Has Commercial Climbing Ruined K2?

K2 2006b

If you follow the mountaineering scene closely you probably already know that commercial climbing teams have found a great deal of success on K2 in recent years. A peak that was once the domain of only the best alpinists in the world has been summited dozens of times in 2017 and 2018, calling into question its moniker as the “Savage Mountain.” This has of course led some to believe that the peak is no longer the “Mountaineer’s Mountain” either, as more and more climbers now crowd into its Base Camp on an annual basis. That is exactly the gist of a recent article posted on Explorers Web, which purportedly details “The Sad Decline of K2.”

The article, which was written by Sebastian Alvaro Lomba and originally appeared at marca.com, was translated into English for ExWeb readers. Some of the translation is a bit rough around the edges, but its meaning is pretty clear. The same commercialization efforts that have had a lasting impact on Everest is now in full effect on K2 as well, and the mountain will likely never be the same again.

The author is quick to point out that his beef with the current climate on K2 isn’t about the number of summits –– which numbered more than 70 this year alone. Instead, he laments the fact that the climbers now going to the mountain are no longer seasoned climbers looking to summit the peak under their own power. Instead, there are now rope fixing teams, high altitude porters shuttling oxygen bottles, and Sherpas leading clients to the top. Sound familiar?

To be clear, the current crop of climbers heading to K2 tend to be very experienced alpinists with multiple 8000-meter peaks under their belt. Sure, there are a few that haven’t taken on peaks that tall before, but the Savage Mountain still commands respect and perseverance. Still, it is undeniable that things are changing there as more commercial teams crack the code for success on K2. Twenty years ago, things were different on Everest as well, but now hundreds of climbers top out on that mountain each year. No one is suggesting that will happen on K2 anytime soon, but let’s check back in two decades to see where things are at.

What do you think? Have the commercial teams ruined things on K2?

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2 thoughts on “Has Commercial Climbing Ruined K2?”

  1. I hate to sound like a complete pessimist, but outdoor pursuits in general are being ruined by general overuse whether driven by commercialization or just social media. You can't really blame people for wanting to get out there, but there's just too many people going to too many of the same places/pursuits. It's not going to get any better unless you just go to the places that others don't want to (yet).

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