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K2 Overview

Situated in the heart of the Karakoram Range, towering over the Chinese-Pakistani border, K2 is the second tallest mountain in the world and one of the toughest to climb.

With its distinctive and steep pyramidal peak, K2 rises above a small concentration of 8,000-metre (26,200-foot) peaks, all of which are located within a radius of 21 kilometres (13 miles) – the largest concentration of the 8,000ers anywhere on Earth.

Due to its remote location in the heart of Asia, getting to K2 requires a considerable effort. As a result, only a few hundred climbers have successfully made it to the summit. 

The peak, which is considerably tougher to climb than Mount Everest, is also one of the deadliest 8,000ers, with roughly one fatality for every four climbers that make it to the top.

Quick Facts about K2

  • The vast majority of ascents of K2 take place on the Pakistani side of the border. This side of the peak is slightly less remote and there are fewer obstacles to cross, which makes it more popular for trekkers as well.
  • Like K2, the rest of the peaks in the Karakoram Range received similar names, but eventually these were dropped and the local ones remained. However, the locals had not named K2, so the British designation stood.
  • In spite of numerous attempts to do so, no one has managed to climb K2 during the winter. The closest was a Polsish attempt in 2002/03, which made it to 7,650 metres (25,000 feet), but had to turn back due to the weather.

History of K2

K2 was first seen by Westerners in 1856 during Thomas George Montgomerie’s survey of the Indian subcontinent for the British army. He named the peak K2, with the K standing for Karakoram followed by a number.

The first attempt to climb the peak came in 1902, when Oscar Eckenstein (credited with inventing the crampon) made it to roughly 6,000 metres (20,000 feet) on the northeast ridge before having to turn back. Several other attempts were made in the decades following as well. 

The summit of K2 was finally reached for the first time on July 31, 1954 by the Italian climbers, Lino Lacedelli and Achille Compagnoni. Their Italian expedition climbed up via the Abruzzi Spur, which remains the most commonly taken route.

Experience Required for Climbing K2 

K2 is widely considered to be the toughest 8000er to climb in the world and one of the toughest mountains to summit, in general. 

Regardless of the route that is taken, climbers will need to employ a mix of rock, ice and snow climbing on exposed ridge lines at high altitude.

Since most of the climbing takes place at very high altitude, climbers need to spend a couple of weeks acclimatising on the mountain before making the final summit push.

The amount of time required to climb adds to the challenge due to the relatively volatile weather experienced by the region. K2 is notorious for being on the receiving end of days-long storms that arrive on the mountain very quickly and create very dangerous conditions.

Main Routes up K2 

Overall, there is one main route up to the summit of K2 and seven others. The Abruzzi Spur, which was the first route to be successfully climbed, accounts for roughly 75 percent of the climbers who head to the summit of K2.

Located on the southeast ridge of the peak, the ascent up the spur begins at about 5,400 metres (17,700 feet) and follows a series of rock ribs, snow and ice fields and two technical rock climbing portions – the House's Chimney and the Black Pyramid. 

After climbing the latter of these two features, climbers reach an exposed ridge, which they will follow on to the summit. The last major obstacle is a narrow couloir that climbers traverse before making the final ascent up to the very top.

Away from the Abruzzi Spur, the South-southeast spur is the second most popular route. The route is considered slightly easier than the Abruzzi Spur and ascends a pillar adjacent to the route before meeting up with it on the shoulder above the Black Pyramid. 

Other routes to the top, all of which are far more rarely climbed and generally more difficult and dangerous, include: the north ridge, the northeast ridge, the west ridge, the southwest pillar, the south face, the northwest face, the northwest ridge and the west face.

Useful information about K2, Pakistan

Height: 8,611 m (28,251 ft)

Weather: During the climbing season, average daily temperatures at the base of K2 hover around 20 ºC (68 ºF). These drop to well below freezing as elevation is gained. Summer is also the wettest time of year on K2, with around 15 millimeters (0.6 inches) of precipitation falling each month.

Peak Climbing Season: June to September

Summit Window: June to September

Average Expedition Length: 8 to 9 weeks

Accepted Currencies: Pakistani rupee (PKR)

Language: English, Urdu

How To Get To K2

The vast majority of trips to K2 begin with a flight into Islamabad International Airport (ISB). From here, most guides will meet with participants and transfer to Skardu. From Skardu, it takes about 10 days of driving and trekking to get to base camp.

Your travel route will vary depending on the expedition you choose. Please refer to the individual guides expeditions for more information.

K2 Equipment list coming soon.

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