K2: The World’s Second Highest but Most Unforgiving Summit

The K2 mountain-top is the second highest mountain peak in the world, second only to the Mount Everest. It has a total height of 8,611 meters and is part of the Karakorum Range of mountains, the highest point of this range being the summit of K2. The mountain is renowned the world over for its grandeur and attraction to climbers, many of whom are simply obsessed with the idea of climbing K2 to satiate their appeal for climbing. Some climbers even return to climb it again as if one climb of K2 was not enough for them. They come back to satisfy their monumental and ever-young interest in climbing dangerous peaks, of the likes of K2.

Choice of Border Side for Climbing K2

Geographically, K2 is located on the Pak-China border. It is said that relatively, it is much more difficult to try and climb K2 from the Chinese side of the border. As a result, most of the climbers pick and choose the Pakistani side of the border to climb this mighty mountain. This is because all the major climbing routes to K2 lie on the Pakistani side.

Interestingly, it is also believed to be the case that this snow-peaked mountain is always climbed during the summer season. Such are the dangers posed by the winter season to climbers, that to-date, K2 has NEVER been climbed during the winter season!

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Total Length of the K2 Death Zone

In mountain climbing, any area of a mountain that is higher than 8,000 meters is called the death zone. So K2 has a death zone that is 611m on the ascent and descent each, and therefore a total length of 1222 meters. It is resultantly a very treacherous and difficult campaign to reach K2 and travel back to the base camp safely and soundly, no question about that.

Wickedness of the K2 Mountain Exposed to Climbers

In line with it being the second highest peak on the planet, K2 also holds the record for being the second most wicked mountain in the world! This is because it maintains the second highest fatality rate for climbers for any peak climbed.

The savagery of K2 is well-known to climbers, who on their part would definitely think a hundred times before finally deciding to climb the unforgiving K2! Initially, it was thought of that it was impossible to climb K2. This was because hundreds of people tried climbing it but died while trying. As against this scenario, Mount Everest, which is the highest peak in the entire world, was already conquered by the time that mountaineers were still trying to conquer the unforgiving K2! This gives an idea of the kind of rugged and unforgiving terrain that K2 has, relative even to higher peaks than its own.

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First Climb of the Mighty K2 Mountain Peak

Ultimately, K2 was climbed for the very first time in 1954, assuming the authentic nature of records available for this climb. According to the statistics, the first human attempt to climb K2 was made in 1902 while the first success came more than fifty years later in 1954!

That’s a huge amount of effort and casualties that man has had to pay for it to make its debut landing up on the K2 summit.

Contrast this compensation with the effort that took to land on the moon, maybe that was relatively easier!

K2’s Particular Dislike of the Female Gender!

Sad but interesting at the same time, K2, seems to have a particular dislike for women climbers, at least that is what historical records point towards. There were a number of deaths reported of female climbers who tried to reach the top of the K2. In between the period 1986-2004, it is reported that only five [5] women climbers were able to reach the summit with success. Out of these five [5], three [3] women climbers died while descending back to the base camp while the remaining two [2] reached the camp but died soon afterwards! It was as if the K2 Mountain had an abhorrence for women climbers and was unhappy at the peak being climbed by the female sex!

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Host of Names Ascribed to the World’s Second Highest Peak

There are a number of names with which the second highest peak of the world is addressed, the most notable of them being K2. The name K2 was assigned to the mountain when the Britons conducted what was known as the Great Trigonometric Survey of India. As part of this survey, all the different peaks surveyed in the Karakorum Range were given names to make matters easier.

Thomas Montgomerie, the man in-charge of the survey is said to be the person who named the peak that is today known as K2 since he found it to be the second most pronounced peak in the Range. The other one was understandably named as K1; the K in K2 standing for Karakorum.

It is said that before the mountain was designated the name K2, it was also suggested that it be named as Mount Godwin-Austen after an explorer of the area in the early days after its discovery. However, due to reasons unknown, that name was dropped from being finalized and being approved.

However, there are many other terms which are also names of this same K2 Mountain but with which the world is not much familiar with.

One such name is Chogori, which is a local name and is actually a combination of two terms of the local dialect. Chogo means big and Ri means mountain. So combined and translated into English this visibly means Big Mountain. No doubt, K2 is big, by any standard, by any culture!

In Urdu, the National Language of Pakistan, Lamba Pahar is another term used to describe it, which simply means Tall Mountain in English.

Multiple Routes for climbing up to K2’s Summit

There are multiple routes which are used by expert climbers to reach the summit of K2. All the major routes and the base camp are situated on Pakistan’s side of the border, which is the southern side of K2. The major routes are known as follows:

  • West Ridge
  • West Face
  • Southwest Pillar
  • South Face
  • South-southeast Spur
  • Abruzzi Spur

The choice of route depends upon a climber’s acumen regarding the best possible combination of factors that affect climbers at each of the different routes. This is because the choices available are all very harsh and cold!

Common Problems Faced by Climbers on All Major Routes to the Summit

Some of the major factors that affect and are experienced by all climbers, no matter which route they choose to climb K2, are as follows.

One is the extremely high altitude for climbing relatively to other peaks, which is a very dangerous thing for any climber to get himself into. Not only is this high altitude dangerous but that this is also the primary reason for the lack of oxygen that is available to climbers on the route. Some are of the opinion that the amount of oxygen available to climbers on either of the routes to the summit is a third part of the amount of oxygen a person can breathe at the level of the sea.

Lack of oxygen can become a major problem on K2 Mountain as the mountain is said to pose a severe case of low oxygen availability for climbers. However, climbers never decided to use secondary sources of oxygen while climbing K2. It is only since 2004 that climbers have started using oxygen cylinders to aid them when the supply of oxygen drops drastically on their way to the K2 summit. Ever since then, the use of oxygen has become quite a norm for K2 climbers.

In addition to that, K2 has an inclination of having extreme storms that last for days in a row. What this results in is casualties for the climbers involved. This is understandably because of the fact that if storms are severe and their severity continues for days, then the chances for climbers of surviving such natural calamities are very low.

Furthermore, the routes leading up to the K2 summit are all very steep, which means than it is much more difficult to descend on them than it is to ascend. So if there is any storm for instance, as there usually is, then it is one hell of an exercise for climbers to descend K2 as the probability of death is manifold higher down the slope.

Hollywood’s Vertical Limit [2000]

Vertical Limit is a Hollywood movie directed by Martin Campbell that was released in 2000. Its story-line is based on the ascent of a family of climbers on K2 and other Himalayan mountains from the Pakistani side. Some of the lead roles in the movie were played by Chris O’Donnell, Robin Tunney, Bill Paxton, Scott Glenn and Izabella Scorupco.

Vertical Limit [2000] was an encapsulating movie and it thrilled the audiences for a full 124 minutes on-screen. The movie showed how some climbers lost their lives while trying to climb the “so-difficult-to-climb-K2”, some because of overload on the climbing rope, yet others because of infighting amongst the climbers, while the rest because of a loss of medicines and rations.

The movie had a budget of $75 million and was very popular and successful at the time it was released. According to Vertical Limit box office numbers, it collected $215,663,859 as revenues from its screening. It maintains a current rating of 5.9 points out of 10 on imdb.com.

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