The Story Behind Vanessa O’Brien’s Summit of K2

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Last month, a team of 12 persistent mountaineers managed to claim the first summits on K2 since 2014. After weeks in the Karakoram, the team finally stood on top even as other commercial squads departed for home. Amongst them was Vanessa O’Brien, who became the first American woman to reach the top of the “Savage Mountain.” Since then, we’ve heard very little about the details of the climb, other than the team reached the top, got down safely, and then left Base Camp. But now, Outside magazine has the inside scoop of O’Brien’s daring climb and how she finally managed to summit the toughest mountain on the planet.

In the article we learn that in addition to struggling with usual challenges of the climb, which include extremely poor weather, technical ascents, as well as heavy snow and ice, Vanessa also had several injuries to deal with as well. In addition to having shoulder surgery prior to leaving for Pakistan, she also had an injured knee and a fractured sacrum. Those nagging pains would make the climb all that much more challenging, although she persevered through them nonetheless.

The article also goes into Vanessa’s story, which is an inspiring one to say the least. At one point in her life, she was working in the fast paced, cutthroat world of high finance, but wasn’t exactly feeling fulfilled with her career. So, she quit her job at Morgan Stanley and set off on a different path, completing the Explorer’s Grand Slam – summiting Everest and skiing to the North and South Pole – in record time. She also added five other 8000-meter peaks to her resume, while summiting K2 on her third attempt.

By reaching the top of K2, Vanessa also became the oldest woman to ever complete that climb, and by virtue of holding a dual passport, the first British woman to do so as well. But that’s just part of her story, and there is much more to tell, including what she would like to do next. While dreams of climbing mountains have occupied her time in recent years, she has other ambitions too, with perhaps finding a way to reach the lowest place on the planet as well.

Read the entire Outside article here.

Kraig Becker