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EDITORIAL: A team of Nepalese climbers won the last great prize in mountaineering last Saturday when they became the first to reach the summit of Pakistan’s K2, the world’s second highest mountain, in winter. Several other teams had been trying to do the same during the past few weeks, albeit without success. “We did it,” proudly tweeted the expedition organizer, Seven Summits Treks, adding that “The Karakorum’s ‘Savage Mountain’ has been summited in most dangerous season: winter. Nepalese climbers finally reached the summit of Mt K2 this afternoon at 17:00 local time.” It is a proud moment for Pakistan, too, to see fellow South Asians achieve that feat. Nepalese Sherpa guides have been known for helping Westerners reach the top of the Everest, but this is the first time they get well-deserved credit for their own navigational and survival skills.

Straddling the Pakistan-China border, climbers successfully reached the K2 at 8,611 meters, which is only 200 meters shorter than the Everest. Climbing it is not about height but other challenges that make it the most dangerous mountain. As those familiar with its topography point out, all its sides are extremely steep and prone to frequent rock falls and avalanches. The last 3000 are the most difficult, a particularly hazardous spot being the “bottleneck” couloir, about 1000 meters below the summit. If that is not demanding enough, the winds can blow at more than 200 kilometers per hour with temperature dropping to minus 60 C, making climbing more technical and slower than on any other peak, which give K2 the name ‘savage mountain’. Only a handful of expeditions have tried reaching its peak in wintertime. Since the first attempt in 1987-88 no one has made past 7,650 meters. There are many sad stories of people dying during ascent or descent. At about the same time the Nepalese team reached the K2 peak, reports said a Spanish mountaineer, Sergi Mingote, who had previously climbed seven of the ‘8000ers’, including the Everest, had died during decent to the base camp.

There are five ‘8000ers’ in Pakistan. Among them is the 8,125-meter high Nanga Parbat, also known as the ‘killer mountain’ for its treacherous terrain. Each year, these peaks invite the best mountaineers in the world to test the limits of human endurance. A large crop of local guides with climbing skills as well as porters has come up to assist these adventurers. In times of crisis the Pakistan Army helicopters also help with rescue operations. However, a well-organized setup with modern equipment is still lacking. This shortcoming needs to be addressed efficiently and effectively. For now, it is time to celebrate the success of the Nepalese climbers who have gone where no human has gone before.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021