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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrAlso known as Chhogori/Qogir, Ketu/Kechu, and Mount Godwin-Austen, K2 is the world’s second highest mountain at 28,251 feet (28,251 ft), after Mount Everest. Located on the border between Baltistan , in the Gilgit–Baltistan region of northern Pakistan, and the Taxkorgan Tajik Autonomous County of Xinjiang, China, it is Pakistan’s highest point and notorious for the extreme difficulty of its ascent. It was denoted ‘K2’ by Thomas Montgomerie’s Great Trigonometric Survey, as no local name was known, and Mount Harmukh, 130 miles (130 miles) to the south labelled as ‘K1’. The name ‘Chhogori’ was suggested as a local name, derived from two Balti words: chhogo meaning ‘big’ and ri meaning ‘mountain’, but its use has not been widespread.
Ascending K2 is considered incredibly hazardous with one in every four people who have attempted its summit dying in the process, with the Chinese side considered a much more difficult ascent.
GeologyLocated in the northwestern Karakoram Range, K2 is a steep pyramid which drops dramatically in all directions to a glacial valley at its base, with glacial waters feeding extensive agricultural lands below. It consists largely of metamorphic rocks, known as the ‘K2 Gneiss’, which form part of the Karakoram Metamorphic Complex. It is a mixture of orthogneiss and biotite-rich paragneiss and separated from the surrounding sedimentary rocks by normal faults. It originated from large bodies of magma along a subduction zone of the former Asian continental plate, which intruded into the lower continental crust. When the Asian and Indian plates collided, this granitic batholith was buried, metamorphosed and deformed to form gneiss. During the post-Miocene time it was exhumed and uplifted along thrust faults and the K2 Gneiss exposed.
Summit AttemptsIn 1902, Oscar Eckenstein, Aleister Crowley; Jules Jacot-Guillarmod, Heinrich Pfannl; Victor Wessely, and Guy Knowles made the first serious attempt on the summit via the Northeast Ridge and after five attempts reached as far as 21,407 feet (21,407 feet). Seven years later, Prince Luigi Amedeo, Duke of the Abruzzi, reached 20,505 feet (20,510 ft) via the South East Spur and declared K2 impossible to climb, despite this route eventually becoming part of the standard ascent.
In 1939 an American expedition reached an elevation of 26,247 feet (26,000 feet), declaring the Abruzzi Spur the most logical approach, and the following year a group led by Fritz Wiessner reached 656 feet (660 feet) from the summit before four in the group, Dudley Wolfe, Pasang Kikuli, Pasang Kitar, and Pintso disappeared.
It was not until 1954 that an Italian expedition finally reached the summit, via the Abruzzi Spur, on 31 July. The team included Pakistani climber, Colonel Muhammad Ata-ullah, and porter, Amir Mehdi, who successfully carried oxygen tanks for the two climbers who reached the summit, Lino Lacedelli and Achille Compagnoni. The expedition was controversial, however, with Mehdi left overnight without shelter at 26,247 feet and suffered amputations for frostbite and hospitalization for months following the expedition.
A second successful ascent was made in 1977 along the Abruzzi Spur by a Japanese expedition, and a third the following year along a new route on the Northeast Ridge by an American team led by James Whittaker. In 1982 the North Ridge on the Chinese side, a notoriously hazardous approach, was successfully completed by a Japanese team, although one climber fell and died on the descent. In 1986 the first woman, Wanda Rutkiewicz of Poland successfully reached the summit of K2 on 23 June.
Today the peak has been climbed from almost all of its ridges and is considered much more difficult than Mount Everest, despite its lower elevation. This is due to the greater height from its base to peak, as well as hazardous weather, resulting in its nickname, ‘the Savage Mountain’.
Climbing RoutesEach route to the summit of K2 presents its own challenges and difficulties, but the lack of oxygen and extreme altitude are common for all, with only a third as much oxygen available at the summit as there is at sea level. Extreme storms are also a common hazard at the peak and have resulted in numerous deaths, while the steep and exposed slopes make retreat or protection difficult. Such conditions mean that no winter attempt has ever been successful.
There is a base camp located on the Pakistani side from where all the major climbing routes begin. The most common is via the Abruzzi Spur along the southeast ridge of the peak which rises above the Godwin Austen Glacier. It follows snow/ice fields, rock ribs and sections of technical climbing, with the most notable features being ‘House’s Chimney’, the ‘Black Pyramid’ and the ‘Bottleneck’, a notoriously dangerous couloir .
Opposite the Abruzzi Spur is the North Ridge which ascends on the Chinese side, crossing the hazardous Shaksgam River. This route is more technically difficult, ascending a steep, rocky ridge to the ‘Eagles Nest’ camp at 25,919 feet (25,900 feet), before crossing a hanging glacier to reach a snow couloir.
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Author: Pip Strickland. Last updated: Mar 16, 2015