On July 25, Rick Allen (November 1954 - July 2021) died in an avalanche while attempting a new route on K2, aged 68. Something of a 'legendary grandfather' in Himalayan climbing circles, he was best known for making the first complete ascent of Nanga Parbat’s Mazeno Ridge in 2012, with Sandy Allan, for which the pair earned a Piolet D'Or.
In June this year, Rick Allen set off for Pakistan with his good friend Jerry Gore to attempt the summit of K2. While Jerry, who has Type 1 Diabetes, hoped to summit as part of his K2 Insulin Challenge, Rick was climbing to raise £10,000 for Partners Relief and Development UK, a humanitarian charity which provides emergency relief during crises and works with global communities on sustainable development programmes.
Both Jerry and Rick were experienced Himalayan climbers. Jerry had climbed seven routes above 6,000m without supplementary oxygen, including three first ascents, but this was to be his first 8,000er. Rick's Himalayan CV is further down this article. He was best known for making the first complete ascent of Nanga Parbat’s Mazeno Ridge in 2012, together with Sandy Allan. Considered the last, great unclimbed Himalayan route, the ascent earned the pair a Piolet d’Or.
WATCH Rick's Alpine Club talk about Nanga Parbat’s Mazeno Ridge, recorded last year:
On June 21, Rick and Jerry started the trek to K2 Base Camp, and a steady period of acclimatisation followed. A month later, Jerry updated his Facebook page to say that he and Rick had tried to use a weather window to summit Broad Peak (8047m). It had been tough going due to snow conditions, the weather had turned ominous, and both had turned back.
A few days later, Rick, Jerry, Pakistani Guide, Ishaq Ali, and two European Guides, Jordi Tosas and Stephan Keck, were at Advanced K2 Base Camp planning their K2 summit attempt. Rick was "on fire for a potential new route up K2, the mountain of mountains," remembers Jerry. The route was on the mountain's South-East Face. Jerry, meanwhile, planned to attempt the normal route up K2 with Ishaq.
While Jerry and Ishaq Ali were on the normal route, just 300m away, an avalanche killed Rick. Stefan was injured and flown off by helicopter. Jordi, uninjured, was flown to Base Camp. It was a hot day, conditions were difficult, and there was little the devastated team could do but reconvene at Advanced K2 Base Camp and wait till evening before going to get Rick off the mountain.
While they waited, news spread. Rick was, as Jerry put it, "a sort of legendary grandfather in these parts." When news of the devastating avalanche reached them, Pakistani guides and porters flocked down from K2 Camp 2 to help. "At 7pm," remembers Jerry, "They burst into our tent at Advanced Base Camp (ABC). My guide, Ishqat Ali and I gave them tea. It was all they needed to get their strength back before we set off into the night to find Rick... I tried to keep up but they moved liked greyhounds over the glacial rubble."
By midnight they had found Rick, wrapped his body in a tent flysheet and carried him a kilometre back to ABC. The assembled group then huddled together in the tent and ate before going to sleep.
At 6 am, the team woke to say their final goodbyes and to bury Rick in a mountain grave, according to his family's wishes. "Rick had a strong Christian faith," commented Jerry. "I washed his face and said a few words and a Christian prayer, then Liaqat Karim, one of our Pakistani guides, said a Muslim prayer ... We stood together in the shadow of K2 with prayers in different languages and for different religions filling the air. It was a moment of total unity, and it was a good way goodbye to a Scotsman who loved these mountains and the people who call them home."
Friends remember Rick as humble and kind-hearted
Rick Allen's Himalayan Career
1984 Ganesh II, South Face new route with Nikola Kekus
1986 New route up the South East face of Pumori with Sandy Allan
1986 Everest, North-North-East Ridge Attempt
1988 Everest North-East Ridge Attempt
1989 Makalu Attempt
1993 New, direct line up the north face of Dhaulagiri (26,795ft)
1995 Nanga Parbat, Mazeno Ridge attempt
1997 K2 Attempt
1998 Broad Peak, South-South-East Ridge attempt
2009 Nanga Parbat (Diamir side)
2011 Gasherbrum I
2012 Summit to Nanga Parbat’s Mazeno Ridge with Sandy Allan, for which the pair were awareded a Piolet d'Or
2017 Tilicho Peak and Annapurna North-West Face attempt
2018 Broad Peak, solo ascent
2019 K2 Abruzzi spur up to 8300m, without oxygen
2021 K2 New route attempt on the South-East face
"He was one of my oldest friends and the most honest and good-natured person I have ever shared a rope with. I had known him for more than 25 years. Rick is the 17th friend I have lost to the mountains and probably the closest. He was an eccentric Scottish gentleman and was kind and compassionate to the end. He was just a really lovely person. He leaves behind few close family members but a lifetime of extraordinary experiences. He died aged 66. The climbing world has lost a true legend." - Jerry Gore
"I met Rick in 2009 at Nanga Parbat. We had opened the way to Camp 3. Our friendship had started in the snow that was beyond our knees. Subsequently, we formed a roped party during 3 other expeditions. In 2019, he held the rope while I fell, and he saved my life. Couldn't be more grateful to someone. Over time, our friendship had grown into something strong and reassuring. I’m so sad to have lost you Rick and at the same time so happy to have shared these moments with someone so humble, so caring and with such greatness. For me Rick was one of the most experienced climbers I ever met. In base camp he inspired everyone not by words or stories about his past accomplishments but by facts and actual actions during an expedition. He was a man of few words. Even though he was an aging alpinist, he shows incredible strength and endurance. Time seem to have little effect on him. He was the most humble and kind-hearted person." - Louis Rousseau
Louis Rousseau and Rick Allen
"I had the privilege of climbing with Rick on his Freshers meet at Birmingham and many times afterwards. From the start he was a natural climber with both enthusiasm and determination; when it was time to retreat Rick would always 'just have another look'. Our climbing in those years was on the British crags and mountains and one such 'another look' resulted in escaping the rising tide at Gogarth on Anglesey by climbing out in the dark, probably a new route." - Mike Grain
"We first climbed together - we were trying to do the unclimbed ridge, the east north east ridge of Mount Everest. As a character, he was totally reliable, he was a really nice fellow, he was very genuine, very caring, he would never let anybody down. I'm staring into a huge void at the moment, I'm going to miss him a lot." - Sandy Allan
Our thoughts are with RIck's friends and family.