ExWeb special: A magic mountain named K2

Posted: Aug 05, 2008 09:53 pm EDT

(K2Climb.net) Every year, Everest draws attention from the entire world. Climbers scale the worlds tallest mountain virtually before an audience of millions, following the quests on their home computers.

As Everest closes down, some time around the end of May, another drama unfolds. This is the Karakorum season opening in Pakistan and China. Usually far from the eyes of international media, the world's foremost climbers assemble here in June and July, to climb the worlds toughest alpine peaks. The crown of those is named K2.

Savage Mountain on top of mountaineer's wish list

Dubbed the "Savage Mountain," or the "Mountaineers' Mountain" - K2 in the Karakoram is Earths second-highest peak and among the top three hardest climb in the world. With a 8,611-meter (28,250-foot) summit and weather that is significantly colder and less predictable than on Everest, reaching the top of K2 and coming down alive is every veteran mountaineers dream.

K is for Karakoram

K stands for Karakoram and K2 was first summitted on July 31, 1954. Since then, with last weekends score of about 15, there have been around 285 summits (compared with 344 on Everest only this past spring, and thousands of summits overall). If the total toll ends on 11 perished this time, 77 climbers will have died on K2, thirty-one while descending from the summit. In terms of the overall summit/fatality rate, K2 was last the third most deadly mountain in the world, after only Nanga Parbat and Annapurna, although the latest stats might change this order.

K2s statistics for female climbers are particularly dramatic. Some even say K2 is "cursed" for women. Of the only dozen of women who reached the top, three died on the descent and 2 have since perished on other 8,000-meter peaks.

Shangri-La of ultimate fear

Situated in the middle of an isolated paradise, K2 is thought to be part of the fictional Shangri-La that James Hilton wrote about in Lost Horizon. In spite of the dangers, the mountain continues to lure climbers to its slopes of dark gray rock. It is the ultimate fear and as such must be faced and overcome by climbers aiming for alpine excellence. In scaling Everest, you are a great climber to the world. Summit K2, and you are a true climber to climbers.

A history of blood and triumphs - K2 100 years ago

The first attempt on K2 took place in 1902. One of the members of the doomed expedition, the wickedest man on Earth and also one mean climber was Aleister Crowley. He had many important solo climbs in the Western Alps, including a couple of firsts. For several years he had been moving swiftly up the ranks of the occult orders much to the dismay of the senior members.

After offending just about every person involved in black magic at the turn of the 20th century and incurring several attacks, Crowley left his home in London. An accomplished climber, he found his way on to the K2 expedition.

Bad omen

The first bad omen for this first attempt on K2 was the arrest of Eckenstein, the expedition leader. Rumor has it that Eckensteins old nemesis, William Conway, then the president of the Alpine Club, had arranged for the incarceration in Kashmir.

Three weeks later Eckenstein was released and joined his team at base camp only to walk into a raging debate on which route to take. The irreverent and bizarre Crowley wanted to attack the South-East Ridge but the team decided on the North-East Crest. As it turned out Crowley was right; the team had to turn back at 6,000 meters. To make his point during the frustration of failure, Crowley took out a revolver and threatened several members of the team. The expedition regrouped and planned for a second attempt.

Down from thin air into deep fogs of Heroin

A second attempt, this time via the saddle between K2 and Skyang Kangri (7,544m, The Staircase), redeemed Crowley and his superb mountaineering skills. When a fellow climber was struck by pulmonary edema, Crowley was the only one to recognize the severity and insisted on taking the sick man off the mountain. This decision saved the climbers life but prevented the team from reaching the peak. Soon after the expedition Crowley began a long descent into heroin addiction. His behavior became more bizarre and iconoclastic and his activities more infamous each day.

At one point he became convinced his wife was a bat, Crowley forced her to sleep tied upside down in a closet at nights. By the time of his death, Aleister Crowley, was a permanent fixture in the worlds history of the occult, and a lesser known climber on the first attempt on K2.

