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Nepali climbers make history with first winter summit of K2
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 16 - 01 - 2021

A team of 10 Nepali climbers reached the 28,251-foot summit of K2, the world's second-highest mountain, on Saturday according to several reports on social media. This long-sought achievement adds a stunning new chapter to mountaineering history.
Located in Pakistan's part of the Karakoram range, K2 is the last of the world's 14 tallest mountains — all higher than 8,000 meters — to be climbed in winter. It is considered by far the most difficult and dangerous because of the technical climbing required to reach the top.
The climbers reached the summit of the mountain around 5 pm, According to a local Alpine Club official, and a statement on one of the team member's websites. Standing at 8,611 meters, K2 is the most prominent peak on the Pakistani side of the Himalayan range, and the world's second-tallest after Mount Everest.
Winter winds on K2 can blow at more than 200 km/h and temperatures drop to minus 60C. The secretary of Pakistan's Alpine Club, Karrar Haideri, said 10 Nepali Sherpas reached the top, adding: "This was never done by anyone before in winter."
He said that four international climbing teams had arrived about a month ago to try scaling K2 — the last peak above 8,000 meters in the world to not be climbed in the winter.
Of these dozens of climbers, the group of 10 Nepalis have so far been the only successful team, he said. Since the first attempt back in 1988, Haideri said no mountaineers had previously reached higher than 7,750 meters.
A statement on the website of Nirmal "Nims" Purja, one of the Sherpas — who served for six years as a Ghurka and 10 years with the UK Special Forces — said it was "a very special moment".
"History made for mankind, History made for Nepal!" Purja wrote on Instagram at approximately 5:40 p.m. local time in Pakistan.
The achievement is the result of a remarkable collaborative effort between Nepali climbers affiliated with multiple teams: one led by Purja, the other by Mingma G Sherpa.
In the days before last night's summit push, the two groups combined forces, deciding on a joint strategy for fixing ropes on the upper mountain and hoping to summit together. One Sherpa from a commercial expedition, Sona Sherpa, also joined the effort.
"The whole team waited 10m below the summit to form a group then stepped onto the summit together whilst singing our Nepalese National Anthem.
"We are proud to have been a part of history for humankind and to show that collaboration, teamwork and a positive mental attitude can push limits to what we feel might be possible."
On the same day, a Spanish mountaineer, Sergi Mingote, was reported to have died on K2. The Catalan climber fell on his way back down to base camp, regional news outlets have reported.
For both Purja and Mingma G, summiting K2 in winter represents the chance to make a statement of national pride and homegrown Himalayan mountaineering prowess.
"All 13 x 8,000 peaks have been climbed in winter by our international climbing community so it would be a great feat for the Nepali climbing community to make history," Purja wrote recently from base camp.
"This Nepalese Winter K2 Expedition is for the nation," Mingma G wrote on social media. Along with Mingma G, Purja, and Sona, the other summiters are reported to be Mingma David Sherpa, Mingma Tenzi Sherpa, Geljen Sherpa, Pem Chiri Sherpa, Dawa Temba Sherpa, Dawa Tenjin Sherpa, and Kilu Pemba Sherpa.
K2 in winter has become an increasingly sought-after objective, as the other 8,000-meter peaks succumbed to mountaineers in the coldest season.
Despite the coronavirus pandemic this year, more than 60 people congregated at basecamp on Pakistan's Godwin Austen Glacier, including a large commercial expedition with 22 paying clients and 27 Sherpa guides.
Yet unlike Mount Everest and other popular high-altitude summits, K2's extreme steep faces demand strong technical skills while simultaneously exposing climbers to frequent rockfall and avalanches.
While more than 4,000 people have reached the summit of Everest, only 367 people had climbed K2 as of June 2018. But none had done so in winter conditions. — Agencies


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