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A timeline of human activity on K2

1856 K2 was named by TG Montgomerie of the Survey of India as he logged peaks in the Karakorum as "K1, K2, K2" etc. as viewed from My Haramukh in Kashmir. Because K2 was not prominently visible from any of the trading routes in the area, it did not have a common local name at the time in India. In China, it was known simply as "Qogiri" (pronounced "Chogori"), which means "Great Mountain."

British explorer W Martin Conway led a scientific mountaineering expedition to the Baltoro Glacier, and reached a point now known as "Concordia" about 8 hours from the base of K2.


An international expedition led by O Eckenstein reached the base of K2 on the north side (China), and climbed the North East Ridge to a height of 6525m (21,400 ft).


An Italian expedition led by Luigi Amedeo di Savoia, the Duke of Abruzzi, reached the base of K2 on the south side (Pakistan), and climbed the South East Ridge (now known as the Abruzzi Spur) to a height of 6250m (20,500 ft). Victorio Sella, the photographer of the expedition, took photographs of the mountain that still rank among the most famous ever.


An American expedition led by Dr Charles S Houston reach 7925m(26,000ft) on the Abruzzi Spur.


An American expedition led by Fritz Wiessner set a new altitude record on the Abruzzi Spur by reaching 8382m (27,500ft).


Another American team led by Dr. Charles Houston reached 7900m on the Abruzzi Spur. Team member Art Gilkey was lost in an avalanche during a valiant effort to help him descend from a high camp with serious altitude-related complications.

This was the year of team member Peter Schoening's legendary feat in saving the lives of a rope team of six men by single-handedly holding their weight.


First ascent! An Italian expedition led by Professor Ardito Desio reached the summit via the Abruzzi Spur using supplemental oxygen.


Second ascent. A Japanese expedition led by Ichiro Yoshizawa reached the summit via the Abruzzi Spur. In addition to using bottled oxygen, this team employed "siege" tactics, with 1500 porters and 52 members.


Third ascent. An American expedition led by Jim Whittaker reached the summit on the south side via the Polish North East Ridge, traversing to the Abruzzi Spur at 7,700 meters. There is some debate about who the first climber to reach the top of K2 without supplemental oxygen was. American Louis Reichardt was first, as he ditched his oxygen on the way because it didn't work. John Roskelley summited after Louis, but never had oxygen to begin with. The question with Reichardt is if his oxygen bottle really didn't work and how soon he dumped it.

1981 Teruo Matsuura led a successful attempt on the South-West ridge. On August 7th Eiho Ohtani and Nazir Sabir (from Pakistan) reached the summit making the first ascent of this route.
1982 A Japanese expedition led by Isao

Shinkai and Masatsugu Konishi were the first to reach the summit from the north (Chinese) side. Seven members of the team reached the summit, all without bottled Os. In the same year, a large Polish expedition led by Janusz Kurczab attempted the unclimbed North West Ridge without a permit, but were ordered down from 8200 meters when they were observed from the Chinese side.


Three women - Wanda Rutkiewicz of Poland, Julie Tullis of Britain, and Liliane Barrard of France - became the first 3 women to stand on the summit. Unfortunately, Julie and Liliane died on the descent. This season later became known as the "worst summer on K2", with a total of 13 deaths. All three women were climbing without supplemental oxygen.


Base on new satellite data, rumors circulated that K2 was actually slightly higher than Everest. Italian Professor Ardito Desio organized surveys of K2 and Everest, which reaffirmed Everest's superiority and provided further proof (in mountaineer's minds) of divine injustice.


A new route (the North West Face) was established on the north side by a Japaenese expedition led by Tomaji Ueki. The route joined the existing North Ridge route at 8,000 meters, but covered significant new terrain on the North West Ridge and the North West Face.


French climbers Pierre Beghin and Christophe Profit followed the North-West Ridge, diagonally traversed the North-West Face, and then reached the summit via the Japanese North Ridge route. Although they covered very little new terrain, the ascent was significant because they climbed the top portion of the route in alpine style, without the use of fixed ropes or fixed camps. There have been repeated attempts on new routes, and several new national ascents, but there have been no international "firsts" on K2 since 1991.

For a complete timeline and record of ascents through 1995, please consult Robert Mantovani and Kurt Diemberger's book, "K2: Challenging the Sky" (The Mountaineers, 1995).

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