K2

K2

Overview
K2 is the second-highest mountain on Earth, after Mount Everest
Mount Everest
Mount Everest is the world's highest mountain, with a peak at above sea level. It is located in the Mahalangur section of the Himalayas. The international boundary runs across the precise summit point...

. With a peak elevation of 28251 feet (8,610.9 m), K2 is part of the Karakoram
Karakoram
The Karakoram, or Karakorum , is a large mountain range spanning the borders between Pakistan, India and China, located in the regions of Gilgit-Baltistan , Ladakh , and Xinjiang region,...

 Range
Mountain range
A mountain range is a single, large mass consisting of a succession of mountains or narrowly spaced mountain ridges, with or without peaks, closely related in position, direction, formation, and age; a component part of a mountain system or of a mountain chain...

, and is located on the border between Baltistan
Baltistan
Baltistan , also known as بلتیول བལིུལ་ in the Balti language, is a region in northern Pakistan which forms Gilgit-Baltistan, bordering the Xinjiang Autonomous Region of China. In addition, a part of Baltistan also falls into Jammu and Kashmir of India. It is situated in the Karakoram mountains...

, in Gilgit-Baltistan of Pakistan-administered Kashmir
Pakistan-administered Kashmir
Azad Kashmir borders the Pakistani provinces of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to the west, the Wakhan Corridor of Afghanistan to the north west, the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of People's Republic of China to the north and the Indian-administered state of Jammu and Kashmir, to the east.A...

 and the Taxkorgan Tajik Autonomous County
Taxkorgan Tajik Autonomous County
Tashkurgan Tajik Autonomous County is one of the counties of Kashgar Prefecture in western Xinjiang.- Geography :Tashkurgan County is located in the eastern part of the Pamir Plateau, where the Kunlun, Kara Kunlun, Hindukush and Tian Shan mountains come together, at the borders with Afghanistan ,...

 of Xinjiang
Xinjiang
Xinjiang is an autonomous region of the People's Republic of China. It is the largest Chinese administrative division and spans over 1.6 million km2...

, China. It is more hazardous to reach K2 from the Chinese side; thus, it is mostly climbed from the Pakistani side.

K2 is known as the Savage Mountain due to the difficulty of ascent and the second-highest fatality rate among the "eight thousanders" for those who climb it.
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Encyclopedia
K2 is the second-highest mountain on Earth, after Mount Everest
Mount Everest
Mount Everest is the world's highest mountain, with a peak at above sea level. It is located in the Mahalangur section of the Himalayas. The international boundary runs across the precise summit point...

. With a peak elevation of 28251 feet (8,610.9 m), K2 is part of the Karakoram
Karakoram
The Karakoram, or Karakorum , is a large mountain range spanning the borders between Pakistan, India and China, located in the regions of Gilgit-Baltistan , Ladakh , and Xinjiang region,...

 Range
Mountain range
A mountain range is a single, large mass consisting of a succession of mountains or narrowly spaced mountain ridges, with or without peaks, closely related in position, direction, formation, and age; a component part of a mountain system or of a mountain chain...

, and is located on the border between Baltistan
Baltistan
Baltistan , also known as بلتیول བལིུལ་ in the Balti language, is a region in northern Pakistan which forms Gilgit-Baltistan, bordering the Xinjiang Autonomous Region of China. In addition, a part of Baltistan also falls into Jammu and Kashmir of India. It is situated in the Karakoram mountains...

, in Gilgit-Baltistan of Pakistan-administered Kashmir
Pakistan-administered Kashmir
Azad Kashmir borders the Pakistani provinces of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to the west, the Wakhan Corridor of Afghanistan to the north west, the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of People's Republic of China to the north and the Indian-administered state of Jammu and Kashmir, to the east.A...

 and the Taxkorgan Tajik Autonomous County
Taxkorgan Tajik Autonomous County
Tashkurgan Tajik Autonomous County is one of the counties of Kashgar Prefecture in western Xinjiang.- Geography :Tashkurgan County is located in the eastern part of the Pamir Plateau, where the Kunlun, Kara Kunlun, Hindukush and Tian Shan mountains come together, at the borders with Afghanistan ,...

 of Xinjiang
Xinjiang
Xinjiang is an autonomous region of the People's Republic of China. It is the largest Chinese administrative division and spans over 1.6 million km2...

, China. It is more hazardous to reach K2 from the Chinese side; thus, it is mostly climbed from the Pakistani side.

