While not as tall as Mount Everest, the K2, or ‘Mount Godwin-Austen’ as it is also known (in honor of English topographer Henry Godwin-Austen) is the second tallest mountain in the world with a peak of 28,250 ft.
Situated on the border between Pakistan and Baltistan, the K2 gets its name from the first letter of ‘Karakorum’, the ancient capital of the Mongolian empire, and the number ‘2’ is simply included due to its being the second peak in the area to be measured. The K2 has also gained the nickname ‘Mount Savage’ due to having the second highest fatality rate among climbers brave enough to scale its beautiful yet deadly heights.
K2 was discovered and measured by the ‘Survey of India’ in 1856. The first serious attempt to climb the mountain occurred in 1902 when English climbers, Oscar Eckenstein and Aleister Crowley made a valiant effort of 21, 000 feet before they were forced to stop when they began suffering from malaria. Over the next few decades, countries from Italy to the USA attempted the gargantuan climb, but failed under the K2’s colossal power. It was an Italian expedition that finally made the historic climb in July 1954.
There are many routes that can be undertaken when climbing the K2. However, unlike other mountains such as Kilimanjaro, they are all deadly and share similar complications.
The altitude of the K2 is particularly bad, and climbing can lead to dangerously low amounts of oxygen. Another serious problem that occurs as the mountain gets steeper is the K2’s powerful storms that can last for several days at a time. Although there have been many efforts, the summit has never been reached during winter months because of this weather.
Climbing the K2 is a feat best left to trained mountaineers with years of experience, but not all mountains in the world are so deadly. Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania is among the tallest and most beautiful mountains on the planet and has been climbed thousands of times by both professionals and the public.
All major climbing routes lie on the Pakistani side. The ‘Abruzzi Spur’ route is widely regarded as the safest to take. The route features a series of challenging obstacles, from ice fields to rock climbs submerged in snow. The course also crosses several of the K2’s most famous landmarks, including the ‘Black Pyramid’, and ‘House's Chimney’. The route concludes with a lethal passage known as the ‘Bottleneck’, in which climbers must brave the risk of an ice cliff before reaching the top.
In complete contrast to The Abruzzi Spur, the ‘North Ridge’ route ascends to the peak on the Chinese side of the mountain and is by far the most dangerous course to take. The North Ridge also involves crossing the fierce Shaksgam River, which is also a potentially fatal endeavour.