Now that the dust has settled on the summer climbing season in Pakistan, and all of the teams have gone home, we can look back on what has become an historic season in the Karakoram – particularly on K2. The second highest mountain in the world, yet amongst the most difficult climbs on the planet, K2 has widely been considered the “Mountaineer’s Mountain,” and has a reputation of being a fearsome foe.
But this year, an unprecedented number of days with good weather allowed access to the summit like never before, and as a result a record number of climbers topped out. Now, a few weeks following the end of the season, we’re starting to get the full picture of just what was accomplished this year, and the numbers confirm that climbers found great success on the mountain.
ExWeb has posted an article that provides more insights into the 2014 season. According to their numbers, there were 48 summits on K2 this year, making it the single most successful season in history. Of those, 32 came on Saturday, July 26, which was the first day of the major summit push. More followed on Sunday, July 27, with the remaining summits taking place over a string of days the following week.
Furthermore, ExWeb reports that K2 saw an 80% success rate this season, which is far an away the best ever on that mountain. They also indicate that 40% of the climbers topped out without the use of supplemental oxygen as well. The ratio of climbers to Sherpa/High Altitude Porters was two-to-one this year, meaning that for every two climbers, there was a Sherpa guide to help them along. And while K2 is known for being incredibly deadly, this year there was only one fatality on the mountain. That was Spanish mountaineer Miguel, Angel Parez.
Amongst the milestones achieved on K2 this season were the first ascent by a Czech climber (Radek Jaros), and the first ascent by a Bulgarian (Boyan Petrov). Six female climbers also topped out including Dawa Yangzum Sherpa, Pasang Lhamu Sherpa, and Maya Sherpa, all of Nepal. They were joined on the summit by Luo Jing of China, and Aussie Chris Jensen Burke, each of whom was the first woman from their country to climb K2.
ExWeb wraps up their article with a bit of a historical look at how climbing has evolved on K2 over the years. While the title of that section reads “Times Are Changing,” the conclusion that the author comes to is that K2 will never become Everest, even if there are more people successfully climbing the mountain. The technical challenges that must be overcome in order to reach the top are just too great to have hundreds summit in a single year, and K2’s weather patterns are far more unpredictable and dangerous than those found on most other Himalayan peaks.
Whether or not the success that was found on K2 this year becomes the norm remains to be seen. In my opinion, the mountain remains the most difficult in the world to climb, but the unusually good weather this season helped to make the summit more accessible than ever before. Climbing teams in the future won’t be able to count on those same conditions, so the success rate is likely to plummet again next year. As ExWeb points out, there are years when it simply isn’t possible to summit K2 at all, and that isn’t likely to change anytime soon.