History of K2

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K2 is the second highest mountain in the world at 8,611m (28,251ft) above sea level. It is located on the Pakistan-China border and is the highest point in the Karakoram mountain range and the highest point in Pakistan.

K2 is known as the Savage Mountain due to the extreme difficulty of ascent. It has the second-highest fatality rate among the eight thousanders (after Annapurna). With around 350 successful summits and 80 fatalities, about one person has died on the mountain for every four who have summited.

The name K2 is derived from the notation used by the Great Trigonometric Survey of British India. Thomas Montgomerie 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, labelling them K1 and K2 etc. The policy of the Great Trigonometric Survey was to use local names for mountains wherever possible and K1 was found to be known locally as Masherbrum. K2, however, appeared not to have acquired a local name, possibly due to its remoteness. The mountain is not 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 is notable for its local relief as well as its total height. It stands over 3,000 metres (9,840 ft) above much of the glacial valley bottoms at its base. It is a consistently steep pyramid, dropping quickly in almost all directions. The north side is the steepest: there it rises over 3,200 metres (10,500 ft) above the K2 (Qogir) Glacier in only 3,000 metres (9,800 ft) of horizontal distance. In most directions, it achieves over 2,800 metres (9,200 ft) of vertical relief in less than 4,000 metres (13,000 ft).

Notable history:

  • 1856 – first surveyed by Thomas Montgomerie and designated K2 (for being the second peak of the Karakoram range.
  • 1892 – first serious expedition to the area. Martin Conway led a British expedition that reached Concordia on the Baltoro Glacier.
  • 1902 – first serious attempt to climb K2 by a team including the infamous British Occultist Aleister Crowley. The team reached 6,525m.
  • 1909 – The Duke of Abruzzi’s famous expedition which reached a height of 6,250m on the SE Spur (now known as the Abruzzi Spur and the most common route).
  • 1938 – First American (reconnaissance) Expedition led by Charles Houston. Reached 8000m.
  • 1939 – Fritz Wiessner’s expedition reached around 8400m but ended with disaster when 4 climbers were lost on the mountain.
  • 1953 – Houston returns to lead the 1953 American Expedition. The team in pinned down in a storm for 10 days at 7,800m and 1 member is lost in the descent.
  • 1954 – An Italian Expedition finally succeeds in putting two climbers on the summit (Lino Lacedelli and Achille Compagnoni) on the 31st July.
  • 1977 – 23 years after the first ascent, Japanese Ichiro Yoshizawa and Ashraf Aman (Pakistan) become the second team to summit.
  • 1978 – James Whittaker leads an American team which gain the 3rd Ascent via a new route, the long and corniced Northeast Ridge. Chris Bonnington leads a British Expedition, which includes the first British fatality of the mountain – Nick Eastcourt.
  • 1982 – First Ascent from the Chinese side of the mountain by a Japanese Team on the North Ridge.
  • 1986 – Polish climber Wanda Rutkiewicz becomes the first woman to summit. Alan Rouse and Julie Tulis become the first Brits to summit, however they are lost on the descent. 13 climbers are killed on K2 during the season.
  • 1993 – Jonathan Pratt becomes the first British climber to summit and safely descend the mountain.
  • 1995 – British climber Alan Hinkes summits (part of his successful quest to climb the 14 8000m peaks), however Alison Hargreaves is lost (amongst 6 other fatalities).
  • 2008 – 18 summit, but 11 climbers die over a period of a few days, many due to multiple collapses of the serac above the bottleneck, severing fixed ropes that would aid the climbers descent.

British Statistics:
There have been 8 British Summits: Alan Rouse and Julie Tulis (1986), Jonathan Pratt (1993), Alan Hinkes and Alison Hargreaves (1995), Andy Collins (2000), Bruce Normand (2007) and Adrian Hayes (2014).
There have been 4 British Deaths: Nick Eastcourt (1978), Alan Rouse and Julie Tulis (1995) and Alison Hargreaves (1995).

[Abridged from Wikipedia]

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