The first victims

In 1939 the legendary mountaineer, Fritz Wiessner, led a fateful expedition to K2. Wiessner, an American born in Dresden, was only 200 meters from the summit when he was forced to turn back. Tragedy and exhaustion overtook the expedition and Wiessner never had another chance to reach the summit.

The fifteen member team was whittled down to five by camp VII; Wiessner, Dudley Wolfe, a millionaire climbing and yachting enthusiast, and three sherpas. Three days later it was just Wiessner and Pasang Dawa Lama. They reached 8,380 meters before turning back. Just 200 meters from the summit Pansang became consumed with fears of waking the angry gods of the mountain and refused to go any further.

Pasang pleaded for them to turn back and try again the next day. On the descent to camp both men lost their crampons, during the night the snow had frozen into ice and the attempt the next day showed little progress. The disappointment was overwhelming, but the story was far from over.

Empty camps

At camp VIII Wiessner and Pasang found Wolfe alone, without rations and very ill. The group made the descent from camp to camp and found none of the other climbers nor any rations. Wolfe was too weak to continue and remained in the tent as the others went down to get help. A rescue team was assembled at base camp but only one man returned. Wolfe and three sherpas were lost to the mountain, K2s first victims.

Had Fritz Wiessner made it to the summit he would have been the first man to set foot on an 8000+ meter peak, eleven years before the successful summit of Annapurna. He would have also summited the worlds second tallest mountain without the use of supplemental oxygen, a feat forty years ahead of its time.

All eternity lost in just one moment

As Wiessner once wrote, What you may be offered in a moment all eternity will never give you back. Though his regret is understandable his feat is nonetheless remarkable and has gone down in the great history of mountaineering.

Fritz Wiessner discovered and opened, with Hans Kraus, the Shawangunks, made the first ascent of Mt. Waddington with Bill House in 1936, and the first climbing ascent of the Devil's Tower in 1937.

K2 fifty years ago - the controversy

After several failed attempts, K2 was finally summited in 1954 by the Italians, Lino Lacedelli and Achille Compagnoni. There has been a debate about the events that took place on that first climb ever since.

In early June of 1954 a team of a dozen or so left from a 4,000m camp. In late July four men had reached camp VIII, about 200 meters below the summit. The final ascent was made by Lino and Achille and completed without oxygen...or so goes the official story.

The two men left behind at camp VIII were Walter Bonatti, then 24 years old, and the Hunza porter Mahdi, charged with the task of carrying the oxygen. According to Bonatti, who made the first ascent of Gasherbrum IV in 1958, he and Mahdi could not re-supply the two lead climbers due to bad weather and darkness. So, on Lino's instruction, they left the oxygen where they were and prepared descent.

Only the bad weather forced the young climber and his local porter to first to camp out in the snow, as the two lead mountaineers wouldn't help them or let them into their tent.

Disgrace

The names of the summiteers were not released until the return of the expedition. When it was announced, Lino and Achille were celebrated as national heroes. The celebration ended a decade later when an Italian newspaper accused Bonatti of stealing oxygen and attempting a solo ascent ahead of Lino and Achille.

Bonatti sued for libel and won, but he was ostracized from the climbing community. The climber took revenge in his own way: Solo climbs, first ascents, new technical routes all over the world, elegance in the itineraries and methods, Bonatti proved without a shadow of doubt that he was one of the best climbers of his time, if not in all of climbing history until giving up mountaineering in 1965.

Bonatti has since published "The Mountains of My Life", an autobiography with stories about the expedition of 1954. In his book Bonatti displays proof of his innocence, including a photograph of Lino and Achille wearing oxygen masks on the summit.

Redemption

50 years after the 1954 K2 expedition, a very old Lino Lacedelli - who had remained silent all this time - couldnt face to take the truth with him to the grave. In a book released in 2006, he confessed what really happened on K2, thus changing the course of history. Lino also called Bonatti to apologize, but the climber would have none of it. "It's too late," he said.

