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History Made! K2 Climbed in Winter for First Time

It was the last of the 8,000-metre peaks to be climbed in winter, and first by an all-Sherpa team

K2 is 8,611 metres high, which puts it about 200 metres less than Everest, but it’s considered a far more technical and dangerous. Of the 14 8,000-metre peaks, it was the only one yet to be climbed in winter, with or without supplementary oxygen.

On Jan. 16, they left high camp at 1 a.m. and reached the summit at 5 p.m. after having stopped 10 metres below so they could all reach the top together. No individual was listed as first.

The 10 Nepalese mountaineers who will go down in history for reaching the summit, are Nirmal Purja, Gelje Sherpa, Mingma David Sherpa, Mingma Gyalje Sherpa, Sona Sherpa, Mingma Tenzi Sherpa, Pem Chhiri Sherpa, Dawa Temba Sherpa, Kili Pemba Sherpa and Dawa Tenjing Sherpa.

Mingma Gyalje said before leaving Nepal: “For all the other 8000ers summited in winter, no Shepra was with them, so this is an opportunity for Sherpa to demonstrate their strength. Besides alpinists, all the climbers take help from Sherpa to fulfill their dreams of 8000m peaks. I have helped several foreign climbers to get to the summit of different 8000ers. I was a little surprised to see no Sherpa on winter first ascent. So this climb is for all the Sherpa community who are so known because of our friends and clients from different foreign countries.”

All 10 climbers have safely returned to base camp.

Mingma Gyalje Sherpa, Sona Sherpa, Mingma David Sherpa and Mingma Tenzi Sherpa had set a new winter altitude record at 7,800 metres earlier in the week.

K2 is known as the Savage Mountain after George Bell, a climber on the 1953 American Expedition, told reporters “It’s a savage mountain that tries to kill you.” Of the five highest mountains in the world, K2 is the deadliest; approximately one person dies on the mountain for every four who reach the summit.

More to come.

Winter Attempts

1987/1988: Polish-Canadian-British expedition led by Andrzej Zawada from the Pakistani side. Hurricane winds and frostbite forced the team to retreat.
2002/2003: Netia K2 Polish Winter Expedition. The team of 14 intended to climb North Ridge. Failed due to the destruction of the tent by harsh weather in camp IV and cerebral edema.
2011/2012: Russian expedition. Nine Russian climbers attempted K2’s Abruzzi Spur route. The expedition was called off after a death.
2017/2018: Polish National Winter Expedition consisting of 13 climbers attempted by bailed. Denis Urubko then attepted to solo and reached around 7,600m.