The Nepalese climbing group are the first in the world to conquer the K2 peak in the Himalayas in winter – the most dangerous season of the year.

The climbers rejoice after successfully conquering K2 in winter.  Photo: NatGeo

The climbers rejoice after successfully conquering K2 in winter. Image: NatGeo

At 17:40 on January 16, Nepal time, Nirmal “Nims” Purja – a member of the climbing group – wrote on Instagram: “History for humanity. History for Nepal”. This announcement marks the first time in history that an athlete successfully conquered the K2 peak – 8,611 meters high in the Himalayas – in winter.

“This is the historic day of mountaineering”, p National Geographic comment.

K2 is part of Pakistan’s Karakoram range, and is the last of the 14 highest mountains in the world – all over 8,000 meters high – to be conquered by mankind in winter. The road to the top of K2 is considered the most difficult and dangerous journey, because the harsh terrain and weather in winter requires the climbers to have precise techniques to reach the summit.

The conquest of K2 in the cold -40 degrees Celsius of winter is the result of a collaborative effort between Nepalese climbing groups: one led by Purja, the other led by Mingma G Sherpa, of the indigenous Sherpa ethnic group, command. On the night before climbing to the top of the mountain, the two groups teamed up, devising a joint strategy to fix the rope on the top of the mountain and hopefully climb together.

For both Purja and Mingma G, conquering K2 peak in winter shows national pride and shows off their tribal Himalayan climbing abilities. Purja shared: “All 13 other peaks over 8,000 meters have been conquered by the international mountaineering community in winter, so it would be a great miracle if the Nepalese climbing group made history with K2”.

Nirma Purja considers his 10-man climbing group successfully conquering K2 in winter as a pride of Nepal.  Photo: NatGeo

Nirma Purja considers his 10-man climbing group successfully conquering K2 in winter as a pride of Nepal. Image: NatGeo

And Mingma G wrote on his personal page: “An expedition to K2 in winter is a journey for the country”. The remaining members of the two teams, including Sona, Mingma David Sherpa, Mingma Tenzi Sherpa, Geljen Sherpa, Pem Chiri Sherpa, Dawa Temba Sherpa, Dawa Tenjin Sherpa and Kilu Pemba Sherpa, reached the summit of K2 at 5pm. They sang the national anthem of Nepal together after conquering this peak.

K2 is considered the number one target for many climbers, as peaks above 8,000 meters cannot make it difficult for experts to conquer climbing in the coldest season. Despite Covid-19, in 2020 more than 60 people gathered at Pakistan’s Godwin Austen Glacier Base Camp to prepare for the climb. This number includes people who pay to be cared for by the travel agency and assisted in conquering the mountain.

However, unlike Everest or other high peaks, K2 has steep faces and requires solid skill. Not only that, climbers also often encounter rock and snow falls. As of June 2018, more than 4,000 people have reached Mount Everest, but only 367 people are above K2. Most people go in July or August – the warmest weather. No one has ever been to the top of K2 in winter.

Conquering K2 in the winter has been impossible for mountaineers for decades.  Photo: NatGeo

Conquering K2 in the winter has been impossible for mountaineers for decades. Image: NatGeo

The conquering group endured colder temperatures of -40 ° C and gusts of about 80km / h as they climbed Abuzzi Spur on the southern slope K2. “You can’t imagine how difficult it is to climb K2 in winter, compared to spring and summer,” Alex Txikon told National Geographic when he performs miracles in the summer of 2019.

In the winter of 1980, Everest was conquered for the first time. But it wasn’t until December 1987, when a Polish expedition arrived in Pakistan, that they tried to get to K2 in the winter. At that time, the Poles dominated the high altitude mountain climbing sport in the Himalayas. The team led by Krzystof Wielicki had an unprecedented chain of success in the 1980s. In eight years, they seven times were the first to conquer peaks above 8,000 meters in winter. But K2 alone, they failed.

Over the next three decades, five other expeditions were made, including the Wielicki team’s second attempt of 2018. However, no team made it to Camp 4 on the way to K2.

Climbers must conquer steep slopes in the world's harshest weather to reach the top of K2 in winter.  Photo: NatGeo

Climbers must conquer steep slopes in the world’s harshest weather to reach the top of K2 in winter. Image: NatGeo

Despite unbelievable extreme conditions and countless fatalities, some observers argue that the biggest challenge of getting to K2 in the winter is leadership. Alan Arnette – who has been chronicling for many years on Himalayan conquests – writes in the magazine Rock and Ice of America after the end of 2019 and no one can reach K2: “Any climber who wants to try to conquer K2 in the winter needs great skills. And they also need strong leaders to govern. Team management. The climbers themselves must work together as a team. “

Both Nepalese climbing teams work together when conquering heights above 8,000 meters. In 2019, Purja set a record of climbing all 14 peaks of over 8,000 meters in 6 months and 6 days, seven years faster than the previous conquest speed. He gets support from Sherpa’s group – they take turns accompanying him on different mountains. With the K2 project, the two groups cooperated closely.

For climbers, the hardest part is the lack of oxygen. According to statistics, one in three people who climbed to the top of K2 died somewhere in the mountain. Many deaths are going down. The most recent was the accident of the Spanish climber – Sergi Mingote on January 16. Mingnote is presumed dead from a fall on Camp 1. In August 2008, 11 climbers were also killed on the last, narrow and dangerous “Bottleneck” stretch that led to the top of K2.

Many people perished when conquering K2 both in winter and summer.  Photo: NatGeo

Many people perished when conquering K2 both in winter and summer. Image: NatGeo

While the group of 10 Nepalese were trying to safely get off the mountain, dozens more were at the Base Camp and considering conquering K2 in the next few days. Chances are more people will reach K2, but the appeal of getting to a snowy peak for the first time in the harsh winter is gone.

K2 is part of the large Karakoram mountain range located on the China-Pakistan border. K2 is recognized as the second highest mountain range in the world with an altitude of 8,611 m, after Everest.

Thuy Lien (according to the Nat Geo)


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