K2 50th anniversary

Half a century after the first ascent, the Italians prepared for a spectacular golden anniversary: In 2004, a large, ambitious Italian expedition sent a 19-member team to scale Everests north side and then two teams to scale K2 from each side in commemoration the 50th anniversary of K2s first ascent.

After a successful Everest season where several team members reached the summit without the use of oxygen, the expedition continued to K2. In 2004, K2 had not been summited since 2001, no female K2 summiteer was alive and the anniversary season started with a tragedy almost immediately:

June 10, three South Korean climbers; Lee Hwa-hyong, 36, Kim Jae-yong, 35, and Pae Kyong-kyu, 34, were found dead in their sleeping bags in a crevasse covered with snow, at a point some 200 meters below the scene of the accident (6,600m). The three went missing after an avalanche struck while they were sleeping at Camp 2 6,600m. Shortly after, June 29, 5 porters drowned, caught in a swift-moving stream while carrying luggage for the Italian expedition.

Virtually out of the blue - the news struck July 26: "The curse is broken we just received word that Silvio Mondinelli and Karl Unterkircher of the Italian team summited K2."

In this first K2 summit in three years, the Italians marked the 50th anniversary of the first K2 summit in style. At 05.15 PM local time, about 45 minutes after Mondinelli and Unterkircher summited, Walter Nones, Ugo Giacomelli and Michele Compagnoni followed suit - with Michele closing K2's circle of history as Achille Compagnoni's Grandson.

Lino had family up there as well: The Scoiattoli (translated squirrels) Northern Italian team summited in the next two days along with Mario Lacedelli; Lino's nephew.

A record breaking summit party

Yes it was a glorious party the "Savage Mountain" threw for its birthday. Mountaineers scaled the peak in waves, one after the other, offering a record breaking season: Triple summit wave, and 43 summiteers (nearly 50% more than the previous record season; 29 climbers in 1996). Edurne Pasaban from Spain broke another curse of the mountain when she summited K2; becoming the only female K2 summiteer alive at the time.

Three Pakistani climbers scaled their Golden mountain in the same K2 joy ride: Mohammad Sanap Akam, Nisar Hussain (from Satpara Village/Baltistan ), and Muhammad Hussain (from Khaplu Village - Baltistan) were confirmed Pakistan summiteers that anniversary season, joining the fine ranks of other Pakistan K2 climbers:

In 1977, Ashraf Aman was the first Pakistani to climb K2. Nazir Sabir, the most famous name among Pakistani mountaineers, reached the summit on August 7, becoming the only Pakistani, who had climbed Mount Everest as well.

Rajab Shah climbed K2 in 1995 becoming the first local to climb five eight thousand meters high peaks in Pakistan. Mehrban Shah climbed K2 in 1995 as well, following his senior Rajab Shah.

A Magic climb

But it wasn't over yet. On the Magic line - Oscar Cadiach (expedition leader), Jordi Corominas, Jordi Tosas, Manel de la Matta and Valen Giró were getting ready to attempt the first repetition of an obvious but extremely difficult route following the SSW ridge, once described as suicidal by Reinhold Messner (a quote he later denied).

Messner had attempted it but only a Polish-Czech team had ever completed it, back in 1986, and it remained unrepeated since.

The Magic team was like no other. The five Catalan's worked the route 24 hours a day, sent accurate and punctual dispatches, and the most amazing pictures we could imagine. They didnt complain about other teams until an accident stroke.

That's when they, as the only ones, raised a red flag and tried to organize a rescue party when two climbers were missing on the Abruzzi Spur route, by now crowded by international climbers.

While dozens of other climbers, on the same Abruzzi route and some under the same permit, looked the other way, packed their things and hurried home - the Magic Line was the only team who dared to brake up a horrible "pact of silence." But they were too late, and three climbers perished on the mountain.

