K2′s “savage” peak beckons the daring, however uncommon is the climber who solutions the decision in winter.

Dwarfed solely by Mount Everest, K2 is the world’s second-highest peak at 8,611 meters (28,250 ft), and it is without doubt one of the deadliest, killing one climber for each 4 who achieve reaching its summit despite its steep rock faces, glacier climbs and devastatingly brutal climate.

In winter, the percentages are even worse.

This week, hope is waning for a number of the newest mountaineers to aim it. Ali Sadpara of Pakistan, Jon Snorri of Iceland and Juan Pablo Mohr of Chile had been final heard from on Friday and had been reported lacking on Saturday. Heavy clouds obscuring the mountain have repeatedly pressured halts within the seek for them.

American climber George Bell enshrined K2’s popularity – and a nickname that caught – after a 1953 summer time try throughout which he and his crew members almost plunged to their deaths. He advised a reporter: “It’s a savage mountain that tries to kill you.”

How lethal is K2?

K2, on the Chinese language-Pakistani border within the Karakorum Vary, has one of many deadliest data: 87 climbers have died making an attempt to overcome its treacherous slopes since 1954, in accordance with Pakistan Alpine Membership Secretary Karrar Haidri.

Solely 377 have efficiently reached the summit, Haidri mentioned.

In distinction, Everest has been climbed greater than 9,000 instances, whereas roughly 300 have died on the mountain.

Winters on K2 are a lot extra harmful that climbs are hardly ever even tried. Winter winds can howl at 200 kilometres an hour (124 miles per hour) and temperatures can hit a bone-chilling minus 60 Celsius (minus 76 Fahrenheit).

Solely eight expeditions have tried a winter ascent, Haidri mentioned.

And just one has succeeded, simply final month, when 10 Nepalese climbers reached the summit on January 16.

This handout picture taken on January 16, 2021 and launched by Seven Summit Treks, exhibits Nepali mountaineers on their method to the K2 summit [Seven Summit Treks/AFP]

That very same day noticed the affirmation of the loss of life of Spanish climber Sergi Mingote, who fell lots of of metres as he tried an ascent with out supplemental oxygen. Two weeks later, a Bulgarian was killed.

As troublesome because the ascent is, the descent is even deadlier, mentioned Vanessa O’Brien, the primary American-British lady to efficiently climb K2.

Of 8,000 meter-plus (26, 200-feet) peaks, she says: “85 % of deaths occur on descent … as a result of climbers use all their power for the summit bid and go away no reserves”.

K2 is a set of nightmarish pure challenges, yet one more daunting than the opposite. It’s the coldest and windiest of climbs.

At locations alongside the route, climbers should navigate almost sheer rock faces rising 80 levels, whereas avoiding frequent and unpredictable avalanches. Glacier ridges can instantly explode into cascades of big chunks of ice.

K2′s hottest ascent route is called the Abruzzi Spur, or southeast ridge, which extends a unprecedented 3,311 metres (about 10,860 ft) in the direction of the summit.

The sheer size alone would appear indomitable, however there’s extra.

Alongside the route is a collection of seemingly inconceivable pure hurdles with names just like the Home Chimney, the Black Pyramid and the Shoulder. Surmounting these solely brings the climber to maybe the deadliest a part of the climb, the Bottleneck, a treacherous steep gully ridged with columns of glacial ice liable to collapsing.

It was right here in 2008 that a type of ridges broke free sending an avalanche crashing right into a crew of mountaineers, inflicting many of the 11 deaths that day in K2’s deadliest catastrophe.

O’Brien says the lethal mountain appeals to the distinctive spirit of a mountaineer, testing the strongest climber. She summited K2 in 2017 after two earlier makes an attempt, described in her current autobiography: To the Biggest Heights: Going through Hazard, Discovering Humility, and Climbing a Mountain of Fact.

“The fascination of K2 for climbers is that whereas it appears so accessible, it’s nonetheless actually, actually onerous,” she mentioned. “On K2, the one assure is that one thing will go unsuitable.”

She mentioned mountaineers are both risk-takers or reward-seekers by nature and consider they’ll beat the percentages. However “K2 flicks them down and makes them earn their stripes earlier than they’ll ever see these superb summit views”.

“Put merely, what seems a easy problem, turns into Dante’s inferno.”