A team of Nepalese climbers made history by scaling the world’s second-highest peak – Pakistan’s K2 – in the winter season, a local Alpine Club official said, on the same afternoon a Spanish mountaineer fell and died lower down the perilous mountain.
The secretary of Pakistan’s Alpine Club, Karrar Haideri, said 10 Nepali sherpas reached the summit about 5pm (12:00 GMT) on Saturday.
“This was never done by anyone before in winter,” said Haideri.
At 8,611 metres (28,251 feet), K2 is the most prominent peak on the Pakistani side of the Himalayan range, and the world’s second tallest after Mount Everest.
“WE DID IT,” tweeted Seven Summit Treks, a trekking company leading one of the expeditions.
“Nepalese climbers finally reached the summit of Mt K2 this afternoon at 17:00 local time,” the group said.
16 Jan 2021🇳🇵🏔🇵🇰
WE DID IT, BELIVE ME WE DID IT- JOURNEY TO THE SUMMIT NEVER DONE BEFORE
🦾The Karakorum’s ‘Savage Mountain’ been summited in most dangerous season:WINTER
Nepalese Climbers finally reached the summit of Mt. K2 (Chhogori 8611m), this afternoon at 17:00 local time. pic.twitter.com/O530X3WgKh
— Seven Summit Treks 🇳🇵 (@sst8848) January 16, 2021
But the success was overshadowed by the death of a Spanish climber, Sergi Mingote, lower down the mountain.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez described him as a “great sportsman” on Twitter, writing: “He wanted to keep on making history … and a tragic accident ended his life.”
The Alpine Club of Pakistan said in a statement that the climber fell while descending to Base Camp shortly before 4pm.
Secretary Haideri added the club was helping to coordinate the evacuation of the body, but with weather conditions expected to be poor overnight, it would be done on Sunday morning.
The peak is known as the “Savage Mountain” for the punishing conditions there, where winds can blow at more than 200km per hour (125 miles per hour) and temperatures can drop to minus 60 degrees Celsius (minus 76 degrees Fahrenheit).
Haideri said four international climbing teams had arrived about a month ago to try to scale K2 – the last peak above 8,000 meters in the world to not be climbed in the winter.
The group of 10 Nepalis has so far been the only successful team, he added.
Haideri revealed the climbers, who called themselves sherpas, had earlier been spread across different teams, but formed a new group in order to claim the feat in Nepal’s name.
Since the maiden attempt back in 1988, just a handful of winter expeditions have been attempted on the peak in the Karakoram range along the Chinese border that leads into the Himalayas.
Haideri said no mountaineers had reached higher than 7,750 metres (25,426.5 feet), until Saturday when fair weather conditions allowed the climbers to push ahead.
According to the Alpine Club, an unprecedented number of climbers, totalling some 48 members, converged on the mountain this winter – more than all the previous winter expeditions put together.
‘Recognition we deserve’
The news led to joy throughout Nepal, long used to watching foreign climbers seize records.
“For decades, Nepalis have assisted foreigners to reach the summits of the Himalayas, but we’ve not been getting the recognition we deserve,” said renowned Nepali climber Kami Rita Sherpa, who has climbed Everest a record 24 times.
“The spotlight has always been on foreign climbers. It is wonderful that today, on K2, 10 Nepalis have made history and shown our bravery and strength.”
Nepali guides, usually ethnic sherpas from the valleys around Everest, are considered the backbone of the climbing industry in the Himalayas for bearing huge risks to carry equipment and food, fix ropes and repair ladders.
“Sherpas are top climbers of the world, and it is a proud moment for us. But reaching the summit is only the first half. We hope now that they can all make it back down safely,” warned Ang Tshering Sherpa, the former president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association.