Little did they know, that the next would be one of their own.

Lonely couloirs

No kidding, no lies and no false motivations were afforded on Magic Line's steep couloirs and unknown upper ridges. It took a very strong team even to dare to face that impressive spur. Perhaps that is why they were there alone.

For the K2 50th anniversary, the Magic climbers dispatched a tribute to the by then still defamed and rarely mentioned Walter Bonatti.

Wrote the team in their dispatch: Bonatti represents the true spirit of Alpinism: Commitment, exposure, tenacity, courage and self discipline. Those are precisely the values that brought us to the Magic Line.

"'Face the void from the mountains to find myself...'; those Bonattis words have a special meaning to us now, after living face to face with K2 for two months.

In a twisted replay of Bonatti's fate, Magic Line's expedition leader Oscar Cadiach was later subject to an attempt on his own reputation - when accused to have lied about his ascent of Everest second step. But in this age of internet justice travels fast; only one week later Cadiach was cleared on ExplorersWeb - by his own expedition Sherpa summiteers.

World watching with bated breath

"The adventure world is watching with bated breath as the toughest line on the toughest mountain is attempted right before our eyes this weekend," ExWeb wrote in a Saturday week in review. The drama started already the next day, and ended with a press conference one week later.

A weather window was predicted and the Catalan climbers started out on their summit push, on the most demanding section of the K2 Magic Line. Above Camp 3, located at 7500m they were entering the Terra Incognita'. A system of couloirs and ribs, both on rock and ice, something like Matterhorn, but at 8000 meters. They headed straight into the crux of the climb, an oblique couloir leading to the foot of the Casarotto Tower, at 8100m. They brought a small bivouac tent in which they spent the nights at 8100 m, at the foot of the Casarotto.

Scouting at 8300

Meanwhile, Valen Giró and Gulam, a high altitude porter left BC and climbed up the Abruzzi Route to Camp 2, to stash a camp for the climbers in case they decided to descend via the normal route (Abruzzi). With base camp deserted, the weather reports were relayed to the climbers over satellite and handheld radios.

The next day, Jordi Corominas and Oscar Cadiach scouted the route above their bivouac spot by the Casarotto Tower and reached 8300m. They then returned to their tent to get some rest before their summit bid. They would spend another night in the 8000+ death zone, without supplementary oxygen. There were local gusts of wind at sunset and worry of increasing winds mid Monday.

That night, Manel de la Matta, who only one day earlier was as strong as his climbing mates, felt tired and decided to not join Oscar and Jordi for the summit attempt. The climbers had by now worked hard for two days at the 8000+ level. At this altitude, the body doesn't recoup with rest and sleep.

Winds of K2

On the Abruzzi Spur, Valen Giró reached C3 trying to keep in touch with the climbers through the radio, and with ExplorersWeb and Catalonian Meteo services over satellite-phone. Any new detail concerning the forecasted weather had become crucial, most importantly - the wind. There was a concern about the late Sunday night gusts.

In spite of the weekend, the American WNI was on the phone with ExplorersWeb to discuss the forecast in detail before it was sent out to the climbers. The situation was very uncertain. The climbers had some tough choices to make. It would all come down to their strength, the terrain - and - the notorious winds of K2.

Alone on K2

Early Monday, the news came: Jordi Corominas was climbing the final slopes of K2, advancing at a very slow pace, sunk in fresh snow up to his waist. Oscar and Jordi had left their tent at 4:00 am, local time, but Oscar soon decided to turn around. At 2:00 pm local, there were only 100 vertical meters between Jordi and the summit.

Oscar hurried down with Manel to camp 3 on the Magic line. The climbers didn't think that Jordi would be able to come down the Abruzzi route, where getting lost was deemed too easy. Valen Giró therefore left C3 on the Abruzzi and headed back down to BC to be on standby for the climbers.

