K2 ( 1954 – 2004 ) - Happy Anniversary
Everest, the tallest, is the focus of world’s adventure enthusiasts as every year scores of climbers scale this peak. As the season of climbing closes down in Nepal due to a different monsoon and weather system, another drama, the climbing in savage mountains of Pakistan starts. The summer is the prime season as the area is considered outside the monsoon belt. Among the world’s famous and alluring peaks, K2 stands in Karakorams as the lone guardian ( K stands for Karakorams and the name was given while making initial survey, however the local Balti name of the mountain is Chogori ).
K2 ( 8611m ), the second highest mountain on earth and the tallest in Pakistan is considered as one of the greatest challenges in the world. This beautiful mountain of pyramid shape is known as " the Savage Mountain ". Though a little less in height as compared to Mount Everest, K2 is considered as one of the three deadliest mountains i.e. K2, Nanga Parbat and Annapurna. The challenge to climb K2 makes it a dream of every mountaineer of world. The following statistics shows the grade of difficulty and the success rate on K2 as it has been climbed by 240 mountaineers so far, while the number of climbers scaled Everest crosses the figure of 2000.
It is an interesting saying that on scaling Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak, you become a great climber but climbing K2 means you are a true climber in the eyes of professionals and experts.
After a long research and exploration work, the height of mountains in the world was determined and it was confirmed that there are fourteen peaks in the world, which measure above 8000 meters. China owns one, while Nepal has the greatest share of 8 while Pakistan is gifted with five, i.e. Gasherbrum 2, 8035m, Broad Peak, 8047m, Gasherbrum 1, 8068m, Nanga Parbat, 8125m and K2 at 8611, the highest in Pakistan. Nanga Parbat is situated in the Himalayas, while rest all 8000 meters high peaks in Pakistan are in Karakorams and clustered around Concordia. This place Concordia is the confluence of Baltoro and Godwin Austen glaciers, where many other smaller glaciers, like Biarchedi, Vigne, West Gasherbrum, Broad and Khalkhal also meet here. Martin Conway was the first person who explored this area in 1892 and gave it the name Concordia, after a place in Paris " de la concorde ".
The Karakoram peaks were first sighted in 1856 by Thomas G. Montgomery of Grand Trignometrical Survey of India. He labeled the peaks as K1 and K2 etc, standing at the top of Haramukh Peak in the Pir Panjal at a distance of some 220 kilometers from K2
( the name K1 was given to a less high peak i.e. Masherbrum at 7821 meters ). Two years later, in 1858 K2 was measured as 8622 meters from a vantage point on Deosai Plateau, above Skardu. In 1860, the peak was again measured by Haversham Godwin-Austen and he announced the height as 8611 meters, which is accepted till this date
( please find the latest measurement at the end of the article ).
The height and the shape of K2 was a challenge to genuine climbers and by the start of the last century, a struggle was started to scale the peak among climbers and countries.
CLIMBING HISTORY IN BRIEF
The first attempt to climb K2 in record was made by an International Austro-Swiss Expedition in 1902, led by an Austrian, Oskar Ekenstein. The climbers reached up the Windy Gap ( a col / depression on the shoulder of K2 ) at 6444m. Though they failed to climb the peak but they succeeded in reconnoitering the approaches to the peak.
In 1909, an Italian team under the leadership of the Duke of Abruzzi, Luigi Amedeo Savoia arrived in Baltoro region. This expedition was succeeded in indicating the possible route leading to the top. In fact, the Duke of Abruzzi opened the way to the south-east ridge, which later acquired the name of Abruzzi Ridge. He also prepared the detailed map of the glaciers around K2.
In 1938, Dr. Charles Houston came with a team of six climbers from America. One of the members, Petzoldt reached to 8079m., which was the highest point reached on K2 at that time.
In 1938, Americans attempted the mountain again and climbed to 8387m. They were close to success when Pasang Lama ( a Sherpa member from Nepal ) declined to proceed further. Fritz E. Wiessner, the leader of the party and a strong climber, was quite disappointed as an excellent opportunity of success was missed. He never had another chance and wrote in his account “What you may be offered in a moment all eternity will never give you back.”
In 1953, Dr. Charles Houston made another valiant attempt. From Pakistan, Mr. Attaullah joined the party as an observer. They reached to 7774m. but one of their members, Aurther Gilkey ( popularly known as Art Gilkey ), fell ill. The climbing program was stopped and it was decided to get him down. On the way down, his body vanished in an avalanche and never found again. The expedition was abandoned and retreated. At base camp a memorial was erected after his name, which is now a burial place of climbers.
