Triumph, tragedy mark historic winter first on K2 by Nepali climbers
By Sangam Prasain
Kathmandu, Jan 21 (efe-epa).- A group of 10 Nepali climbers made the first winter ascent of K2, the world’s second-tallest mountain, pulling off one of the “last remaining great prizes” in mountaineering history.
The group reached on Jan.16 the 28,251-foot summit of K2, located in Pakistan’s Karakoram range.
“Finally we did it. We made history in the mountaineering field,” Mingma Gyalze Sherpa, who is known as Mingma G, wrote on his Facebook page.
Congratulatory messages started pouring in from around the world for the historic success since the peak was the last of the world’s 14 tallest mountains that had not been climbed in winter.
“This expedition was special. We want to show that we (Sherpas) are not just porters on the mountain, climbing for our livelihood,” Mingma G told EFE over the phone from the K2 base camp.
“For several past decades, Nepalese Sherpas have been assisting people from around the world to climb, make records and enjoy success. This year, we did it on our own.”
Mingma G had climbed K2 twice – in 2014 and 2017 – in the summer season. His K2 winter mission failed last year due to extreme cold.
Among 10 climbers, nine were Sherpas, who started their career as porters.
Climbing the treacherous K2 that straddles Pakistan and China was never easy, more so amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The expedition was planned from Dec.21 until Feb.28.
For the last three weeks, around 60 alpinists from a dozen countries have battled high winds, heavy snowfall in an attempt to achieve the “impossible.”
“The boys did it. This time not as a guide or porters. It’s a proud moment that K2 winter records remain to Nepalese climbers,” Kami Rita Sherpa, the record-breaking Everest climber, told EFE.
“Nepalese sherpas have assisted foreigners to reach the summits of the Himalayas for several decades, but despite the hardship, we’ve not been getting the recognition we deserve.”
The weather was the key factor for the winter expedition.
Climbers say that avalanches are an ever-present risk, and in winter temperatures can fall to minus 50 degrees Celsius. Winds blow up to 200 kmph (124 mph).
In the end, it turned out to be a mixture of triumph and tragedy.
Veteran Spanish mountaineer Sergi Mingote died in the lower camp.
“We lost Sergi, it’s a great loss for the mountaineering,” said Mingma G.
Scaling K2 in winter had become one of the most sought-after mountaineering objectives.
Nobody had climbed its steep faces and reached the peace so far successfully braving potential frequent rockfalls and avalanches in harsh winter conditions.