But due to unexpected deep snow, Jordi would not be able to come back down the Magic Line either. He was now alone high on the mountain - with an uncertain route of descent.

Night fall

In the next update, hours later, Jordi Corominas was still on the Magic Line, around 80 meters from the summit. The situation was grave. Night had fallen and he had been out for nearly 20 hours. He had only climbed 20 meters in two hours.

The problem was very deep snow on the final slope. At this rate, he'd have to climb another 6 hours through the night only to reach summit, and then try to find his way down somehow. A miracle was needed or he would never make it. Our favorite climber was seemingly dying right before our eyes.

Point of no return

The phones at ExplorersWeb went crazy. There were calls to the Japanese Mountain Federation, to K2 BC, to the home team. We were desperate for the lone climber, stuck in the night 80 meters from the summit of K2, at a point of no return.

News came that the small Dosanko Japanese expedition had reached the summit by the Cesen route. Once informed about the situation, the Japanese agreed to wait for Jordi in Camp 4 (shared both on the Abruzzi and Cesen routes), and take him back with them by the Cesen, should he be able summit and make it down to them.

It became clear that Jordi had to summit, and come down the Abruzzi. It was do or die.

Third night in the deathzone

That's when the incredible news came. At midnight local, Jordi called Valen in Base Camp - from the summit of K2. He planned to descend to camp 4 on the Abruzzi ridge - he estimated another 4-5 hours down. He would have to come down alone, through the very same route where Juan Oiarzabal had got lost and others had died only weeks earlier.

Jordi had by now climbed for 21 hours, the last 5 in darkness. It was his third night above 8000 meters without oxygen support. The news were good, but they were not great.

Incredible descent

He arrived in the Japanese camp 4 at dawn, Tuesday, 5 am local time. He stayed only one hour with the Japanese. He felt fine and decided next to climb down - alone - on the Abruzzi route. He reached C3 at 10 am, rested and left for C2. But after only one pitch he felt tired and returned to C3 for the night. He slept in the tent stashed for him earlier by Valen. We could not believe his strength.

Valen monitored Jordi every hour over radio and got himself ready to head back up to the Abruzzi to meet him. In the meantime, Oscar and Manel were coming down slowly on the fixed ropes below C3 to C1.

Window closes

Wednesday the weather window had closed and the climbers descended in a snow storm. Valen Giró climbed up to ABC, to wait for Jordi. As the batteries died, contact was lost with Manel and Oscar on the Magic Line.

Valen accompanied Jordi back to Base Camp, but headed next back up the Magic line for Oscar and Manel. He brought with him Balti high-altitude porters Gulam and Akhmed. In the heavy snow and night fall, the team battled a section of 1300 vertical meters of snow and ice couloir, leading to the Negrotto col, where Camp 1 is located.

But Manel couldn't be saved. Early Thursday morning the news came that he had died on camp one. A Friday press conference stated that peritonitis was suspected, as he had complained of acute abdominal pain during the descent. The death was ultimately probably caused by general exposure to altitude.

The end of a true alpinist

They were the best team on K2. That's why the mountain kept one of them. We had been with these guys night and day, over the phone and the internet, and team ExWeb was devastated. Europe editor Angela Benavides wrote a fiery tribute to Manel and the Magic Line: "He had a passion for Alpinism. In the end, it took his life. Too much love will kill you says the song. Climbers die on the mountains. Real climbers die in real mountains, on the most difficult routes. Or so they whish. Manel had the end of a true alpinist".

The Pirates stole the show

The climbers dedicated the route to Renato Casarotto, another legend underdog, whose widow Goretta was with them in Base Camp. Renato lost his life on the route after he fell into a crevasse on the Phillipo Glacier. Even though he managed to contact his girlfriend Goretta, who was in BC, the rescue party came too late. Renato expired in his rescuers arms.

