By Islamuddin Sajid
ISLAMABAD (AA) – Pakistani officials welcomed a team of Nepali climbers at a ceremony in the southern Gilgit Baltistan province on Thursday, who set the world record by reaching the K2 peak, the second-highest mountain in the world, in winter.
The 10-member team was brought back from the K2 Base Camp to the Shigar district of the scenic northern Gilgit-Baltistan region bordering China by a Pakistan Army helicopter, according to local army officials.
The regional Tourism Minister Raja Nasir and other civil and military officials received the team who set a new world record by reaching at 8,611 meters (28,251 feet) above sea level.
"Absolutely, I and my team are super powerful, and when we get dropped today, honestly my heart was crying to see such a really warm welcome from our family here in Pakistan," said Nirmal Purja, a member of the mountaineer group.
"As I keep saying, Pakistan is our second home, every time we come here and everybody always tells us that you are our guest," he said in a video shared by the army with the media.
The Nepali 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.
At least three more climbers were injured during the excursion and were shifted to the base camp for treatment.
The daunting 8,611-meter (28,251-foot) 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 (25,426 feet) 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.
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.