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High Altitude Medicine
The Dream

Every year, Everest draws attention from the entire world. Climbers scale the worlds tallest mountain virtually before an audience of millions, those following the quests on their home computers.

As Everest close down, some time around the end of May, another drama unfolds. This is the Karakorum season opening in Pakistan and China. Usually far from the eyes of the international media, the worlds foremost climbers assemble here in June and July, to climb the worlds toughest alpine peaks. The crown of those is named K2.

Dubbed the "Savage Mountain," K2 in the Himalayas is Earth’s second-highest peak and arguably the hardest climb in the world. With a 8,611-meter (28,250-foot) summit, routes that are steeper and more difficult than those to the top of Everest, and surrounding weather that is significantly colder and less predictable than on Everest, reaching the top of K2 is the equivalent of winning the Olympic gold in mountaineering.

It was first summitted in 1954 by two Italians: Lino Lacedelli and Achille Compagnoni. Since then, there have been 189 summits (compared with approximately 1400 on Everest). Forty nine climbers have died on K2, twenty-two while descending from the summit. In terms of the number of accidents that happen on the descent, it is the most deadly mountain in the world. The statistics for female climbers are particularly dramatic. Some even say K2 is "cursed" for women. Five women have reached the top, but of those 5, three died on the descent. (The other 2 have since died on other 8,000-meter peaks.)

Situated in the middle of an isolated paradise, it is thought to be part of the fictional Shangri-La that James Hilton wrote about in Lost Horizon. This remoteness adds to the beauty, but it also increases the danger. If anything goes wrong on the mountain – even at Base Camp – it is almost impossible to be evacuated by helicopter. On the north side of the mountain, climbers are stranded for six weeks during the peak of the season, when the rivers in the Shaksgam Valley flood and cannot be crossed by the camels who accompany teams on the journey in.

In spite of the dangers, the mountain continues to lure climbers to it´s slopes of dark gray rock. It is the ultimate fear and as such must be faced and overcome by climbers aiming for alpine excellence. In scaling Everest, you are a great climber to the world. Summit K2, and you are a true climber to climbers.

K2 is the jealous king to Sagarmatha (Everest) the Mother Goddess. It is an unforgiving, handsome and mighty mountain. If the Kings crown is what you came for, be prepared to risk it all.