The Nepalese team overcame ‘truly horrible’ conditions to become the first to reach the world’s second highest mountain in winter.
Members of a Nepalese climbing team who made history On the weekend by becoming the first to climb the world’s second highest mountain – Pakistan’s K2 – during the winter season, they said they battled hurricane-force winds and freezing temperatures to achieve the feat.
The triumphant 10-man team was snatched from base camp on the 8,611-meter (28,251-foot) K2 – known as the ‘Wild Mountain’ – by a Pakistani army helicopter and airlifted to the Shigar Valley, a gateway to the mighty Karakoram Range. .
Dressed in traditional woolen hats and adorned with garlands, the climbers were received like heroes on the first leg of their return journey.
“This winter, we came here with the hope that we would make it happen,” said Nirmal Purja, one of the main members of the team and a former Gurkha and British special forces soldier, on Wednesday.
“The weather conditions were really, really horrible, the temperature was going up to minus 65 degrees Celsius (minus 85 degrees Fahrenheit) – there was a hurricane [strength winds] but 10 climbers from Nepal managed to get there.
One of the climbers told AFP news agency he almost failed to make history, briefly giving up in the rough conditions.
“In camp four, I had quit, but when I made the radio call… he didn’t answer,” said Mingma Gyalje, known as Mingma G, who had attempted the year record. last.
“I couldn’t leave my team alone like this so when he didn’t respond I decided to try again.
“Normally when someone doesn’t answer a call you feel offended, but in this case, I’m thankful.”
Although he is renowned for his climbing expertise, there has never been a Nepalese climber on a first winter ascent to a summit over 8,000 meters (26,247 feet).
Nepalese guides – usually ethnic Sherpas from the valleys around Mount Everest – are considered the backbone of the climbing industry in the Himalayas for bearing enormous risk in mending ropes, repairing ladders, and transporting material and food.
Call for unity
The climbers had been divided into different expeditions initially, but formed a new group to claim the summit on behalf of Nepal on Saturday, singing the national anthem when they reached the summit.
“It was by no means an individual effort – [it was] 10 brothers united like a family, like a brother, and everyone played a really very important role, ”said Purja, who in 2019 broke the record of being the fastest person to conquer all the mountains in the world over 8,000 meters, completing the mammoth challenge in just over six months.
“The message from here is that the world is going through a crisis right now – we have COVID-19, and more… global warming.
“I think the message is important, that if we all come together we can make… anything possible, and therefore why we worked together to make K2 possible.”
Unlike Mount Everest, which has been overcome by thousands of climbers young and old, K2 is a much more difficult and lonely place.
Northern Pakistan is home to some of the highest mountains in the world, including K2, in the territory of Gilgit-Baltistan.
Nestled between the western end of the Himalayas, the Hindu Kush mountains and the Karakoram range, Gilgit-Baltistan has 18 of the 50 highest peaks in the world.