K2 is known as the Savage Mountain due to the difficulty of ascent and the second-highest fatality rate among the "eight thousanders" for those who climb it. For every four people who have reached the summit, one has died trying. Unlike Annapurna
Annapurna
Annapurna is a section of the Himalayas in north-central Nepal that includes Annapurna I, thirteen additional peaks over and 16 more over ....

, the mountain with the highest fatality rate, K2 has never been climbed in winter.

Name



The name K2 is derived from the notation used by the Great Trigonometric Survey
Great Trigonometric Survey
The Great Trigonometric Survey was a project of the Survey of India throughout most of the 19th century. It was piloted in its initial stages by William Lambton, and later by George Everest. Among the many accomplishments of the Survey were the demarcation of the British territories in India and...

. Thomas Montgomerie
Thomas George Montgomerie
Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas George Montgomerie was a British surveyor who participated in the Great Trigonometric Survey of India as a lieutenant in the 1850's. He was the person to label K2, the second highest mountain in the world, the K standing for Karakoram...

 made the first survey of the Karakoram from Mount Haramukh, some 130 miles (209.2 km) to the south, and sketched the two most prominent peaks, labelling them K1 and K2.

The policy of the Great Trigonometric Survey was to use local names for mountains wherever possible and K1 was found to be known locally as Masherbrum
Masherbrum
Masherbrum is located in the Gilgit Baltistan of Pakistan. At it is the 22nd highest mountain in the world and the 9th highest in Pakistan. It was the first scaled and mapped peak in the Karakoram mountain range, hence its name....

. K2, however, appeared not to have acquired a local name, possibly due to its remoteness. The mountain is not visible from Askole
Askole
Askole or Askoly is a small town located in the Braldu Valley in the most remote region of Karakoram mountains in Northern Areas, Pakistan. It is the last settlement before the wilderness of the Karakoram. Askole is the gateway to four of the world's fourteen highest peaks known as Eight-thousanders...

, the last village to the south, or from the nearest habitation to the north, and is only fleetingly glimpsed from the end of the Baltoro Glacier
Baltoro Glacier
The Baltoro Glacier, at 62 kilometers long, is one of the longest glaciers outside the polar regions. It is located in Baltistan, in the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan, and runs through part of the Karakoram mountain range. The Baltoro Muztagh lies to the north and east of the glacier, while...

, beyond which few local people would have ventured. The name Chogori, derived from two Balti
Balti language
Balti is a language spoken in Baltistan, in Gilgit-Baltistan of Pakistan and adjoining parts of Ladakh. Baltistan, before 1948, was part of Ladakh province. The Balti language is a dialect of the Ladakhi language, a form of Tibetan. It is mutually intelligible with Ladakhi proper and Burig...

 words, chhogo ("big") and ri ("mountain") (شاہگوری) has been suggested as a local name, but evidence for its widespread use is scant. It may have been a compound name invented by Western explorers or simply a bemused reply to the question "What's that called?" It does, however, form the basis for the name Qogir by which Chinese authorities officially refer to the peak. Other local names have been suggested including Lamba Pahar ("Tall Mountain" in Urdu) and Dapsang, but are not widely used.

Lacking a local name, the name Mount Godwin-Austen was suggested, in honor of Henry Godwin-Austen
Henry Haversham Godwin-Austen
Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Haversham Godwin-Austen FRS FZS FRGS MBOU , was an English topographer, geologist and surveyor.The eldest son of Robert Alfred Cloyne Godwin-Austen, Godwin-Austen was born in Teignmouth...

, an early explorer of the area, and while the name was rejected by the Royal Geographical Society
Royal Geographical Society
The Royal Geographical Society is a British learned society founded in 1830 for the advancement of geographical sciences...

 it was used on several maps, and continues to be used occasionally.

The surveyor's mark, K2, therefore continues to be the name by which the mountain is commonly known. It is now also used in the Balti language, rendered as Kechu or Ketu . The Italian climber Fosco Maraini
Fosco Maraini
Fosco Maraini was an Italian photographer, anthropologist, ethnologist, writer, mountaineer and academic.-Biography:...

 argued in his account of the ascent of Gasherbrum IV
Gasherbrum IV
Gasherbrum IV is the 17th highest mountain on Earth and the 6th highest in Pakistan. It is one of the peaks in the Gasherbrum massif.The Gasherbrums are a remote group of peaks located at the northeastern end of the Baltoro Glacier in the Karakoram range of the Himalaya. The massif contains three...

 that while the name of K2 owes its origin to chance, its clipped, impersonal nature is highly appropriate for so remote and challenging a mountain. He concluded that it was ...

