The grieving family of a Sydney man who died while climbing the world’s second-highest mountain are fighting to retrieve his body which is still buried beneath the snow on the Pakistan-China border, more than three months after his death.
Experienced mountaineer Matthew Eakin's deceased body was discovered after he disappeared while attempting the famous K2 in July. The body of another climber Canadian Richard Cartier was also found on another part of the mountain.
Mr Eakin's sister Danielle Bonnington said two men found her brother's body after he'd fallen while on the famous Abruzzi route. "Just after they left for help, a small avalanche struck and buried him," she said. His body was found "intact and frozen". In the days that followed, Ms Bonnington said "teams attempted to dig Matt out of the snow and ice but, despite their very best efforts, they were unsuccessful".
Now, with his location still known and accessible, a planned expedition is underway to retrieve his body and give him a proper burial at the base, where Mr Cartier was buried. A small group of the climber's friends, fellow mountaineers from Australia and Canada, will travel to Pakistan in February when the conditions are more suitable.
Family seek respectful burial
"For us, it’s part of the grieving process and closure process," Ms Bonnington told Yahoo News Australia. "Not having him buried respectfully and with dignity is quite distressing and it would be more distressing if he were to be uncovered with snow melt as the weather warms, our family doesn’t want that."
Family hopeful of successful mission
Ms Bonnington has launched a GoFundMe Page to help raise funds for the three-week trip. The people who are going "knew Matthew and knew him very well," she told Yahoo. "We are incredibly honoured that they've offered to go and asked to go on our behalf," she said.
K2 is an isolated area in the northeast of Pakistan, bordering China so "this won't be a simple or easy operation," Ms Bonnington said. But the family believe "there’s a really good chance of finding him". "Matt’s location has been marked with GPS, so the chances he can be found are high. The team also plans to use ground-penetrating radar to improve those chances further," she explained.
So far, almost $23,000 has been raised, with a goal to reach $70,000. Funds raised will help to pay for the trekking permits, local trekking operator fees, flights, and hire of equipment needed to help recover the body. Any leftover funds will be donated to charity.
Matthew Eakin 'loved by all'
Since his death, friends and family of the experienced climber have flooded social media with touching tributes. Some say he had an "infectious smile" and was "loved by all."
Mr Eakin, the co-founder of Mountaineers Down Under, an online community with over 3000 members, was particularly passionate about high altitude mountaineering, his sister said, and successfully climbed and led expeditions in Nepal and Pakistan over the past eight years.
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