ITALIANS ON K2 IN 1954
Keeping in view a long history of failures and desperation, Prof. Ardit Desio of Italy, selected a fifteen members team of top class climbers. Attaullah was again invited to join the team as a doctor ( m/s Basheer, Butt and Muneer were other Pakistani members with the expedition in various capacities ). This was a huge and well equipped expedition.
Prof. Ardit Desio, basically a scientist and a research scholar, made superb preparations for a massive expedition. Five hundred porters were hired to carry the equipment to the base camp of K2 while ten high altitude porters were also engaged to help on higher camps. A winch machine was also used to ferry the loads on lower camps.
In the first month, four camps were established and ropes were fixed for the safe return even in bad weather or in a blizzard. Everything was working perfectly and climbers were hoping to reach the summit, but on 21st. June suddenly a news reached at the base camp that Mario Puchoz has died. Everyone was astonished on this unbelievable news as Puchoz was the robust among all and he was the most favorite for the summit bid. According to the details, in the noon Puchoz suddenly fell ill and went to his tent. The expedition doctor was at the same camp and looked after him. Till the evening, he got a severe attack of pneumonia, the doctor gave him Oxygen and penicillin but in the midnight he expired. At this crucial stage, his death was a severe blow to the party but the team decided that the best tribute for their friend could be their success to reach the top. Further, there was another setback that a heavy snow storm started and his dead body was blocked in camp II for 5 days, however when the weather became clear, his body was brought down and buried near the memorial of Art Gilky.
Weather again turned bad and the team started to suspend their attempt till autumn but unexpectedly there was a spell of good weather observed. On 28th. July, camp 8 was established and two climbers Achille Compagnoni and Lino Lacedelli stayed their. Conditions were uncertain but this was their last chance so they had to do their best. When they were close to summit, they ran short of supply of supplemented gas. The lack of a single cylinder of Oxygen or a single day's ration could prove failure. Mehdi and Walter Bonatti did a great job at that crucial time. They started climbing from camp VII with five other companions, but their partners failed to climb up and returned and only Mehdi & Bonatti kept on climbing. Their movement was restricted due to the fall of night. They dug a hole in ice and spent the night there. During their brilliant effort, Mehdi's fingers of both feet were destroyed because of frost bite. However they supplied the Oxygen to the summit climbers and this was the greatest share in the climbing bid.
ACHILLE COMPAGNONI & LINO LACEDELLI ATOP K2
On 31st. July after receiving a stock of Oxygen, Compagnoni & Lacedelli left the camp at 5:00 in the morning and after a continuous hard climb of 13 hours and a great struggle, they reached atop at 6:30 in evening. It was a great moment in the history of mountaineering and the greatest challenge was completed.
On climbing K2 by Italians, a controversy started. It was announced that the final ascent made by Lino Lacedelli and Achille Compagnoni was made without using supplemented Oxygen. But in the account of expedition details, it is mentioned that Walter Bonatti and the Hunza porter Mehdi, supplied Oxygen to Lino and Achille. Later on Bonatti printed his book “ The Mountains of My Life" and included a photograph of Lino and Achille wearing Oxygen masks on the summit.
Another point which made the confusion was the names of climbers which were not released until the return of the expedition.
Later on several people climbed the savage mountain and many perished while climbing in the past history of fifty years.
ITALIANS AGAIN FOCUS ON K2 AFTER 50 YEARS
Successfully climbing K2 in 1954, the Italians in commemoration the 50th anniversary of K2’s first ascent, have arranged two teams to scale K2 from Pakistan and China side.
K2 IN 2004
Since 2001, there is no success on K2 and the year 2004 also started with an immediate tragedy when three South Korean climbers were perished in an avalanche. The accident was followed by 5 porters drowned in a stream while carrying luggage of a climbing team.
These tragedies were followed by a spell of bad weather and the onwards weather forecast was also discouraging. However the Italian team kept on proceeding even in bad weather to make a summit bid, hoping the improvement in weather. The Italian team was divided in two groups. The large one for the South side and the smaller for North side. The both groups include famous Italian lady climbers named Nadia Tiraboschi and Nives Meroi, respectively in each team.
DOUBTS, FEARS AND VICTORY
Due to bad weather and previous year’s bad record, it was considered that there may not be any success, this year as well. On July 26th. the doubts proved wrong, when the news struck that Italian climbers Silvio Mondinelli and Karl Unterkircher repeated the story of Lino and Achille after 50 years. About 45 minutes later, Walter Nones, Michele Compagnoni, and Ugo Giacomelli also reached the summit. Michele Compagnoni, the grandson of Achille Compagnoni got the feat and paid tribute to his grand father and what a magnificent tribute, it is!