Geographical setting


K2 lies in the northwestern Karakoram Range. The Tarim sedimentary basin
Tarim Basin
The Tarim Basin is a large endorheic basin occupying an area of about . It is located in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China's far west. Its northern boundary is the Tian Shan mountain range and its southern is the Kunlun Mountains on the northern edge of the Tibetan Plateau. The...

 borders the range on the north and the Lesser Himalayas on the south. Melt waters from vast glaciers, such as those south and east of K2, feed agriculture in the valleys and contribute significantly to the regional fresh-water supply. The Karakoram Range lies along the southern edge of the Eurasian tectonic plate
Eurasian Plate
The Eurasian Plate is a tectonic plate which includes most of the continent of Eurasia , with the notable exceptions of the Indian subcontinent, the Arabian subcontinent, and the area east of the Chersky Range in East Siberia...

 and is made up of ancient sedimentary rocks (more than 390 million years old). Those strata were folded and thrust-faulted, and granite masses were intruded, when the Indian plate collided with Eurasia, beginning more than 100 million years ago.

K2 is only ranked 22nd by topographic prominence
Topographic prominence
In topography, prominence, also known as autonomous height, relative height, shoulder drop , or prime factor , categorizes the height of the mountain's or hill's summit by the elevation between it and the lowest contour line encircling it and no higher summit...

, a measure of a mountain's independent stature, because it is part of the same extended area of uplift (including the Karakoram, the Tibetan Plateau, and the Himalaya) as Mount Everest
Mount Everest
Mount Everest is the world's highest mountain, with a peak at above sea level. It is located in the Mahalangur section of the Himalayas. The international boundary runs across the precise summit point...

, in that it is possible to follow a path from K2 to Everest that goes no lower than 4594 metres (15,072.2 ft), at Mustang Lo
Mustang (kingdom)
Mustang is the former Kingdom of Lo and now part of Nepal, in the north-central part of that country, bordering the People's Republic of China on the Tibetan plateau between the Nepalese provinces of Dolpo and Manang...

. Many other peaks which are far lower than K2 are more independent in this sense.

However, K2 is notable for its local relief as well as its total height. It stands over 3000 metres (9,842.5 ft) above much of the glacial valley bottoms at its base. More extraordinary is the fact that it is a consistently steep pyramid, dropping quickly in almost all directions. The north side is the steepest: there it rises over 3200 metres (10,498.7 ft) above the K2 (Qogir) Glacier in only 3000 metres (9,842.5 ft) of horizontal distance. In most directions, it achieves over 2800 metres (9,186.4 ft) of vertical relief in less than 4000 metres (13,123.4 ft).

Early attempts



The mountain was first surveyed by a European survey team in 1856. Thomas Montgomerie
Thomas George Montgomerie
Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas George Montgomerie was a British surveyor who participated in the Great Trigonometric Survey of India as a lieutenant in the 1850's. He was the person to label K2, the second highest mountain in the world, the K standing for Karakoram...

 was the member of the team who designated it "K2" for being the second peak of the Karakoram range. The other peaks were originally named K1, K3, K4 and K5, but were eventually renamed Masherbrum
Masherbrum
Masherbrum is located in the Gilgit Baltistan of Pakistan. At it is the 22nd highest mountain in the world and the 9th highest in Pakistan. It was the first scaled and mapped peak in the Karakoram mountain range, hence its name....

, Gasherbrum IV
Gasherbrum IV
Gasherbrum IV is the 17th highest mountain on Earth and the 6th highest in Pakistan. It is one of the peaks in the Gasherbrum massif.The Gasherbrums are a remote group of peaks located at the northeastern end of the Baltoro Glacier in the Karakoram range of the Himalaya. The massif contains three...

, Gasherbrum II
Gasherbrum II
Gasherbrum II , also known as K4, is the 13th highest mountain on Earth, located on the border of Gilgit-Baltistan province, Pakistan and Xinjiang, China...

 and Gasherbrum I
Gasherbrum I
Gasherbrum I , also known as Hidden Peak or K5, is the 11th highest peak on Earth, located on the Pakistan-China border in Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan and Xinjiang region of China. Gasherbrum I is part of the Gasherbrum massif, located in the Karakoram region of the Himalaya...

 respectively. In 1892, Martin Conway led a British expedition that reached "Concordia" on the Baltoro Glacier
Baltoro Glacier
The Baltoro Glacier, at 62 kilometers long, is one of the longest glaciers outside the polar regions. It is located in Baltistan, in the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan, and runs through part of the Karakoram mountain range. The Baltoro Muztagh lies to the north and east of the glacier, while...

