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Mount Godwin-Austen
K2 2006b.jpg
K2, summer 2006
Highest point
Ranked 2nd
Prominence4,020 m (13,190 ft) [1]
Ranked 22nd
Country high point
Seven Second Summits
Coordinates35°52′57″N 76°30′48″E / 35.88250°N 76.51333°E / 35.88250; 76.51333Coordinates: 35°52′57″N 76°30′48″E / 35.88250°N 76.51333°E / 35.88250; 76.51333
Native name
  • کے ٹو  (Urdu)
  • چھوغوری  (Balti)
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LocationBaltistan, Gilgit–Baltistan, Pakistan
Tashkurgan, Xinjiang, China, China–Pakistan border
Parent rangeKarakoram
First ascent31 July 1954
Achille Compagnoni
Lino Lacedelli
Easiest routeAbruzzi Spur

K2 is the second highest mountain in the world, at 8,611 metres (28,251 ft). It is also known as Mount Godwin-Austen or Chhogori.[2] K2 is part of the Karakoram range. It is located in Pakistan.[3]The name K2 came from the first survey of Karakoram. At that time, the surveyors gave each mountain a simple label of "K" followed by a number.

K2 is known as the Savage Mountain as it is very hard to climb. It is considered to be harder to climb than Mount Everest.[4] K2 has the second-highest fatality rate among the eight-thousand-metre mountains. One person dies for every four who reach the top.[5] As of 2011, only 300 people have climbed to the top of the mountain. At least 80 people have died trying to climb it.[4] K2 has never been climbed during the winter.[6]

The summit was first reached in 1954, by Italian climbers Lino Lacedelli and Achille Compagnoni.


Montgomerie's original sketch with the name K2

The name K2 was first used by the Great Trigonometrical Survey of British India. Thomas Montgomerie made the first survey of the Karakoram range. He did so from Mount Haramukh which is 210 km (130 miles) to the south. At the time he sketched the two most prominent peaks, and called them K1 and K2.[7]

The policy of the Great Trigonometrical Survey was to use local names for mountains when possible. K1 had the local name of Masherbrum which was soon used. K2, however, appeared not to have a local name. This may have been due to its remoteness. It is not visible from Askole, the last village to the south, or from the nearest village to the north. It is believed few local people would have gone to where it could be seen.[7] The name Chogori, from two Balti words, chhogo ("big") and ri ("mountain") (چھوغوری)[8] has been suggested as a local name.[9] There is not much evidence for its widespread use, however. It may have been invented by Western explorers.[10] It does form the basis for the name Qogir (simplified Chinese: 乔戈里峰; traditional Chinese: 喬戈里峰; pinyin: Qiáogēlǐ Fēng) which the Chinese government uses as the official name of the mountain.

As the mountain did not have a local name, the name Mount Godwin-Austen was suggested. This was in honor of Henry Godwin-Austen who had been an early explorer of the area. While the name was rejected by the Royal Geographical Society,[7] it was used on several maps and is still used once in a while.[11][12]

The label K2 is still the name by which the mountain is commonly known. It is now also used in the Balti language, rendered as Kechu or Ketu.[10] The Italian climber Fosco Maraini stated that while the name K2 came by chance, is was good for the mountain. He said:

... just the bare bones of a name, all rock and ice and storm and abyss. It makes no attempt to sound human. It is atoms and stars. It has the nakedness of the world before the first man – or of the cindered planet after the last.[13]

Climbing history[edit]

Early attempts[edit]

K2 from the east, taken in 1909

The mountain was first surveyed by a European team in 1856. Team member Thomas Montgomerie called the mountain K2. The other mountains were originally named K1, K3, K4, and K5, but were later changed to use local names.[14] In 1892, Martin Conway led a British expedition that made it to the Baltoro Glacier.[15]

The first real attempt to climb K2 was in 1902 by an Anglo-Swiss expedition. It took fourteen days for them to reach the foot of the mountain.[16] After five attempts the team only made it to 6,525 metres (21,407 ft).[17]

