The Sun Shines on K2

Second-tallest mountain enjoys a potential slew of great successes

Pakistan's K2 is the world's second tallest mountain and plenty dangerous, but this climbing season seems to be turning out fortuitously. (PatrickPoendl/Thinkstock)
Photo: PatrickPoendl/Thinkstock

Sixty years after the first successful ascent of Pakistan's K2, a window of good weather last weekend created ideal conditions for a potentially record-setting summit day on the world's second-tallest mountain.

Though the number has yet to be confirmed, as many as 30 people may have reached the top (28,250 feet) between July 25 and 27 thanks to low winds and little snowfall. These conditions are unusual for K2, known for its erratic and harsh weather and technical difficulty: Only about 300 people have ever summited K2, compared with some 6,000 people who've summited Everest, 800 miles to the southeast.

On Sunday, three Americans, led by Garrett Madison of Madison Mountaineering, reached the K2 summit along with their Sherpas. "This climb is everything it is made out to be," said expedition member Alan Arnette, who at age 58 became the oldest person to climb the peak. "The traverse at the Bottleneck was one of the scariest things I've ever done in my life. It truly was a 90-degree angle."

Seven women were expected to have summited, among them the first expedition of Nepali women to climb the mountain. Pasang Lhamu, Maya Sherpa, and Dawa Yangzum were climbing to call attention to climate change.

Another expedition became the first-ever group of Pakistanis to reach the top. While individual climbers from Pakistan have summited, this was the country's first successful team attempt. 

Perhaps even more impressive is that every climber who summited appears to have made it safely back to base camp. For every four people who reach the K2 summit, one person will die trying, typically during the descent. In both 2009 and 2010, nobody successfully climbed K2.

This news comes just a few months after a tragic avalanche killed 16 Sherpas on Mount Everest, ultimately ending the mountain's 2014 climbing season.

This post will be updated as more information becomes available.

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