Kathmandu, January 18
Nepalese mountaineers created history by scaling K2, the second highest peak of the world, for the first time during the winter season, the company which organised the expedition said.
The group of sherpas had paused at a point 70 metres short of the 8,611 metre (28,251 foot) peak to wait for each other before climbing into the world’s history books together at 4:56 pm.
Located on the Pakistan China border, K2 is the only mountain over 8,000 metres that had not been summitted in the winter.
The group were named as Nirmal Purja, Gelje Sherpa, Mingma David Sherpa, Mingma G, Sona Sherpa, Mingma Tenzi Sherpa, Pem Chhiri Sherpa, Dawa Temba Sherpa, Kili Pemba Sherpa, and Dawa Tenjing Sherpa.
Their success was marred by the death on the mountain of renowned Spanish climber Sergio Mingote, who fell down a crevasse as he attempted to make his way down to Base Camp, Karrar Haidri, secretary of the Alpine Club of Pakistan, told Reuters.
“We did it, believe me we did it—a journey to the summit never done before. The Karakorum’s ‘Savage Mountain’ been summited in most dangerous season: Winter. Nepalese climbers finally reached the summit of Mt. K2 (Chhogori 8,611 m) this afternoon at 17:00 local time,” the company, Seven Summit Treks, said in a tweet on Saturday evening.
Speaking to Xinhua news agency, Karar Haidari, Secretary General of Alpine Club of Pakistan, a non-governmental organization working for promotion of mountaineering and adventure tourism in Pakistan, said the 10-member Nepalese team was the first one to reach the summit of 8,611 metres in winter.
A total of 48 mountaineers including five women reached the mountain’s base camp to kick off the expedition on December 29, 2020, out of which five were injured and many others returned due to tough weather at the peak, he said.
Around 49 climbers in several teams are on K2 making attempts on the summit, weather permitting.
“Dismayed by the news of the accident that has ended the life of a magnificent athlete,” Spain’s Minister of Health Salvador Illa wrote on Twitter, describing Mingote as “a personal friend.” Mingote, 49, had climbed seven mountains over 8,000 meters without supplemental oxygen in less than two years.
First climbed in 1954 by Italian Achille Compagnoni, K2 is notorious for its sleep slopes and high winds, and in winter its surface becomes slick ice.
Talking about the reason for the mountain being the only major peak not scaled in winter, Haidari said that it is the deadliest among the five highest peaks in the world and that on average one in every four dies on the way to the summit even in summer during which it has been scaled multiple times.
“It is the highest point of the Karakoram, which is very steep and in winter the temperature here falls below minus 50 degrees Celsius. Extremely cold weather coupled with winds at the speed of 100-200 km per hour makes it the most challenging expedition in the world for mountaineers,” he said.
Haidari said that last year only two to three expeditions came to Pakistan during the whole year due to worldwide Covid-19 lockdowns.
He added that the adventure tourism restarted by the end of last year and is expected to return to normal in the new year which started with the good news of scaling the K2.
The K2 is located on the China–Pakistan border between in the Gilgit-Baltistan region of northern Pakistan, and Dafdar Township in Taxkorgan Tajik Autonomous County of Xinjiang, China.
It is the highest point of the Karakoram mountain range and the highest point in both Pakistan and Xinjiang.
Of the 367 people that had completed its ascent by 2018, 86 had died. The Pakistani military is regularly called in to rescue climbers using helicopters but the weather often makes that difficult.
The previous highest altitude achieved on K2 in winter was 7,750 meters by Denis Urubko and Marcin Kaczkan, set nearly two decades ago.
The coronavirus pandemic had meant restrictions on travel severely impacted the traditional summer mountaineering season in the Karakoram range and Pakistan in particular, which is home to five of the world’s 14 peaks over 8,000 metres. — IANS/Reuters