By Aamir Latif
KARACHI, Pakistan (AA) – A team of Nepali mountaineers has become the first to summit K2, the world’s second-highest mountain, in winter, an official announced on Saturday.
The 10-member team set out on the “extremely difficult” expedition on Jan. 12, braving the risk of avalanches, powerful winds, and temperatures as low as minus 65 degrees Celsius (minus 85 degrees Fahrenheit).
The landmark achievement, however, was marred by the death of a Spanish mountaineer, Sergi Mingote, who was part of the expedition but not among the team trying to reach the peak.
He died at the Base Camp, according to Karrar Haidri, secretary of the Alpine Club of Pakistan, the country’s official mountaineering federation.
“Mingote was scaling down to the Base Camp from Camp 1 when he fell into a crevasse at around 3:45 p.m. on Saturday. He died on the spot and his body needs to be evacuated,” Haidri told Anadolu Agency.
At least three more climbers were injured during the excursion and were shifted to the Base Camp for treatment, he added.
The daunting 8,611-meter K2, also known as “savage mountain” due to its treacherous terrain, had never been scaled in the winter.
All five previous attempts to reach its summit in winter were unsuccessful, with the highest altitude achieved being 7,750 meters by Denis Urubko and Marcin Kaczkan in late 2002 and early 2003.
Some 300 mountaineers have made it to the top before, but all of them took up the challenge in either the summer or spring seasons.
Even in relatively better weather conditions, 86 climbers have lost their lives while trying to scale the mountain, which towers over the Shigar district of the scenic northern Gilgit-Baltistan region bordering China.
The region is home to five of the 14 tallest peaks in the world – the Karakoram, the Himalaya, the Hindu Kush, and the Pamir – and has been a cynosure of trekkers and adventure tourists over centuries.