Although Mount Everest is the tallest mountain in the world, K2 is widely regarded as the most dangerous to climb and it has even earned the nickname ‘Killer Mountain’.
Shocking figures from 2021 show that almost one in six ascents tragically end in death – but that does not appear to be putting off rich Westerners who are turning to K2 amid a post-pandemic surge of thrill-seeking.
Permits to climb K2 cost around £9,500 in addition to all the costs of travelling to Nepal and hiring guides and Sherpas.
But some K2 trips for the ultra-rich are available for £54,700 – where climbers have access to WiFi, hot showers and heating at base camp, while they are fed Western food because ‘the food available in Pakistan is not the best for foreigners’.
The cost does not seem to be putting Westerners off though, as a record-breaking 207 permits to climb K2 were bought last year. Last August, video taken by a Sherpa showed major overcrowding in a narrow passage of ice as eager mountaineers formed a perilous traffic jam on their bid to reach the top.
British climber Adriana Brownlee, 21, who reached the summit a few days after the video emerged, told MailOnline that K2 has become the ‘new mission impossible’, adding: ‘Everest has always been the highest mountain in the world but K2 is a lot more dangerous which attracts a lot of people.’
Ms Brownlee previously said that they were playing ‘Russian roulette’ with falling rocks on their ascent and warned that K2 ‘shouldn’t be seen as a tourist attraction’.
Whether it’s flying to space, attempting to reach the Titanic wreckage 12,500ft below sea level or climbing to the summits of the world’s most challenging peaks, wealthy daredevils are going above and beyond to get their adrenaline rush.
K2 made headlines again this week after mountaineers were blasted for allegedly stepping over a dying helper while attempting to complete a world record
Some K2 trips for the ultra rich are available for £54,700 – where climbers have access to WiFi, hot showers and heating at base camp. They are led by US mountaineer Garrett Madison. Here, a group are pictured at base camp in June last year
This image, used extensively in Pakistan media news reports, is believed to show Mohammed Hassan
Norwegian climber Kristin Harila (pictured) said that she and her team did everything they could to help Hassan but the conditions on K2 were too dangerous to move him
As Mohammad Hassan lay seriously injured, 1,300ft from the summit of K2, dozens of fellow climbers carefully edged towards him, risking their lives as they clung to the side of the narrow ledge.
They then clambered around the stricken 27-year-old who had slipped off a narrow ledge and got tangled in ropes as they left him to die while continuing their own personal bid for glory.
Renowned Norwegian mountaineer Kristin Harila, 37, was also accused of holding a party shortly after clinching the record that saw her climb 14 of the world’s highest peaks in just over three months. She has denied her team stepped over Hassan.
US mountain guide Garrett Madison, who recently achieved the rare Everest region triple crown’ by climbing Everest, Lhotse and Nuptse in one season, leads the £54,700 expeditions and is preparing to launch another in 2024.
On his website, a description of the trip – where climbers must put a £20,000 deposit down – says: ‘Unfortunately, the food available in Pakistan is not the best for foreigners, so we have developed a meal plan that encompasses the entire trek and climb.
‘Most of this food is brought from the USA, and we have a Nepalese cook who we have worked with for many years who (with his staff) meticulously prepares each meal for our team.’
It adds: ‘It is very important to differentiate ourselves from other operators in that we have a very nice base camp, with large common tents with heating for dining and communications, and comfortable personal tents for each member.
K2 has claimed the lives of many, including Scottish climber Rick Allen who died in 2021
Tom Ballard (right as a child), 30, the son of mountaineer Alison Hargreaves (C) who died on K2 in 1995, and Italian Daniele Nardi went missing in 2019 and their bodies were found a couple of weeks later
Norwegian mountaineer Rolf Bae (pictured) was among 11 climbers who were killed on K2 in 2008
‘Being here for almost 2 months, it is important for our team to have a comfortable camp, as well as to have access to the internet via a satellite modem (this cost is free to all members).