.

The first serious attempt to climb K2 was undertaken in 1902 by Oscar Eckenstein
Oscar Eckenstein
Oscar Johannes Ludwig Eckenstein was an English rock climber and mountaineer, and a pioneer in the sport of bouldering...

 and Aleister Crowley
Aleister Crowley
Aleister Crowley , born Edward Alexander Crowley, and also known as both Frater Perdurabo and The Great Beast, was an influential English occultist, astrologer, mystic and ceremonial magician, responsible for founding the religious philosophy of Thelema. He was also successful in various other...

, via the Northeast Ridge. In the early 1900s, modern transportation did not exist: It took "fourteen days just to reach the foot of the mountain". After five serious and costly attempts, the team reached 6525 metres (21,407.5 ft) — although considering the difficulty of the challenge, and the lack of modern climbing equipment or weatherproof fabrics, Crowley's statement that "neither man nor beast was injured" highlights the pioneering spirit and bravery of the attempt. The failures were also attributed to sickness (Crowley was suffering the residual effects of malaria), a combination of questionable physical training, personality conflicts, and poor weather conditions — of 68 days spent on K2 (at the time, the record for the longest time spent at such an altitude) only eight provided clear weather.

The next expedition to K2 in 1909, led by Luigi Amedeo, Duke of the Abruzzi
Luigi Amedeo, Duke of the Abruzzi
Prince Luigi Amedeo Giuseppe Maria Ferdinando Francesco di Savoia-Aosta , Duke of the Abruzzi , was an Italian nobleman, mountaineer and explorer of the royal House of Savoy...

, reached an elevation of around 6250 metres (20,505.2 ft) on the South East Spur, now known as the Abruzzi Spur (or Abruzzi Ridge). This would eventually become part of the standard route, but was abandoned at the time due to its steepness and difficulty. After trying and failing to find a feasible alternative route on the West Ridge or the North East Ridge, the Duke declared that K2 would never be climbed, and the team switched its attention to Chogolisa
Chogolisa
Chogolisa is a mountain in the Karakoram region of Pakistan. It lies near the Baltoro Glacier in the Concordia region which is home to some of the highest peaks of the world. Chogolisa has several peaks, the highest on the SW face rises to...

, where the Duke came within 150 metres (492.1 ft) of the summit before being driven back by a storm.


The next attempt on K2 was not made until 1938, when an American expedition led by Charles Houston
Charles Snead Houston
-References:-External links:* - Daily Telegraph obituary* Independent obituary, 1 October 2009.-Notes:...

 made a reconnaissance of the mountain. They concluded that the Abruzzi Spur was the most practical route, and reached a height of around 8000 metres (26,246.7 ft) before turning back due to diminishing supplies and the threat of bad weather. The following year an expedition led by Fritz Wiessner
Fritz Wiessner
Fritz Wiessner was a pioneer of free climbing. Born in Dresden, Germany, he emigrated to New York City in 1929. He became a U.S. citizen in 1935.-Early days:...

 came within 200 metres (656.2 ft) of the summit, but ended in disaster when Dudley Wolfe, Pasang Kikuli, Pasang Kitar and Pintso disappeared high on the mountain.

Charles Houston returned to K2 to lead the 1953 American expedition
Third American Karakoram Expedition
The 1953 American Karakoram Expedition was a mountaineering expedition to K2, at 8,611 metres the second highest mountain on Earth. It was the fifth expedition to attempt K2, and the first since the Second World War...

. The expedition failed due to a storm that pinned the team down for ten days at 7800 metres (25,590.6 ft), during which time Art Gilkey
Art Gilkey
Art Gilkey was an American geologist and mountaineer. He explored Alaska in 1950 and 1952. He died during a 1953 American expedition to K2. Approaching the summit of the peak, he suffered from thrombophlebitis or possibly deep venous thrombosis, followed by pulmonary embolism...

 became critically ill. A desperate retreat followed, during which Pete Schoening
Pete Schoening
Peter K. Schoening was an American mountaineer. Schoening was one of two Americans to first successfully climb the Pakistani peak Gasherbrum I in 1958, and was one of the first to summit Mount Vinson in Antarctica in 1966. He was born July 30, 1927, in Seattle, Washington, and grew up in...

 saved almost the entire team during a mass fall, and Gilkey was killed, either in an avalanche or in a deliberate attempt to avoid burdening his companions. In spite of the failure and tragedy, the courage shown by the team has given the expedition iconic status in mountaineering history.