The next expedition was in 1909. It was led by the Italian Prince Luigi Amedeo, Duke of the Abruzzi. This team made it only to an elevation of 6,250 metres (20,510 ft) on the South East Spur of the mountain. After looking for and not finding other routes, the Duke said that K2 would never be climbed.[7]

The next attempt was not made until 1938. At that time, American Charles Houston took an expedition to the mountain. They decided that the Abruzzi Spur was the best route and made it to a height of around 8,000 metres (26,000 ft).[18]

In 1939, an American expedition led by Fritz Wiessner came within 200 metres (660 ft) of the summit. It ended in disaster when four members died on the mountain.[19]

Charles Houston tried again in 1953. The try was a failure due to a storm which trapped the team for 10 days at 7,800 metres (25,590 ft). One climber died in the expedition. Many others nearly died in a mass fall but were saved by Pete Schoening.[20]

First success[edit]

Achille Compagnoni on K2's summit in 1954

Finally, in 1954, an Italian expedition made it to the summit. It was lead by geologist Ardito Desio. The two climbers to reach the top were Lino Lacedelli and Achille Compagnoni, at 6pm on 31 July 1954. One member of the expedition (Colonel Muhammad Ata-ullah of Pakistan) had been part of the 1953 American attempt as well. Other members were scientists, a doctor, a photographer, and others. Mario Puchoz died in the attempt. Two other members had to be hospitalized and one had to have his toes amputated due to frostbite.[21]

Later success[edit]

The second success was not until 23 years after the first. It was a Japanese expedition lead by Ichiro Yoshizawa in 1977.[7]

The third success was in 1978, and used a different route from the first two. This one was done by an American team, lead by James Whittaker.[22]

Another notable success was in 1982, when a Japanese team climbed from the harder Chinese side of the mountain. The previous successes had been from the Pakistan side. The expedition was lead by Isao Shinkai and Masatsugo Konishi. Three members of the team made it to the summit on 14 August. One of them, however, died on when coming down. Four other members made it to the summit the next day, on 15 August.[23]

The first person to reach the summit twice was Czech climber Josef Rakoncaj. He was part of a 1983 Italian expedition that made the summit. Then three years later he made the summit again as part of an international expedition.[24]

The first woman to reach the summit was Polish climber Wanda Rutkiewicz in 1986. Two other women reached the summit later that same day, but died when coming down.[25]

In 2004, the Spanish climber Carlos Soria Fontán became the oldest person ever to summit K2, at the age of 65.[26]

In 2018, Polish climber Andrzej Bargiel became the first person to ski down K2 after he made it to the top.[27]

In addition to these notable successes, about 300 people have climbed to the top of the mountain.[4]

Climbing difficulty[edit]

Even though the summit of Everest is higher, K2 is a much more difficult and dangerous climb.[28] This is in part due to its worse weather. It is believed by many to be the world's most difficult and dangerous climb. This is what lead to the nickname "the Savage Mountain".[29] Only about 300 people have made it to the top.[30][31] This is much less than the 5,600 who have made it to the top of Everest. At least 80 (as of September 2010) people have died attempting the climb.


