Julie Tullis (15 March 1939 – 6/7 August 1986) was a British climber and film-maker who died on the descent of K2 during a storm along with four other climbers from several expeditions during the 'Black Summer' of 1986.
Born to parents Erica and Francis Palau, Julie had a disrupted early life due to the outbreak of World War II. In 1956 she began climbing near Tunbridge Wells, where she met Terry Tullis. In 1959 they were married and spent the following years running various small businesses. They also continued climbing, in addition to which Julie studied traditional Japanese martial arts, under David Passmore in the Budokan school, Tunbridge Wells. She occasionally practised Karate forms in traditional Hakama when climbing.
Julie met Austrian climber Kurt Diemberger in 1976, and by 1980 they were working together on lecture tours. In 1981 Diemberger hired Tullis as a technician for an expedition to Nanga Parbat, and their high-altitude filming career began. It would include, in the following years, expeditions to the North ridge of K2 and the unclimbed North-East ridge of Mount Everest. In 1984 Tullis and Diemberger climbed Broad Peak (K3) and after more film work they went on an expedition to climb K2 in 1986.
K2, mountain of mountains
Although Tullis and Diemberger finally made the summit on August 4, 1986, making Tullis the first British woman to do so, they were exhausted from several days above 8,000m. On the descent, Tullis slipped and fell; although Diemberger's belay was successful in saving them both, it is likely that Tullis suffered internal or head injuries that began to affect her vision and co-ordination. Arriving at Camp IV they found themselves trapped in the tents by a storm that would last for several days. All the trapped climbers deteriorated physically and mentally, lacking food, sleep, oxygen and, once the gas for the stoves ran out, the ability to melt snow and produce water. This in turn made them vulnerable to pulmonary or cerebral oedema, which in Tullis' condition would have been rapidly fatal.
Julie Tullis died on the night of 6/7 August (the accounts of Diemberger and another climber present, Willi Bauer, differ on the exact date) and was buried on the mountainside.
In 2005 an audio cassette tape diary recorded by Tullis in 1982 was recovered from the glacier below K2.
- Diemberger, Kurt (1991). The Endless Knot: K2, Mountain of Dreams and Destiny. Translated by Salkeld, Audrey. ISBN 0-89886-300-7.
- Greig, Andrew (2002). Kingdoms of Experience. ISBN 1-84195-376-8.
- Jordan, Jennifer (2006). Savage Summit: True Stories of the First Five Women Who Climbed K2. ISBN 0-06-058716-4.
- Tullis, Julie (1986). Clouds From Both Sides. ISBN 0-246-12771-6.
- Audrey Salkeld, ‘Tullis , Julia Elissa May (1939–1986)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
- Lane, Megan (27 October 2006). "Home Counties to Himalayas". BBC News. Retrieved 2014-03-05.