Friday, September 14, 2007

all about the karakoram

It often seems like the mystical realm of "mountaineering" is so far removed from the rest of rock climbing. But that's not to say that those massive snow-covered mountains don't hold an enormous allure even if you (like me) don't really want to trudge up them.

And what mountain is more alluring, mysterious, or frightening than K2, the crown jewel of the Karakoram range. But really, what is the Karakoram range?

Well, you asked for it, so here it is: all about the Karakoram range, which is mostly in Pakistan, but also extends into China and India. Like the Himalayas, the Karakoram was formed when India collided into the Asian continent, which is why these 2 ranges have many of the highest mountains on the planet, none of them volcanoes as we are so used to finding on the Pacific Rim.

K2 is the tallest peak in the Karakoram and the 2nd tallest on the planet at 8,611m, followed by Gasherbrum I at 8,068m and Broad Peak at 8,047m. Other notable peaks in the range include Gasherbrums II, III, and IV, Masherbrum, and Chogolisa.

Why K2? It was the 2nd peak discovered in the Karakoram by a group of explorers (pretty unoriginal, right?). Other mountains were initially called K1, K3, K4, and K5, but are now known as Masherbrum, Broad Peak, Gasherbrum II, and Gasherbrum I. The Chinese government still calls K2 Qogir, a name derived from a word created by Westerners from the local Balti words for "high" and "mountain."

K2 was not summited until 1954, when an Italian expedition, including a young Walter Bonatti, succeeded in getting two of its members to the top, while Bonatti and a local porter were forced to spend a night unprotected at extreme altitude. A second ascent was not achieved until 1977, when a Japanese team employed 1500 porters to reach the top. The following year, a strong American team led by James Whittaker reached the summit via a new route, the East Ridge. Although K2 has been summited successfully many times since then, it has earned a reputation as the world's most dangerous mountain. The weather is much worse than that on Everest and the easiest route is much more challenging and dangerous than its Everest equivalent. Ten times more people have climbed Everest than K2, while only 4 times more people have died on the big E than on the Savage Mountain. No wonder Ed Viesturs was more concerned about K2 than any other 8,000-meter peak.

Many thanks to Wikipedia for statistics and background info.



1 comment:

Climbing Narcissist said...

the west wall of gasherbrum IV has to be the most beautiful piece of rock on the planet