  1. "K2". Peakbagger.com.
  2. Chhoghori, K2. "K2 Chhoghori The King of Karakoram". Skardu.pk. Retrieved 23 November 2016.
  3. "K2". Britannica Academic. Encyclopædia Britannica. 29 August 2017. Retrieved 5 May 2019.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Brummit, Chris (16 December 2011). "Russian team to try winter climb of world's 2nd-highest peak". USA Today. Associated Press. Archived from the original on 8 April 2016. Retrieved 26 September 2015.
  5. Woodward, Aylin (30 May 2019). "At least 11 people died on Mount Everest last week. But it's just the 10th-deadliest mountain in the Himalayas". Business Insider. Retrieved 18 April 2020.
  6. "Stairway to heaven". The Economist. Retrieved 20 April 2015.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 Curran, Jim (1995). K2: The Story of the Savage Mountain. Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 978-0-340-66007-2.
  8. "Convert Roman into Urdu Script". changathi.com.
  9. "Place names – II". The Express Tribune. 2 September 2011. Retrieved 4 September 2011.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Carter, H. Adams (1983). "A Note on the Chinese Name for K2, "Qogir"". Notes. American Alpine Journal. Vol. 25, no. 57. American Alpine Club. p. 296. Retrieved 6 November 2016.
  11. "Pakistan". The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency.
  12. Carter, H. Adams (1975). "Balti Place Names in the Karakoram". Feature Article. American Alpine Journal. Vol. 20, no. 1. American Alpine Club. pp. 52–53. Retrieved 6 November 2016. Godwin Austen is the name of the glacier at its eastern foot and is only incorrectly used on some maps as the name of the mountain.
  13. Maraini, Fosco (1961). Karakoram: the ascent of Gasherbrum IV. Hutchinson.
  14. Kenneth Mason (1987 edition) Abode of Snow p.346
  15. Houston, Charles S. (1953). K2, the Savage Mountain. McGraw-Hill.
  16. "Confessions of Aleister Crowley, Chapter 16". hermetic.com. Retrieved 12 January 2014.
  17. "A timeline of human activity on K2". k2climb.net. Retrieved 12 January 2014.
  18. Houston, Charles S; Bates, Robert (1939). Five Miles High (2000 Reprint by First Lyon Press, with introduction by Jim Wickwire ed.). Dodd, Mead. ISBN 978-1-58574-051-2.
  19. Kaufman, Andrew J.; Putnam, William L. (1992). K2: The 1939 Tragedy. Mountaineers Books. ISBN 978-0-89886-323-9.
  20. Houston, Charles S; Bates, Robert (1954). K2 – The Savage Mountain (2000 Reprint by First Lyon Press with introduction by Jim Wickwire ed.). Mc-Graw-Hill Book Company Inc. ISBN 978-1-58574-013-0.
  21. "Amir Mehdi: Left out to freeze on K2 and forgotten". BBC News. 7 August 2014. Retrieved 4 September 2014.
  22. Reichardt, Louis F. (1979). "K2: The End of a 40-Year American Quest". Feature Article. American Alpine Journal. American Alpine Club. 22 (1): 1–18. Retrieved 6 November 2016.
  23. "K2, North Ridge". American Alpine Journal. American Alpine Club. 25 (57): 295. 1983. Retrieved 6 November 2016.
  24. Rakoncaj, Josef (1987). "Broad Peak and K2". Climbs And Expeditions. American Alpine Journal. American Alpine Club. 29 (61): 274. Retrieved 6 November 2016.
  25. "K2, Women's Ascents and Tragedy". Climbs And Expeditions. American Alpine Journal. American Alpine Club. 29 (61): 273. 1987. Retrieved 6 November 2016.
  26. "Dozens Reach Top of K2". climbing.com. Archived from the original on 8 December 2013.
  27. "First Ski descent on K2". dreamwanderlust.com. 22 July 2018.
  28. "The Big Question: What makes K2 the most perilous challenge a mountaineer can face?". The Independent. 5 August 2008. Retrieved 18 April 2020. It's enormous, very high, incredibly steep and much further north than Everest which means it attracts notoriously bad weather...Although Everest is 237m taller, K2 is widely perceived to be a far harder climb. "It's a very serious and very dangerous mountain," adds Sir Chris. "No matter which route you take it's a technically difficult climb, much harder than Everest. The weather can change incredibly quickly, and in recent years the storms have become more violent.
  29. Worrall, Simon (13 December 2015). "Why K2 Brings Out the Best and Worst in Those Who Climb It". National Geographic News. National Geographic Society. Retrieved 18 April 2020.
  30. Leonard, Brendan (10 October 2013). "The World's Most Dangerous Peak Beckons". www.redbull.com. Retrieved 18 April 2020.
  31. "Climber Lists: Everest, K2 and other 8000ers". viewfinderpanoramasorg.

Other websites[edit]