K2 is the second highest mountain in the world, and is generally viewed as one of the most deadly, along with Annapurna I. As a result, it is often seen as one of the most impressive mountaineering accomplishments for any climber, ahead of the more commonly climbed Everest, despite being over 200 metres lower in absolute elevation. K2 only saw its first winter expedition in January 2021, by a group of 10 Nepali climbers led by Nirmal Purja and Mingma Gyalje Sherpa; previously team leaders for two separate teams competing for the winter summit title prior to uniting for the successful attempt. This summit marked the final 8000 metre mountain to be completed in the winter. It was first climbed in 1954 by a two-man Italian expedition, just a year after the first ascent of Everest, and seven years after Pakistan was granted independence. There were multiple expedition summit attempts prior to this, the first being a British Attempt in 1902, and later, a 1939 American expedition said to have reached 240 metres below the summit.
The name K2 comes from the name of the range the mountain lies within; the Karakoram range. Starting in 1802, a project began to measure the entire Indian subcontinent, known as the Great Trigonometrical Survey. It was under this that two mountains were sketched, labelled K1 and K2. The former was later known to already named (and now formally known as) Masherbrum; whereas the K2 was never found to have a local name and hence remains known as K2 today.
The most common K2 route is the Abruzzi Spur. Around three quarters of climbers choose this route, which is located on the Pakistan side of the mountain. It gets its name from the Duke of the Abruzzi, who attempted to scale the mountain in 1909. It passes many of the highly technical climbing areas on the mountain, including the 'House's Chimney' and 'The Black Pyramid'.
- Abruzzi Spur (Most Popular)
- The North Ridge: considered to be one of the most dangerous of all routes and is accessed via the Chinese side of the mountain. It passes along many of the most technical parts of K2.
- The Northeast Ridge: starting at the head of the Godwin-Austen Glacier, leading through to a highly corniced ridge, leading up to 7,900 metres. It later traverses the East Face, and finishes alongside the Abruzzi Spur route.
- The West Ridge: starting from base camp on the Negrotto Glacier, it requires setting fixed ropes as part of the route along the West Face.
- The Southwest Pillar: said to be one of the most demanding routes, reportedly once labelled as "suicide" by Reinhold Messner.
- The South Face: also considered to be one of the most dangerous routes, starting on the Pakistan side. It begins long the Southwest Pillar, before setting its own route through gullies and exposed cliffs, eventually meeting the Abruzzi Spur prior to the summit. It is said to be one of the highest risk routes for avalanches.
- The Northwest Face
- The South-Southeast Spur: considered as one of the safest routes, it is a variation to the Abruzzi route and as it avoids the Black Pyramid.
- The West Face: primarily comprised of rock crevasses and couloirs.
There are no huts on K2. Tents are the only overnight option.