Success and repeats


An Italian expedition finally succeeded in ascending to the summit of K2 via the Abruzzi Spur on 31 July 1954. The expedition was led by Ardito Desio
Ardito Desio
Count Ardito Desio was an Italian explorer, mountain climber, geologist, and cartographer.-Early life:Desio was born in Palmanova, Friuli, Italy...

, although the two climbers who actually reached the top were Lino Lacedelli
Lino Lacedelli
Lino Lacedelli was an Italian mountaineer.-Early life:Lacedelli was born in Cortina d'Ampezzo ....

 and Achille Compagnoni
Achille Compagnoni
Achille Compagnoni was an Italian mountaineer. Together with Lino Lacedelli, on 31 July 1954 he was the first man to reach the summit of K2.-Biography:...

. The team included a Pakistani member, Colonel Muhammad Ata-ullah, who had been a part of the 1953 American expedition. Also on the expedition were the famous Italian climber Walter Bonatti
Walter Bonatti
Walter Bonatti was an Italian mountain climber. He is noted for a solo climb of a new route on the south-west pillar of the Aiguille du Dru in August 1955 and the first solo winter ascent of the Matterhorn north face in 1965.-Life and career:Bonatti was born in Bergamo...

 and Pakistani Hunza porter Mahdi, who proved vital to the expedition's success in that they carried oxygen to 8100 metres (26,574.8 ft) for Lacedelli and Compagnoni. Their dramatic bivouac
Bivouac shelter
A bivouac traditionally refers to a military encampment made with tents or improvised shelters, usually without shelter or protection from enemy fire or such a site where a camp may be built. It is also commonly used to describe a variety of improvised camp sites such as those used in scouting and...

 in the open at that altitude wrote another chapter in the saga of Himalayan climbing.

On 9 August 1977, 23 years after the Italian expedition, Ichiro Yoshizawa
Ichiro Yoshizawa
was a Japanese mountaineer and expedition leader. He graduated from Hitotsubashi University. Led the second successful attempt in 1977 to reach the summit of K2 and several other Japanese expeditions. Member of the Japanese Alpine Club in 1925 and later also member of the American Alpine...

 led the second successful ascent to the top; with Ashraf Aman
Ashraf Aman
Ashraf Aman is a Pakistani mountaineer, adventurer, and an electrical engineer. He was first Pakistan to reach the summit of K2, the second highest peak on Earth. Besides mountaineering, he has almost 35 years of experience in tourism. He operates the tourism company known as Adventure Tours...

 as the first native Pakistani climber. The Japanese expedition ascended through the Abruzzi Spur route traced by the Italians, and used more than 1,500 porters to achieve the goal.


The year 1978 saw the third ascent of K2, via a new route, the long, cornice
Cornice (climbing)
A snow cornice or simply cornice is an overhanging edge of snow on a ridge or the crest of a mountain. They form by wind blowing snow over the crest of the mountain, so they often form on the leeward sides of mountains...

d Northeast Ridge. (The top of the route traversed left across the East Face to avoid a vertical headwall
Headwall
In physical geography and geology the headwall of a glacial cirque is its highest cliff.In civil engineering, a headwall is a small retaining wall placed at the outlet of a stormwater pipe or culvert....

 and joined the uppermost part of the Abruzzi route.) This ascent was made by an American team, led by noted mountaineer James Whittaker
Jim Whittaker
James W. Whittaker, also known as Jim Whittaker is an American mountaineer.As a member of the American Mount Everest Expedition 1963 led by Norman Dyhrenfurth, he was the first American to reach the summit of Mount Everest. He summited on May 1, 1963 with the Sherpa Nawang Gombu...

; the summit party were Louis Reichardt
Louis Reichardt
Louis Reichardt is a noted American mountaineer, the first American to summit both Everest and K2. He is also a Professor of Physiology and Biochemistry/Biophysics at UCSF, where he studies neuroscience. The character of Harold Jameson, U.C.S.F...

, Jim Wickwire
Jim Wickwire
Jim Wickwire is a retired attorney in Seattle, Washington, most famous as the first American to reach the top of K2, the world's second-highest mountain, and then for surviving the night in the open just below the summit....

