Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Karakoram 2011: Summits On K2!!
The long weeks of hard work and patience have finally paid off on K2, where the news is coming in this morning that the international team has summited the mountain. Details are still a bit light, but late in the day Pakistan time, Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, Maxut Zumayev, and Vassiliy Pivtsov have topped out on the world's second highest peak. Derek Zaluski is said to be close behind, but as of this writing, not at the summit yet.
Gerlinde's website has been down for maintenance all day (How's that for timing?), but has just come back online to announce that she has reached the summit, with Max and Vassiliy close behind. The note alos says that Darek is trailing a bit, but should arrive shortly. That post came at 6:18 PM local time.
Their day began at 1:30AM this morning, when they started the final summit push. The team had spent a very cold night at 8300 meters (27,230 ft) and were anxious to get the final portion of their climb underway. Unfortunately, they found plenty of snow waiting for them, and they had to continue to break trail through waist deep powder for much of their way up. It is also an extremely cold day on the mountain, and all four are said to be suffering from the bitter temperature. That said, the winds are nearly non-existant and there isn't a cloud in the sky, so the weather window has held, even if the temperatures have dropped.
This is all welcome news, as these summits are the first since the tragic events of 2008 during which 11 people died on K2. Since that time, the mountain has turned back all challengers, including some of the most experienced and talented climbers on the planet.
It should also be noted that by completing this climb, Gerlinde has become the first woman to summit all 14 of the 8000 meter peaks without the use of supplemental oxygen. That is a huge accomplishment as well, and she deserves all the accolades for pulling that off.
Of course, the climb isn't over just yet. They need to get back down safely as well, and considering how long they've been climbing already today, they are surely exhausted. They'll likely descend back to Camp 4, rest awhile, then continue down the mountain. Keep your fingers crossed for them until they are safely back in Base Camp. They're not safely off the "Savage Mountain" just yet.
Congrats to Gerlinde, Max, Vassiliy, and Darek on a job well done. Now get down safe!