A timeline of human activity on K2
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
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.
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
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.
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).