, John Roskelley
John Roskelley
John Roskelley is a noted mountain climber and author from Spokane, Washington, and is known for his first ascents and notable ascents of 7000 and 8000 meter peaks in Nepal, India, and Pakistan.-Notable ascents:...

, and Rick Ridgeway
Rick Ridgeway
Rick Ridgeway is an Emmy Award-winning filmmaker, author, photographer and environmentalist, of outdoor adventure related projects from Ojai, California. Ridgeway has achieved many adventures in his life including being a member of the first American team to summit K2...

. Wickwire endured an overnight bivouac
Bivouac shelter
A bivouac traditionally refers to a military encampment made with tents or improvised shelters, usually without shelter or protection from enemy fire or such a site where a camp may be built. It is also commonly used to describe a variety of improvised camp sites such as those used in scouting and...

 about 150 metres (492.1 ft) below the summit, one of the highest bivouacs in climbing history. This ascent was emotional for the American team, as they saw themselves as completing a task that had been begun by the 1938 team forty years earlier.

Another notable Japanese ascent was that of the difficult North Ridge, on the Chinese side of the peak, in 1982. A team from the Mountaineering Association of Japan led by Isao Shinkai and Masatsugo Konishi put three members, Naoe Sakashita, Hiroshi Yoshino, and Yukihiro Yanagisawa, on the summit on 14 August. However Yanagisawa fell and died on the descent. Four other members of the team achieved the summit the next day.

The first climber to summit K2 twice was Czech climber Josef Rakoncaj. Rakoncaj was a member of the 1983 Italian expedition led by Francesco Santon, which made the second successful ascent of the North Ridge (31 July 1983). Three years later, on 5 July 1986, he summitted on the Abruzzi Spur (double with Broad Peak West Face solo) as a member of Agostino da Polenza's international expedition.

In 2004 the Spanish climber Carlos Soria Fontán
Carlos Soria Fontán
Carlos Soria Fontán is a Spanish mountain climber who, at more than 70 years of age, has taken up the challenge of becoming the oldest person in the world to reach of summit of the 14 highest mountains in the world...

 became the oldest person ever to summit K2, at the age of 65.

Recent attempts


The peak has now been climbed by almost all of its ridges. Although the summit
Summit (topography)
In topography, a summit is a point on a surface that is higher in elevation than all points immediately adjacent to it. Mathematically, a summit is a local maximum in elevation...

 of Everest
Mount Everest
Mount Everest is the world's highest mountain, with a peak at above sea level. It is located in the Mahalangur section of the Himalayas. The international boundary runs across the precise summit point...

 is at a higher altitude, K2 is a much more difficult and dangerous climb, due in part to its more inclement weather and comparatively greater height from base to peak. The mountain is believed by many to be the world's most difficult and dangerous climb, hence its nickname "the Savage Mountain." It, and the surrounding peaks, have claimed more lives than any others. As of July 2010, only 302 people have completed the ascent, compared with over 2,700 individuals who have ascended the more popular target of Everest. At least 80 (as of September 2010) people have died attempting the climb. Notably, 13 climbers from several expeditions died in 1986 in the 1986 K2 Disaster
1986 K2 disaster
The 1986 K2 disaster refers to a period from 6 August to 10 August 1986, when five mountaineers died on K2 in the Karakoram during a severe storm. Eight other climbers were killed in the weeks preceding, bringing the total number of deaths to 13....

, five of these in a severe storm. More recently, on 1 August 2008, a group of climbers went missing
2008 K2 disaster
The 2008 K2 disaster occurred on August 1, 2008, when eleven mountaineers from international expeditions died on K2, the second-highest mountain on Earth. Three others were seriously injured. It was the worst single accident in the history of K2 mountaineering.-Expedition goal: K2:K2 is the...

 after a large piece of ice fell during an avalanche taking out the fixed ropes on part of the route; four climbers were rescued, but 11, including Gerard McDonnell, the first Irish person to reach the summit, were confirmed dead. On 6 August 2010, Fredrik Ericsson
Fredrik Ericsson
Fredrik Ericsson was a Swedish mountaineer and extreme skier.He grew up in Umeå in the northern part of Sweden, but spent most of his time in Chamonix, in the French Alps.-History:...

, who intended to ski from the summit, joined Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner
Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner
Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner is an Austrian mountaineer. In August 2011, she became the second woman to climb the fourteen eight-thousanders, and the first woman to do so without the use of supplementary oxygen....

 on the way to the summit of K2. Ericsson fell 1000 metres (3,280.8 ft) and was killed. Kaltenbrunner aborted her summit attempt.