The Spanish Federation of Climbing and Mountaineering, who had raised controversy in the previous 2 years by refusing to give out their annual award due to lack of good enough climbing decided this year was different. There was one expedition worthy to receive its annual award (the Spanish version of the Golden Ice-Axe): The K2 Magic Line!

In the remarkable K2 anniversary of 2004, the Pirates of K2 stole the show and were awarded Best of ExWeb in 2004, for living up to each and every one of the categories in the award.

2005-2007, and the Messner factor

The peak continued its unique drama in the following years. Italian star climbing couple Nives Meroi and her husband Romano Benet made an amazing ascent without oxygen and fixed ropes on the upper parts before an avalanche swept off 4 climbers high up on the Abruzzi route. A young, unknown Japanese couple including Yuka Komatsu who looked like a fragile Geisha during her debrief in Islamabad made waves in the same season. An international joint effort across all borders rewarded climbers with a spectacular climb last year.

And the unclimbed West face was finally conquered by Russian Jannu and Everest North Wall legends.

The two normal routes are dangerous enough, and some of the little attempted alternatives are even worse. Out of the peak's four faces - two are still unclimbed. Attempting them is calling the intemperate mountain eye-to-eye. And like the alpha animal it is; K2 is rarely tolerant to top-dog behavior.

Any way you climb it, K2 always offers a good reason to think twice. The peak cares little for fame or breed. I never said the Magic Line was suicidal I meant the Polish route instead, Reinhold Messner vented sulkily in the midst of the Magic Line attempt.

While Messner has good points, it's comments like these that have mountaineers shrugging their shoulders at the veteran who could have been a legend to them. In compiling his list, "Top Ten Expedition BS Countdown" polar skier Jerry Kobalenko got a suggestion for an entry by climber/paraglider Will Gadd: "Decrying all future attempts on your objective as unworthy." Jerry had never heard of this, so he asked another well-known mountaineer about it: "Is this a climbing thing?"

"It's a Reinhold Messner thing," he replied.

Brief history of the off-routes

The Polish route, on the south faces central rib, had only been climbed once - by Jerzy Kukuczka and Tadeusz Piotrowski in 1986. Tadeusz never made it back, and the route is so avalanche-prone, that no one else has ever considered a new attempt.

The Magic line is better - but no less deadly: Messner himself was the first to consider it - but changed his mind almost immediately. It would be too difficult for the porters, he explained - and went for Abruzzi.

In fact, the Magic Line does seem suicidal indeed - on only 4 summits to date it has claimed 6 lives in return. In 1986 Polish climbers Piasecki and Wroz, along with Slovak Bozik at last achieved the first complete ascent of the route (without porters). Wroz fell to his death while descending via the Abruzzi Spur.

That year, the line also claimed Renato Casarotto, who had been a member on Messner's team, and officially defamed by the famous climber for being weak. Some believe the degrading remarks sent Renato on an Magic Line obsession. Casarotto died in a very unfortunate crevasse fall almost down from his solo - and third - shot at the summit on the Magic Line.

This infamous 'black summer', also Americans Alan Pennington and John Smolich, died after they were caught in an avalanche below Negrotto Col.

The just judge

K2s climbing history shows a slow, shady path to excellence. Five men died before the first summit was achieved: American Dudley Wolfe vanished on an early attempt on the SE ridge back in 1939, in Camp VII at 7550 meters. His three Nepalese Sherpas; Pasang Kikuli, Pasang Kitar and Pintso disappeared the next day between Camp VI and VII.

American Art Gilkey was lost in 1953 on the same ridge, while his teammates were trying to lower him down from the mountain in extreme storm conditions.

Even the huge Italian team led by Ardito Desio who planted the first flag on the top had a casualty; Mario Puchoz died of pneumonia and it was almost a miracle that Walter Bonatti and a Pakistani porter survived the night in the open above 8000 meters, when their mates chose to prepare for the definitive summit push instead of helping them.

