While spring belongs to Everest, summer is all about K2. The second highest peak in the world always takes the central stage in July and August and this year has not been different. But it has been a season of record climbing on this formidable mountain, which seems to be going through a significant transformation.
Savage Tamed Mountain?
Since it was first reached in 1954, K2 has had the reputation of being a mountain. At 8610 meters (28,250 feet), the peak is only 238 meters (781 feet) shorter than Everest, but it is much harder to climb. The promotion is more pronounced and much more technical, which limited the number of climbers to complete that promotion to a few select for decades. While Everest has often been climbed by alpinists who did not consider themselves “elite”, K2 was always the realm of the best mountaineers in the world.
While the K2 tracks remain discouraging, there is no denial that the beak has been domed, at least to a certain extent. In recent years we have seen a growing number of commercial equipment on the mountain every summer, something that I had hardly heard a decade ago. And although it is not as crowded as Everest yet, this year’s numbers are visual opening. On July 22, 145 people reached the summit, completely breaking the previous record.
In a recent post, Adventure Journal helps put those numbers in perspective. Before the record day, approximately 500 people had assembled the mountain. But on July 22, that number rose more than 20%. The previous record of most summits for year—not a single day—it was 62. From this writing, 2022 will probably see about 200 total summits.
A couple of Sherpas made speed scales to the K2 summit. First, Mingma David Sherpa launched his ascent from the Base Camp and reached the top in 14 hours and 22 minutes. It is a quick climb and gave Mingma David his fifth successful mountain summit.
Meanwhile, Chhiring Sherpa raised his partner Nepali by making the same promotion more than two hours faster. It was from BC to the summit in just 12 hours and 20 minutes. That sets a new speed record for this incredibly difficult mountain, which has not been especially conducive to speed attempts in the past.
Denis Urubko Goes Solo
Ruso-Polish climber Denis Urubko jumped the crowds and made an individual summit of K2 on July 29. This was its 26th summit of a peak of 8000 meters without the use of additional oxygen, which links the current record of Juanito Oiarzabal. Urubko, who came out on his 49th birthday, now plans to go to Broad Peak, where he expects to get the promotion of the records.
Urubko is a legend in the climbing season of 8000 meters, but a few years ago, he announced his retirement from the big mountains. At that time, he said he wanted to focus on rock climbing and improve his skills on that sand. It seems that the attraction of the 8000-ers was too much for him, and it seems that he will close this record in the near future.
Two missing members
Not all the news from Pakistan has been good this summer. Two climbers in K2 lost their lives on the mountain, putting a toll on some of the achievements. According The Himalayan TimesCanadian Richard Cartier and Australian Matthew Eakin perished as they descended from an acclimatization rotation.
The two men — together with their third climber Justin Dube-Fahmy— had reached Camp 4 and were back to BC to rest in front of a summit push. During the descent there was an unspecified accident between Camp 1 and Camp 2. Cartier’s body was found later near C1, while Eakin was discovered near Advanced Base Camp.
Our condolences to friends, family members and climbers for their loss.
The commercial future of K2
With the continued success of commercial companies in K2, we expect more teams to reach Base Camp in the coming summers. It seems like Everest has found a winning formula, which means that the number of mountain climbers is likely to increase in the coming years. As with most things in life, if there is money to do, someone will, and that includes leading customers by paying the Wild Mountain. ”
As someone who has followed the climbing scene of 8000 meters for years, these changes in K2 are a bit bitter. While I applaud the success of the teams on the mountain and appreciate the economic impact this will have on the Pakistani support teams, I still cannot help but feel that this once-great adventure has been somewhat diminished. Don’t be mistaken, the K2 climb remains an impressive achievement. It’s just not an exclusive club like it was once.
Congratulations to all those who climbed the mountain this year. It’s been a record season.