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January 20, 2021

K2 in winter

Editorial

 
January 20, 2021

The mountainous country of Nepal is well known for its range of high mountains, including Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak which was conquered by Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing of Nepal in 1953. To this day, we do not know if Hillary, a New Zealander, or Tenzing, from the country where the mountain stands, was the first to stand on the peak. The two men decided to keep this a secret, given that it took enormous teamwork to get to the top of the peak in sometimes tough conditions. But the conditions in which a 10-member Nepalese team conquered K2, the world’s second highest mountain and the last to have been climbed in winter, are even bigger heroes.

Native climbers from Nepal and sometimes other countries in the region often get too little credit for their efforts in helping mountaineers from other countries reach peaks, or for their own climbing abilities. Most expeditions which climb Everest, considered a relatively easy mountain to surmount compared to the treacherous K2 with its high wind and dangerous passes, are assisted by Sherpa climbers, a tribe or group which specialises in the mountains and lives close to them in Nepal. K2 is the highest mountain in the Karakoram Range, which runs through northern Pakistan, and is also known as the ‘killer mountain’ because of the difficulties in climbing it even in the summer months. It is for this reason a far more isolated peak than Everest, which has been climbed many times by climbers of all age groups and genders. This is why the Saturday, Jan 16 feat by the 10 Nepalese climbers who reached the top of K2 and sang their national anthem on the peak is worth a celebration.

The Nepalese climbers had teamed together to form a single group which would make for the top of K2. But as they reached the base camp after their climb, there was also some sad news. A Spanish climber belonging to a different team, also attempting to climb K2, had died while on his way down from intermediate camp to base camp after breaking a leg. Each year, we hear of deaths on K2 and other mountains in the region. The technical skills and sheer courage of the Nepalese climbers helped them make to the top. We hope this will help give recognition to Nepalese climbing and the abilities of these people, who are such skilled mountaineers, even though they often get too little recognition globally.