Climbing routes and difficulties


There are a number of routes on K2, of somewhat different character, but they all share some key difficulties. First, of course, is the extreme high altitude and resulting lack of oxygen: there is only one-third as much oxygen available to a climber on the summit of K2 as there is at sea level. Second is the propensity of the mountain to experience extreme storms of several days' duration, which have resulted in many of the deaths on the peak. Third is the steep, exposed, and committing nature of all routes on the mountain, which makes retreat more difficult, especially during a storm. Despite many attempts there have been no successful winter ascents. All major climbing routes lie on the Pakistani side, which is also where the base camp is located.

Abruzzi Spur


The standard route of ascent, used far more than any other route, is the Abruzzi Spur, located on the Pakistani side, first attempted by Luigi Amedeo, Duke of the Abruzzi
Luigi Amedeo, Duke of the Abruzzi
Prince Luigi Amedeo Giuseppe Maria Ferdinando Francesco di Savoia-Aosta , Duke of the Abruzzi , was an Italian nobleman, mountaineer and explorer of the royal House of Savoy...

 in 1909. This is the southeast ridge of the peak, rising above the Godwin Austen Glacier. The spur proper begins at an altitude of 5400 metres (17,716.5 ft), where Advanced Base Camp is usually placed. The route follows an alternating series of rock ribs, snow/ice fields, and some technical rock climbing
Rock climbing
Rock climbing also lightly called 'The Gravity Game', is a sport in which participants climb up, down or across natural rock formations or artificial rock walls. The goal is to reach the summit of a formation or the endpoint of a pre-defined route without falling...

 on two famous features, "House's Chimney" and the "Black Pyramid." Above the Black Pyramid, dangerously exposed and difficult to navigate slopes lead to the easily visible "Shoulder", and thence to the summit. The last major obstacle is a narrow couloir
Couloir
A couloir is a narrow gully with a steep gradient in a mountainous terrain. A couloir may be a seam, scar, or fissure, or vertical crevasse in an otherwise solid mountain mass...

 known as the "Bottleneck
Bottleneck (K2)
The Bottleneck is a location along the South-East Spur, known also as Abruzzi Spur - the most used route to the top of K2, the second-highest mountain in the world in the Karakoram on the Pakistan/China border....

", which places climbers dangerously close to a wall of serac
Serac
A serac is a block or column of ice formed by intersecting crevasses on a glacier. Often house-sized or larger, they are dangerous to mountaineers since they may topple with little warning...

s which form an ice cliff to the east of the summit. It was partly due to the collapse of one of these seracs around 2001 that no climbers summitted the peak in 2002 and 2003.

On 1 August 2008, a number of climbers went missing when a serac in the Bottleneck snapped and broke their ropes. Survivors were seen from a helicopter, but rescue efforts were impeded by the high altitude. Eleven were never found, and presumed dead.

North Ridge



Almost opposite from the Abruzzi Spur is the North Ridge, which ascends the Chinese side of the peak. It is rarely climbed, partly due to very difficult access, involving crossing the Shaksgam River
Shaksgam River
The Shaksgam River is a left tributary of the Yarkand River. The river is also known as the Kelechin River and Muztagh River. It rises in the Gasherbrum, Urdok, Staghar, Singhi and Kyagar Glaciers in the Karakoram. It then flows in a general northwestern direction parallel to the Karakoram ridge...

, which is a hazardous undertaking. In contrast to the crowds of climbers and trekkers at the Abruzzi basecamp, usually at most two teams are encamped below the North Ridge. This route, more technically difficult than the Abruzzi, ascends a long, steep, primarily rock ridge to high on the mountain — Camp IV, the "Eagle's Nest" at 7900 metres (25,918.6 ft) — and then crosses a dangerously slide-prone hanging glacier
Glacier
A glacier is a large persistent body of ice that forms where the accumulation of snow exceeds its ablation over many years, often centuries. At least 0.1 km² in area and 50 m thick, but often much larger, a glacier slowly deforms and flows due to stresses induced by its weight...

 by a leftward climbing traverse, to reach a snow couloir which accesses the summit.

