Alpinist 37

38 K2:The Mountaineer's Mountain, Part One

Posted on: January 11, 2012


In recent years, the "Everestification" of K2 (8611m) has brought increasing quantities of fixed rope, oxygen bottles and quasi-guided expeditions to the world's second highest mountain. Yet despite the spread of commercialism, this Karakoram giant remains among the most hazardous of the 8000-meter peaks. During the early days of K2's climbing history, its sustained steepness, objective hazards and violent storms gave it the allure (and the menace) of an almost metaphysical challenge. Greg Child once called it "the geologic personification of angst." Perhaps as a result, K2 provided the setting for so many of the classic tales that helped define the desires, ideals and fears of our community. In Part I of our two-part series, Steve Swenson returns to the lore of past centuries to rediscover the abiding human values beyond the stylistic debates. Jules Jacot-Guillarmod, Bob Craig and Luca Signorelli offer their own interpretations of what it has meant—and still means—to climb on the "mountaineer's mountain."

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