The history of success on K2 is not finished as Lino Lacedelli was also there with his team including his family members as well. The Italian team on North side summited K2 in next two days when Marco Da Pozzo, Mario Dibona, Renato Sottsass, Renzo Benedett, Luciano Zardini and Mario Lacedelli stood atop K2. Lino must be proud of his nephew, Mario Lacedelli. What a lucky moment it would be, when after fifty years another Compagnoni and Lacedelli again stood on the top of K2. Might be an incarnation? or the time stood still or the history repeated itself? The K2 must have bowed in the honour of those climbers of 1954 and allowed the young Lacedelli and Compagnoni to pave their way to success.
K2 ENJOYS ITS ANNIVERSARY
In 1996, there were 29 climbers on K2 summit and it was the highest number of climbers on K2. Eleven climbers reached the summit on 14th. August, again a record which is just broken by 51 summiteers and 14 in a single day. It seems that K2 is also enjoying its anniversary and had finally opened its arms to welcome the brave and epic climbers.
PAKISTANI CLIMBERS ON K2
In the climbing history of K2, there are only four Pakistani climbers who have the honor of reaching the summit in the phase of last fifty years. They are Ashraf Aman, Nazir Sabir, Rajab Shah and Meharban Shah.
Ashraf Aman is the first Pakistani to achieve the great feat to climb K2 while climbing with a Pak/Japan team. He reached atop on 9th. August 1977. In 1982, he was awarded President’s Award for Pride of Performance ( sports ).
Nazir Sabir is the most famous name among Pakistani mountaineers. On 7th. August 1981, he reached the summit as a member of Pak/Japan team. In 1982, he was awarded President’s Award for Pride of Performance ( sports ). He is the only Pakistani, who has climbed Mount Everest as well.
Rajab Shah climbed K2 in 1995 with Dutch team of climbers. He is also the lone record holder from Pakistan to climb five eight thousand meters high peaks in Pakistan.
Meharban Shah has the honor to climb K2 in 1995 as a member of Dutch Expedition. Following his senior Rajab Shah, he reached on the top K2 to put his name in the list of Pakistani mountaineers to climb K2.
STOP PRESS / MORE PAKISTANI CLIMBERS ON K2
Although Pakistan is blesses with some of the greatest mountain in the world but so far there were only four climbers who has scaled the peak in last 50 years. In 2004, the Pakistani climbers have made a rich contribution and following are reported to climb the K2 ( the information is taken from websites and other sources ).
||Name of Climber
||Date of Climb
- In 2004, K2 is climbed as the maximum climbers reached the summit in one season ( 51 climbers )
- In 2004, K2 is climbed by the maximum number of climbers in a single day ( 14 )
- Juanito Oiarzbal, now bags twenty one, 8000 meters ascents, the most main mountains summits ever
- Juanito Oiarzbal becomes the 3rd. person to climb K2 twice, the other climbers are, Sherpa Jangbu and Joseph Rakoncaj
- Edurne Pasaban is the sixth women climber to scale K2 ( She is the only woman to climb four of five highest mountains on earth and also the only K2 climber woman alive )
- Silvio Mondinelli is the 14th. person to climb Top 3 without Oxygen i.e. Everest, K2 and Lanchenjunga
- Karl Unterkircher has climbed Everest & K2 without Oxygen in only two months and two days
- Carlos Soria becomes the oldest person to summit K2 at the age of 65
- Columbia, Romania and China first time climbed K2 in 2004
- Michele Compagnoni & Mario Lacedelli traced foot steps of Achille Compagnoni and Lino Lacedelli after 50 years
- 5 Pakistani climbers reached the summit making the list of Pakistani climber on K2 to 9
LADY CLIMBERS ON K2
There are several female climbers who have climbed Mount Everest ( the first one was Junko Tabei of Japan ). In comparison there are only six names of women who scaled the peak of K2. Three of them died while climbing down to base camp. Two others were died on other mountains, later on, so there is only one female climber alive who has summited K2. The lady climber from Basque / Spain, Edurne Pasaban is the one who has climbed the peak in this record breaking season. However the updated list is as follows,
||Name of Climber
||Date of Climb
||Rutkiewicz Wanda - Poland
||Barrard Liliane - France
||Tullis Julie - UK
||Mauduit Chantal - France
||Hargreaves Alison - UK
||Pasaban Edurne - Spain
We may expect the increase in this small list as the Italian legendary lady climber Nives Meroi (43), is also there on K2 with his husband Romano Benet and another climber Luca. They have chosen the route of North which was last climbed in 1996 and have never been climbed by a female climber. Her outstanding climbing career includes a grand slam success in the Karakorams when she climbed GI, GII and Broad Peak in only 20 days and this year she has already climbed Lhotse (8516m) in Nepal.
According to the latest information, four Japanese climbed the K2 and Jordi Corominas made a valiant attempt as he reached atop solo following the Magic Line, a dream route of climbers. His fellow climber Manel de Matta, died at camp 1 while retreating from camp 4. His family has decided to burry him at memorial at K2 base camp. A team of Pakistani climbers and HAPS will bring his body down to burry accordingly.