Besides the original Japanese ascent, a notable ascent of the North Ridge was the one in 1990 by Greg Child, Greg Mortimer, and Steve Swenson, which was done alpine style
Alpine style
Alpine style refers to mountaineering in a self-sufficient manner, thereby carrying all of one's food, shelter, equipment etc. as one climbs, as opposed to expedition style mountaineering which involves setting up a fixed line of stocked camps on the mountain which can be accessed at one's leisure...

 above Camp 2, though using some fixed rope
Fixed rope
Fixed rope is the practice of fixing in place bolted ropes to assist climbers and walkers in exposed mountain locations. They are used widely on American and European climbing routes but disdained by purist mountaineers. Many guided expeditions to any of the eight-thousanders normally set up fixed...

s already put in place by a Japanese team.

Other routes


  • Northeast Ridge (long and corniced; finishes on uppermost part of Abruzzi route), 1978.
  • West Ridge, 1981.
  • Southwest Pillar or "Magic Line", very technical, and second most demanding. First climbed in 1986 by the Polish-Slovak trio Piasecki-Wróż-Božik. Since then the Catalan Jordi Corominas was the only successful climber on this route, despite many other attempts.
  • South Face or "Polish Line" (extremely exposed and most dangerous). In 1986, Jerzy Kukuczka
    Jerzy Kukuczka
    Jerzy Kukuczka , born in Katowice, Poland, was a Polish alpine and high-altitude climber. On 18 September 1987, he became the second man, after Reinhold Messner, to climb all fourteen eight-thousanders in the world....

     and Tadeusz Piotrowski
    Tadeusz Piotrowski (mountaineer)
    Tadeusz Piotrowski was a Polish mountaineer and author of several books related to the subject. He has been referred to as "perhaps the finest winter mountaineer of his day".-Career:...

     summitted on this route. Piotrowski was killed while descending. Reinhold Messner
    Reinhold Messner
    Reinhold Messner is an Italian mountaineer and explorer from Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol "whose astonishing feats on Everest and on peaks throughout the world have earned him the status of the greatest climber in history." He is renowned for making the first solo ascent of Mount Everest without...

     called it a suicidal route and no one has repeated their achievement. "The route is so avalanche-prone, that no one else has ever considered a new attempt."
  • Northwest Face, 1990.
  • Northwest Ridge (finishing on North Ridge). First ascent in 1991.
  • South-southeast spur or "Cesen route" (finishing on Abruzzi route — possibly safer alternative to the Abruzzi Spur, because it avoids Black Pyramid, the first big obstacle on Abruzzi), 1994.
  • West Face, technical difficulty at high altitude, first climbed by Russian team in 2007

Use of bottled oxygen


For most of its climbing history, K2 was not usually climbed with bottled oxygen, and small, relatively lightweight teams were the norm. However the 2004 season saw a great increase in the use of oxygen: 28 of 47 summiteers used oxygen in that year.

Acclimatisation is essential when climbing without oxygen to avoid some degree of altitude sickness
Altitude sickness
Altitude sickness—also known as acute mountain sickness , altitude illness, hypobaropathy, or soroche—is a pathological effect of high altitude on humans, caused by acute exposure to low partial pressure of oxygen at high altitude...

. K2's summit is well above the altitude at which high altitude pulmonary edema
High Altitude Pulmonary Edema
High altitude pulmonary edema is a life-threatening form of non-cardiogenic pulmonary edema that occurs in otherwise healthy mountaineers at altitudes typically above ....

 (HAPE), or high altitude cerebral edema
High altitude cerebral edema
High altitude cerebral edema is a severe form of altitude sickness. HACE is the result of swelling of brain tissue from fluid leakage and almost always begins as acute mountain sickness...

 (HACE) can occur. In mountaineering
Mountaineering
Mountaineering or mountain climbing is the sport, hobby or profession of hiking, skiing, and climbing mountains. While mountaineering began as attempts to reach the highest point of unclimbed mountains it has branched into specialisations that address different aspects of the mountain and consists...

, when ascending above an altitude of 8,000 meters, the climber enters what is known as the "death zone."

In the media



Films

  • Vertical Limit
    Vertical Limit
    Vertical Limit is a 2000 thriller action film directed by New Zealander Martin Campbell starring, among others, Chris O'Donnell, Bill Paxton, Robin Tunney and Scott Glenn...

    , 2000
  • K2
    K2 (film)
    K2 is a 1991 motion picture loosely based on the story of two friends' ascent of the second-highest mountain on Earth, K2. The story is based on a play written and presented as a senior-thesis at Stanford University. These roles were played by Michael Biehn and Matt Craven...

    , 1991
  • Karakoram & Himalayas, 2007

See also



External links