The most remarkable climbers have left their traces on the mountain: In the first no O2 summit of the peak, Americans John Roskelley and Louis Reichardt traversed from the NE ridge to the Abruzzi and reached the top in 78; Polish Kukuczka forged the route on the south face in 86; the Japanese opened the north ridge in 82 and so on.

The peak still awaits its first ascent up the unclimbed and frigid North Face and its first winter climb.

Cesen route - the less dangerous

Yet for those looking for the straightforward routes, "theres no real easy way up that skyscraper," as Don Bowie pointed out last year. Stats show that the most frequently tackled route is not necessarily the safest: The classic, Abruzzi Spur route has had a higher summit/fatality rate compared to the more technical Cesen route (SSE ridge) until this year.

Regardless route, it's clear that the peak is far deadlier than its famous neighbor Mount Everest. But that comes as no surprise to altitude climbers; a quick glance at the huge pyramid is all it takes to realize the high stakes on the Mountaineers Mountain.

In 2008, the mountain has offered one of its biggest tragedies yet. But it wasn't due to a sudden storm, such as the one killing Alison Hargreaves and her mates in 1995.

The August 1, 2008 solar eclipse marking the final summit push would surely have made Aleister Crowley cry Omen 106 years ago. Bonatti probably only hopes that the truth of what actually happened will surface with time, and hopefully not too late.

After we first published parts of this story, the Society for Academic Study of Magic offered the following addition on K2 Aleister Crowley in an email to ExplorersWeb:

"You might consider mentioning that Crowley was 'prescribed' heroin for decades by his doctors as that as the time was the favoured treatment for the chronic asthma and bronchitis from which he suffered. Ironically, it was those health conditions which drove him into the mountains in search of clear air in the first place, and led him to become the climber he became."







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One of the stunning images shot by the 2007 K2 west face expedition photographer Vladimir Kuptsov (click to enlarge).


Image of Aleister Crowley courtesy of hermetic.com
Readers might recall 2004, when a Catalan team led by Oscar Cadiach went for K2's Magic Line. Cadiach got his summit this year at last.
Image by K2 Magic Line courtesy K2 Magic Line, SOURCE
Image of Bonatti in his twenties, courtesy of Pistehors.com.
K2 memories: the 2004 Magic Line team members, under the Jolly Roger flag. L/R: Oscar Cadiach, Agustin Giró, Manel de la Matta, Jordi Tosas and Jordi Coromminas.
Sketch of Renato courtesy of intraisass.it
Image of Porters in the Karakoram courtesy of Ian Bergeron.
Image of 2004 K2 summiteers Silvio Mondinelli (left) and Karl Unterkircher (right) courtesy of Montagna.org. Unterkircher lost his life in a crevasse on Nanga Parbat earlier this season.
Image of Edurne Pasaban (left) courtesy of Edurnepasaban.net and of Nives Meroi (right) courtesy of Mountain.ru.
Starting out from Troll Base, pictured Rolf Bae and Eirik Sonneland traversed 3800 km to Scott Base with kites. Rolf died on K2 in 2008, right before the eyes of his newly wed wife...
Image of Japanese Yuka Komatsu. Photo by Karrar Haidri/ExplorersWeb Pakistan (click to enlarge).
K2 Magic Line ascent. Copyright Magic Line.
Image of Lino Lacedelli and Achille Compagnoni, courtesy of Jerberyd.com.




Renato Casarotto's burial ground in K2 Base Camp Memorial, also burial for Manel. Copyright Magic Line.
K2 routes by AdventureStats (click to enlarge).
The Russians went into final mode like a fighter bringing a feared competitor to his knees at last; once they broke through, they just would not stop. One by one, all the nine climbers reached the summit and the west face was climbed at last. Images by RussianClimb.com and compiled by ExWeb (click to enlarge).
The Russian K2 west face team was the winner of the 2007 ExplorersWeb's awards. Image by expedition photographer Vladimir Kuptsov (click to enlarge).