A 10-man team of Nepali climbers reached the summit of K2, the second tallest peak in the world, on Jan. 16. The mountain had never successfully been climbed in the winter before.
Led by Chhang Dawa Sherpa, a group of indigenous climbers including Mingma Gyalje Sherpa, Nirmal Purja, Gelje Sherpa, Mingma David Sherpa, Mingma Tenzi Sherpa, Dawa Temba Sherpa, Pem Chhiri Sherpa, Kilu Pemba Sherpa, Dawa Tenjing Sherpa, and Sona Sherpa all summited together, greeted at the top by a temperature of -40 F. Gelje Sherpa completed the feat without the help of supplemental oxygen.
The imposing mountain, topping off at 28,250 feet (8,610 km), is often referred to as the “the savage mountain” because of the sheer difficulty. K2 claims around one climber’s life out of every four who reach the summit—Spanish mountaineer Sergio Mingote died on the same day as the historic push after falling into a crevasse during his descent.
As of 2018, 86 out of the 367 people who summited had died.
The treacherous mountain was swarmed by dozens of climbers this winter, all trying to make the record-breaking push. Initially, the Nepali mountaineers were on competing teams attempting to make the historic summit, but then coalesced into a core group of 10 that banded together.
“We are proud to have been a part of history for humankind and to show that collaboration, teamwork and a positive mental attitude can push limits to what we feel might be possible,” said Nirmal Purja.
The record-claiming summit in winter by the Nepali team was especially momentous because Sherpas, the local people known for shuttling outsiders to the tops of the region’s towering peaks, completed the push on their own. And all of the climbers stopped 30 feet below the summit in a show of solidarity so that they could reach it together—no one was listed as the first to reach the top.
“For decades, Nepalis have assisted foreigners to reach the summits of the Himalayas, but we’ve not been getting the recognition we deserve,” said Kami Rita Sherpa, the man with the record for the most Everest summits, which hit 24 in May 21, 2019. “It is wonderful that today on K2 10 Nepalis have made history and shown our bravery and strength,” he said.
K2 was first successfully summited in 1954 by Italian mountaineer Achille Compagnoni and the most recent highest altitude reached in winter was 24,520 feet by Denis Urubko and Marcin Kaczkan in 2003. The mountain, second highest in the world and only 650 feet shorter than Everest, is part of the Karakoram Range that stretches across the Pakistan-China border.
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