THE HEIGHT OF THE K2
In 1986, an American team under the leadership of Lowe Owence attempted K2 from China side. They reported that height of the K2 has been increased and now it measures, 8858 meters, that means 10 meters higher than Mt. Everest. When this news came to electronic and print media, a long discussion started among climbers and experts about its accuracy and authenticity. The official height of the mountain in the records is 8611 meters, which was measured in 1860 by Godwin-Austen.
In 1987, Prof. Ardit Desio, showed his interest to scale the mountain with latest equipment. The government of Pakistan granted him the permission and two Pakistani's were detailed with him from Survey of Pakistan. In the last week of August, the experts completed their job. Luckily weather was favoring them throughout and they took new measurement with modern equipment and with the help of 3 satellites.
In October 1987, Prof. Desio finally announced that Mt Everest is still the highest one and there is a little change in the height of K2. The new measurement is 8616, while the previous figure was 8611 meters. It was also announced by the then president of Alpine Club of Pakistan, Qamar Ali Mirza. This change has not been updated in the maps of Pakistan so far. The Ministry of tourism claims that this is the duty of Survey of Pakistan to update their maps and later on PTDC can put this height in their maps and brochures. The Survey of Pakistan and the Alpine Club of Pakistan, were contacted and they replied that they didn’t get the confirmation from Prof. Desio. Usually in such kind of projects, the local authorities restrict the researchers to submit a copy of their reports but after 17 years there are unable to find a copy of the report? Even now the Prof. Desio is expired??
However, the report was published and printed in Milan - Italy by Prof. Ardit Desio under the caption,
Which is the highest Mountain K2 or EverestReport CNR
This report in original print is available with the author and can be had for reference and to update the record.
TREKKING, K2 BASE CAMP
Apart from the climbing expeditions, the base camp track to K2 is one of the most favorite and challenging trekking routes in the world. As a prime choice of the epic adventure enthusiasts, it is considered as one of the most challenging, tough and lengthy treks in the world but the most rewarding as well, on the other hand.
Most of the famous writers, climbers and trekkers have expressed their comments on this trek. A brief but complete example is that of, Joe Taskar's, (a famous British climber) "as hard as anything, I have come across, which is not actually climbing."
After a struggle and exertion of several days while walking on Baltoro Glacier with scores of hidden and open crevasses, crossing fast flowing rivers and climbing up and down on several cliffs, subsequently, we arrive at Concordia and get the reward as the place is the most unique on earth.
Trekking route of Baltoro Glacier is guarded by the lofty peaks. Paiyu, Uli Biaho, Trango Group, Baltoro Cathedrals, Urduk Peak, Masherbrum, Mustagh Tower are few to name which we see along the route.
Once arrived at Concordia, the panorama is breathtaking. Most of the famous peaks of Karakoram range including four out of five eight thousanders are clustered here.
Broad Peak, Gasherbrums, Sia Kangri, Baltoro Kangri, Chogolisa, Mitre, Crystal, Marble, and Angel peaks surround the place headed by K2, ( also known as Godwin Austen or Shigori/Chogori ). Mountain of the mountains as described by the all time great Reinhold Messner, the view of K2 is captivating and the beauty of the mountain is unsurpassed.
Triumph and tragedy is the part of this place as some climbers return bagging new records in their ruck sacks while few pay the toll of in shape of their lives to climb this peak.
THE TREKKING ROUTE
Islamabad – Skardu – Askole
Askole – Korofong – Jhola – Bardumal – Paiyu – Khaburse – Urdukas – Goro 1 - Goro 2 – Concordia
From Concordia, one finds the superb view of K2, first time from ground. However to reach Concordia, the following route to be taken,
Concordia – Broad Peak Base Camp – K2 Base Camp
From Concordia, one can return to Askole, following to route of Baltoro Glacier, used while coming up. Another interesting but demanding option is to cross the Ghondoghoro La, a technical pass at 5650 meters, descending to Hushe Valley and onwards drive to Skardu via Khaplu.
The route is,
Concordia – Ali Camp – Kheuspang ( across the Ghondoghoro La ) – Dalsangpa Saistcho – Hushe
Hushe – Khaplu – Skardu – Islamabad.
For trekking to K2 base camp, popularly known as Concordia or Baltoro Trek, foreigners need to get a trekking permit from the ministry of tourism. However, no permission required for Pakistani national.
For trekking route, please see trekking map of Baltoro Region
For further details, please contact the author.
Text and photography ( few photographs are taken from website and old books ),
Tahir Imran Khan
0333-5128519 / Islamabad.
Email : email@example.com