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Vanessa O’Brien is First American Woman to Climb K2

Vanessa O’Brien became the first American woman to climb K2 after reaching the summit of the world’s second highest mountain on July 28. She is the 19th woman overeall to have success on K2.

The 52-year-old ex-Morgan Stanley banker from New York had attempted K2 in 2015 and 2016. This was the first summits of K2 since 2014.


This year, heavy snow and poor conditions kept most teams away from the summit. It took O’Brien’s team about 16 hours from camp four to the top.

There were 11 other climbers who topped out: John Snorri Sigurjonsson, the first Icelander to climb K2, and Chinese climbers Zhang Liang, Jing Xue and Mr. Azong.

Along with the clients, seven Sherpas reached the summit: Mingma Gyalje, Dawa Gyalje Sherpa, Tsering Pemba Sherpa, Nima Nuru Sherpa, Lakpa Nuru Sherpa, Nima Tshering Sherpa and Ang Tsering Sherpa.

In 2012, O’Brien climbed Mount Everest and became the then-fastest woman to climb the seven summits and ski to the two poles, doing so in only 11 months.

“It is said when you climb Everest, you are a mountaineer in the eyes of the world, but when you climb K2 you are a mountaineer in the eyes of other climbers,” said O’Brien before her climb.

“K2 fascinates me because while it is not quite as high as Everest, it is technically more challenging with exposed rock, steeper terrain and higher avalanche risk.”

After her success, she updated the world with, “My summit day was exactly as Ed Viesturs described – too high winds and terrible accumulation of snow – but I remembered every word he said about Scott Fischer living in the present and he himself worried about the future and accumulation of snow. It was the hardest thing I have ever done.”

You can see O’Brien’s satellite tracker here. The first woman to summit K2 was Polish climber Wanda Rutkiewicz on June 23 in 1986. The only living Canadian to climb K2 is Don Bowie.

Wanda Rutkiewicz and K2

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