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Photo of K2
Photo uploaded by Ulf Johansson, Sweden

K2 is the second highest mountain in the world, and is thought by many climbers to be the ultimate climb. Its giant pyramid peak towers in isolation, 12,000 feet above the wide Concordia glacial field at the head of the Baltoro Glacier. The sheer icy summit is flanked by six equally steep ridges. Each of its faces presents a maze of precipices and overhangs.

K2 was long considered unclimbable. Attempts in 1902, 1909, 1934, 1938, 1939 and 1953 all failed. The first successful ascent in 1954 started with over 500 porters, 11 climbers, and six scientists. One of the climbers died of pneumonia after 40 days of raging storms. The final ascent was made by a team of two after their oxygen supply had run out, and an emergency descent was made in darkness.

K2 is the only major mountain in the world which has surveyor's notation as its common name (K stands for Karakoram, 2 means it was the second peak listed). T.G. Montgomery was the surveyor who assigned the peak this designation in 1856.

The mountain's remoteness had rendered it invisible from any inhabited place, so apart from an occasional local reference as Chogori (meaning Great Mountain), it had no other name prior to Montgomery's survey. Since that time, the name Mount Godwin-Austen has occasionally been used, in honor of the man who directed the survey. For the most part, however, K2 has been the name of choice, and has even evolved into Ketu, the name used by the Balti people who act as porters in the region.

Additional information added by Stephen Burke:

With respect to the commentary on the 1954 Italian expedition that was the first to summit K2, it has since been proven that Compagnoni and Lacedelli did indeed have oxygen until they reached the summit of K2. The myth was dispelled through libel proceedings brought on by climber Walter Bonatti, who had been accused of sabotaging the expedition by keeping the oxygen for himself. The best evidence available in translated format can be found in the latest edition of The Mountains of My Life by Bonatti, or the short book entitled Trial on K2.

Elevation (feet): 28,253
Elevation (meters): 8,612
Continent: Asia
Country: Pakistan/China
Range/Region: Karakoram
Latitude: 35.8825
Longitude: 76.5133
Difficulty: Major Mountain Expedition
Best months for climbing: Jun, Jul, Aug
Year first climbed: 1954
First successful climber(s): Achille Compagnoni, Lino Lacedelli (Italian expedition)
Nearest major airport: Islamabad, Pakistan
Convenient Center: Skardu, Pakistan

Trip Reports

There are 3 trip reports for K2.

  • Log #3432 - by Tim Arabeck on Mar 17, 19993.00 stars
    I have climbed to the summit of Everest before, but I have always wanted to summit the most difficult peak in the world, K2. I am happy to say that in July I will be part of a 9 man expedition on K2.
  • Log #3433 - by Philippe Gratton on Dec 24, 19983.00 stars
    During may 2000 my friends and I will be on Denali... But I already look forward to be on the "Great Pyramid". It's a different one; it stands alone with no other peak attached to it...
  • Log #3435 - by Karim Hicks on Dec 14, 19983.00 stars
    Ever since I was a little boy I have dreamed of climbing. Not Everest, but K2. I can no longer have that dream but I hope my dreams go with another person.