By Amjad Ali
Islamabad, Aug 8 (EFE).- Pakistan’s K2, the most difficult of the eight-thousanders to climb, has seen a record number of climbers this season, reviving memories of the 2019 “traffic jam” on Mt. Everest.
Asian Alpine Club spokesperson Karrar Haidri told EFE that on July 22, taking advantage of ideal weather, 145 mountaineers summited K2, setting a record for the most climbs on “Savage Mountain” in a single day.
“The last one-day highest of 45 (was) in 2005,” Haidri said.
But the massive influx of climbers seen by some as a boon to the Pakistani economy is not without consequences.
Mingma G, one of the 10 Nepalese who made the first winter ascent of K2 last year, was back on the peak on July 22 when he posted a Facebook video of the “bottleneck” location at 8,200 meters (around 26,900 feet).
A long line of mountaineers was seen slowly ascending towards the summit. “(It) is the scariest part on K2 and we had to be in a long queue,” Mingma wrote.
The scene brought back 2019 pictures from Mt. Everest, when more than 200 climbers reached the top from the Nepalese side, setting a new single-day record but also causing a “traffic jam” with hours-long waits at a narrow passage near the summit.
The 2019 season claimed nine lives on the Nepalese side.
Several of these fatalities were due to exhaustion from waiting for hours during the jams.
Six people have died so far this season in K2, including Ali Akbar Sakai, who aspired to be the first Afghan climber to scale the mountain, shaped like an almost perfect ice pyramid and marked by unpredictable weather.
Moreover, the relative difficulty in obtaining Pakistani visas, compared to Nepalese ones, was another deterrent in climbing K2.
However, improved security conditions and a more efficient online visa system have increased the interest of climbers in this 8,611-meter mountain, apart from an influx of experienced Nepalese Sherpas.
More than 1,400 climbers and mountaineers headed this year to northern Pakistan, home to five eight-thousanders and hundreds of mountains over 6,000 meters.
Haidri expects the number of visitors to continue to rise in the coming years.
He said K2 remains the same treacherous mountain, and the increased influx of climbers opens the door to more deaths in a country where rescue services depend on the army, unlike in Nepal.
“The government must come forward to promote mountaineering in the country but not at the risk to lives,” he said.
In the last stretch from the famous bottleneck, there was only one fixed rope, as the images captured by Mingma showed.
“K2 is the king of mountains (…) it’s massive, it’s dangerous and it’s beautiful, it constantly tries to kill you,” commented Samina Baig on social networks, who on July 22 became the first Pakistani woman to scale the mountain.
The 30-year-old climber is a villager in the Pakistani province of Gilgit-Baltistan.