Monday, January 1, 2018

Fascinating Pakistan: K-2, the Mountain of the Mountains

I have been writing about the five Eight Thousanders of Pakistan in my previous posts and even wrote exclusively about Nanga Parbat (the Naked Mountain) and Gasherbrum 1 (the Hidden Peak), the two of the five eight thousanders. Today I talk about the mountain of the mountains: the K2, Chogori (in local Balti language) or the Mt Godwin Austen, the second highest eight thousand of the world after the Mt. Everest.

But when mountaineers talk of the deadly, difficult and hardest to climb mountains anywhere in the world, K2 tops the list. At 8,611 metres (28,251 feet), K2 is considered to be the most beautiful for its massive pyramid like shape, yet it is also known as the Savage Mountain as it has the most atrocious weather around it besides extremes of slopes and difficult to ascent that have taken a heavy toll of many climbers till date. There is a saying among the mountaineers that one out of the four who attempt K2 do not return alive. In fact it is a mountain that does not always favours mankind.

Located on the China - Pakistan border in the Gilgit-Baltistan region of northern Pakistan, and the Taxkorgan Tajik Autonomous County of Xinjiang, China, K2 gets its name from the notation used in the Great Trigonometric Survey of British India by Thomas Montgomerie who made the first survey of the Karakoram from Mount Haramukh, some 210 km (130 miles) to the south, and sketched the two most prominent peaks, labeling them K1 and K2. While the K1 later came to be known as the Masherbrum, there was no name available in local language then as no one had never gone close to K2 as it is not even visible from Askole, the last village to the south, or from the nearest habitation to the north, and is only fleetingly glimpsed from the end of the Baltoro Glacier, beyond which few local people would have ventured. K2 even today is about 100 miles from the nearest habitation.

It is also said to be called Chogori, derived from two Balti words, chhogo ("big") and ri ("mountain"). And is also sometimes known as Mount Godwin-Austen in honor of Henry Godwin-Austen, an early explorer of the area. But the name has never been accepted by the Royal Geographical Society.

There were many attempts made to scale K2 from 1856 to 1953, but the first successful ascent was made in 1954 via the the South East Spur or the Abruzzi Spur , named after Duke of Abruzzi who reached an elevation of 6,250 metres in 1909. The team included a Pakistani member, Colonel Muhammad Atta Ullah, who had been a part of the 1953 American expedition. The expedition also included Walter Bonatti and Pakistani Hunza porter Amir Mehdi, who both proved vital to the expedition's success in that they carried oxygen tanks to 8,100 metres (26,600 ft) for Lacedelli and Compagnoni. Before the expedition kicked off, the team had an aerial view of K2 which became the world's first flight ever around K2. It was Italian  Lino Lacedelli and Achille Compagnoni who finally stood atop the Black Pyramid of the K2 on 31 July 1954 to claim K2. The news was broadcast around the world and heard with jubilation, specially by the ,mountaineers community and those who had earlier tried to scale K2.
The first successful ascent 31 July 1954

On 25th December 1954, Pakistan Post issued an Ana 2 stamp to commemorate the maiden scaling of the K2. And to immortalize the golden jubilee of the K2 scaling, Pakistan Post issued a Rs. 5 stamp on 31 July 2004. Besides a multicoloured first day cover for Rs. 30 was also issued. 
In 2004, on the 50th anniversary of maiden climbing of K-2,  78-year old Lino Lacedelli came to Pakistan and went to Skardu “to say hello and goodbye to the king of mountains”. Lacedelli was accompanied by a 24-member team who held a ceremony at base camp on July 15. Compagnoni, 89, could not attend the ceremony as he has lost his memory and forgotten that once he stood at the top of the K2 - almost the top of the world.

Spectacular view from K2 Base Camp-1

The first woman to summit K2 was Pole Wanda Rutkiewicz on 23 June 1986. Liliane and Maurice Barraged also scaled successfully later that day. Unfortunately both fell during the descent; Liliane Barrard's body was found on 19 July 1986 at the foot of the south face. On 28 July 2017, Vanessa O'Brien became the first British and American woman to summit K2, and the eldest woman to summit K2 at the age of 52 years old.

K2 Base Camp-3

It is said that even reaching the foot of the mountain is an expedition in itself - one can judge what lays ahead. K2 has seen more than 70 climbers losing their lives while scaling this atrocious mountain. due to its difficulty to climb, K2 is the only mountain peak in the world which has never been scaled in winters. Now it has been reported by VOA that a group of Polish mountaineers under Polish climber Krzysztof Wielicki have set off for northern Pakistan on 31 December 2017 to attempt to be the first to scale K2 in wintertime. Krzysztof Wielicki, 67,  headed a winter expedition of K2 in 2003 that was unable to clear the 8,000 meter threshold. The team would begin their ascent on January 8 or 9 and, if successful, expect to return to base camp by mid-March.

Now watch a beautiful video of scaling of the K2 by Turkish expedition climbing the Abruzzi Spur route, which was first climbed in 1954 by the Italian expedition. The video explains the start of the expedition, preparations and moving forward from base to to forward camps and finally the summit - giving a complete rundown of activities an expedition undertakes to scale this mighty pyramid, the K2 !!
However, this post will be incomplete if you do not follow the attempts by many ambitious climber to scale this hardest and most dangerous to climb, even more than dangerous than Mt Everest. The documentary is of the times when there were modern gadgets like GPS or phones to communicate to each other - not even proper gear including snow shoes to have firm feet on the snowy s;opes. This wonderful documentary by BBC explains the efforts of the early mountaineers right from the first attempt to the first and successful attempt made by the Italian expedition in 1954. 

Watch the story of those ambitious, motivated and daring young men who tried, many who lost their lives in a quest to scale the mountain of the mountains - the Ghosts of K2

You may also like to read one of my earlier posts: A memorable Trek to Concordia - the Gateway to Four Eight Thousanders of the World including K2

Historical References: Wikipedia |Photos Base Camps: Northern Areas of Pakistan
If you like Jaho Jalal, please follow us on Facebook