistan to attempt to retrieve him, so that he may be buried with respect and dignity,” said Eakin’s sister, Danielle Bonnington.
Eakin was an avid climber and the co-founder of Mountaineers Down Under, an online community with over 3,000 members aiming to connect Australians passionate about climbing. He was particularly passionate about high altitude mountaineering, and successfully climbed and lead expeditions in Nepal and Pakistan over the past eight years. Among the mountains Eakin successfully summitted are K2, Broad Peak, Manaslu and Cholatse.
“Usually following an avalanche, a deceased person’s location is unknown,” said Bonnington. “But in this case, Matt’s location is known, and the geography of that location means that his body can’t move far from where he was found. Given this, we have an opportunity to retrieve and bury him with dignity, rather than risk the possibility of snow melt uncovering his body sometime in the future. Our family, understandably, doesn’t want this for Matt.”
K2 is located in the Karakoram region of Pakistan. It is an isolated area in the north-east of the country, bordering China. The operation won’t be an easy task. Just trekking to K2 Base Camp from the nearest village will take seven days as there are no roads.
“If it is safe for members of a search team, we believe that all climbers who die in the mountains while pursuing their passion should have a chance to be found and buried, to ease the grieving process for families and friends. Our family is incredibly humbled by the offer of Matt’s friends to help to lay him to rest with dignity. We know their offer to help reflects their love for him. The small team plans to head to Pakistan over a three-week period in February 2023. This is when it is expected that conditions are most optimal and safest. Matt’s location has been marked by GPS so the chances that he can be found are high. The team also plan to use a ground-penetrating radar to improve those chances even further.”
Six of Eakin’s closest mountaineering friends will make the attempt to retrieve him, led by alpinists experienced in the Karakoram region from Canada and Australia. “As far as we are aware, this type of operation to retrieve a loved one several months or years after the incident, has only been carried out on very rare occasions in the history of mountaineering.
Deceased climbers are often left on the mountain where they died if they aren’t recovered straight away.”
Funds raised will help to pay for the trekking permits, local trekking operator fees, flights, and hire of equipment needed to help recover Eakin. His family has advised that any funds raised that aren’t used for the expedition will be donated to the Black Dog Institute. To donate, visit here.
“We have been left with a massive Matt-sized hole in our family,” Ms Bonnington said. “The tributes and immense outpourings of grief from his friends and communities he was involved with has helped us realise the impact his life had on so many people right across the world. He considered these friends his family too. His death has left a hole in their worlds too.”