Karakoram 2016: American Woman Going for Speed Record on K2?

Teams of climbers are now arriving in Islamabad as the climbing season on K2, Broad Peak, Nanga Parbat, and other big mountains in Pakistan get underway. It’ll be a couple of weeks before things really ramp up, but we are now starting to get a sense of what to expect in the season ahead, including a potential speed record attempt on K2 itself.

It has now been revealed that British-American climber Vanessa O’Brien is on her way to K2, where she hopes to become the first woman from the U.S. to summit the peak, as well as the fastest ever too. She already holds the speed record for a woman climbing the Seven Summits, having accomplished that feat in 295 days.

O’Brien is an experienced mountaineer, but she has not faced a challenge like K2 before. This will certainly be a test of her skill and determination, although a healthy dose of luck will be involved too. The weather on K2 is very unpredictable, making it hard to predict when a summit push can begin. We’re a long way from that point right now however, although she says she hopes to make her summit push in about six weeks time. Late July and early August are the traditional timeframe for reach the top of this very difficult mountain.

(Update: It isn’t clear from the article linked above doesn’t make it clear what, if any, speed record Vanessa may be going for. It is possible that the headline is misleading and based on her speed record on the Seven Summits.)

Vanessa says she is climbing to raise awareness of the incredibly natural environment that is found Gilgit-Baltistan region, as well as to improve relations between the West and Pakistan. She’s also championing the rights of women in that country and across the globe.

Meanwhile, other teams are assembling and preparing to depart for the mountains as well. It typically takes several days to journey from Islamabad to Skardu if they go overland, and more than a week to trek to Base Camp, depending on their ultimate goal. That means we won’t see anyone officially starting their climbs until next week, but there should be more interesting stories to tell as the teams press forward. More to come soon.

Kraig Becker

4 thoughts on “Karakoram 2016: American Woman Going for Speed Record on K2?”

  1. Thinking of you, Vanessa and wishing you and your team safety and success as well as all the other climbers in the Karokorum and especially on K-2 this season. Please let us know first if anyone finds any remains of our family there, my son Denali Schmidt and his father Martin (Marty) Schmidt. Holding you in my prayers for a safe ascent and return.

    All the best,


  2. Alan: It isn't exactly clear from that article which speed record – if any – she is going for. I'll amend the article to reflect that.

  3. I think they were combining her Grand Slam in female record time (since broken) with a poor sentence structure for her K2 attempt.

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