‘We have regular access to hot showers, sinks for washing multiple times daily, one sanitary toilet tent for men and one for women, as well as ample space for storing your personal equipment securely.’
Standing tall at 28,251ft, the treacherous K2 mountain – which is prone to avalanches and rock falls – has claimed several lives over the years, including Brits.
Just two years ago, a Scottish climber died in an avalanche on K2 as he attempted to take a new route to the summit.
Rick Allen, from Aberdeen, had been attempting to climb the mountain to raise money for the Partners Relief And Development charity.
Mr Allen was understood to have been caught up in the avalanche on the mountain’s south-east face. It was reported at the time of his death, in July 2021, that he would be buried at the foot of the mountain.
Partners Relief and Development said at the time that ‘Rick died doing what he loved the most and lived his life with the courage of his convictions’.
On ‘Savage Mountain’, winds gust at hurricane speed and the temperature can fall to -65c.
The name stuck after US mountaineer George Bell said of his own attempt in 1953: ‘It is a savage mountain that tries to kill you.’
No one had ever summited K2 in winter until a group of ten Nepali climbers reached the peak in January 2021. To attempt to do so had been described as ‘the last great mountaineering challenge’.
Later that year, a British climber whose mother died on notorious K2 also fell victim to ‘killer mountain’.
K2 – pictured from overlooking town Askole in the Gilgit–Baltistan region of Pakistan – gained notoriety as the ‘Savage Mountain’ after American mountaineer George Bell descended from the peak in 1953
Overcrowding at K2: Climbers say that K2 has become the ‘new mission impossible’ with thrill-seekers choosing it over Everest
Permits to climb K2 cost around £9,500 in addition to all the costs of travelling to Nepal and hiring guides and Sherpas
Tom Ballard, 30, the son of mountaineer Alison Hargreaves who died on K2 in 1995, and Italian Daniele Nardi went missing in 2019 and their bodies were found a couple of weeks later.
Just last year, an Australian and a Canadian climber were found dead on K2. Matthew Eakin and Richard Cartier had gone missing as they made their descent from Camp 2 to Camp 1. Their bodies were later found.
In 2008, an Italian climber was miraculously seen stumbling down K2 just days after 11 fellow climbers were killed.
A frostbitten Marco Confortola was seen slowly climbing down to a height where he could be reached by a rescue helicopter.
Catastrophe struck on August 1, when a chunk of falling ice tore fixed lines from a perilous steep gully known as the Bottleneck high on the peak, stranding climbers in the ‘Death Zone’, where bodies begin degenerating because of lack of oxygen.
The dead included three Koreans; two Nepalis; two Pakistani high altitude porters; French, Serbian, and Norwegian climbers; and an Irishman Gerard McDonnell.
After Mohammad Hassan became the latest person to die on K2, fellow mountaineers reignited fury about how Sherpas are treated as ‘second-class human beings’ and said a Western climber would not have been left to die in the same instance.
Norwegian climber Harila, who last month scaled her 14th highest peak in just over three months, has insisted that she and her team did everything they could to help Hassan but the conditions on K2 were too dangerous to move him.
But mountaineer Philip Flämig, an Austrian who was climbing with Wilhelm Steindl, said footage the two recorded using a drone shows a trail of climbers walking over the stricken body instead of helping Hassan.
‘He is being treated by one person while everyone else is pushing towards the summit,’ he told Austria’s Standard newspaper, referencing the drone footage.
‘The fact is that there was no organised rescue operation although there were Sherpas and mountain guides on site who could have taken action.’ Harila and her team members were among those climbers, The Telegraph reported.
He called the death a ‘disgrace’ and said ‘such a thing would be unthinkable in the Alps’ – referencing the ongoing debate about how Sherpas are used in the Himalayas.
‘If he had been a Westerner, he would have been rescued immediately. No one felt responsible for him,’ he told the Austrian publication.
‘A living human was left lying so that records could be set.’
Harila defended her actions and choices on K2 last month to The Telegraph, saying ‘we did all we could for him’.
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