The World: Death at the Roof of the World

"Goodbye. We are going to die."

That grim farewell crackled by radio out of the gale-force winds and blinding snow that swirled through the summit of 23,405-ft. Lenin Peak. By the time nine Japanese and American climbers reached the site a day later, it was too late. All that could be found were the frozen bodies of seven of the eight Soviet women mountaineers who perished while descending the U.S.S.R.'s third-highest peak. It was one of the worst disasters in mountaineering history.

The death of the Soviet climbers climaxed a season of continuing tragedy in the Pamirs, a rectangular region of glaciers and...

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