Top 12 Interesting Facts About K2

Of all the majestic mountains in the world, this beast is considered to be the most dangerous to climb. Let’s take a closer look at some interesting facts about K2, a mountain that takes the lives of 1 in 4 people who try to climb it!

Interesting things to know about K2

1. It was named after the mountain range it’s situated in

The mountain was named after the Karakoram, an enormous mountain range located within the boundaries of 5 different countries. These countries are China, Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan.

It was referred to as “K2” because it was the second mountain to be explored in this particular mountain range during the Great Trigonometrical Survey of British India. This expedition was led by Thomas Montgomerie (1830-1878) in the year 1876.

He also named other peaks in the area K1, K3, K4, and K5, but these were renamed Masherbrum, Gasherbrum IV, Gasherbrum II, and Gasherbrum I, respectively.

Karakoram Mountain range
Karakoram Range / Guilhem Vellut / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en

2. K2 is located within the borders of 2 countries

The mountain is situated right on the border of two countries, China and Pakistan. More specifically, the Baltistan region of Northern Pakistan, and the Dafdar Township of the Xinjiang Autonomous Region of China.

The Karakoram is the second-highest mountain range on the planet and part of the mountain ranges that were formed because of the collision of the Indian subcontinent with the Asian mainland. Other famous mountain ranges in this part of the world include the Pamir Mountains, the Hindu Kush, and the Himalayan Mountains.

karakoram mountains
Mountains in the Karakoram / Furqnlw / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en

3. It’s the second-highest mountain peak in the world

K2 reaches a total elevation of 8,610 meters (28,250 feet) above sea level, which makes it the second-tallest mountain in the world. Only Mount Everest in the Himalayas is higher at an elevation of 8,848.86 meters (29,031.7 feet).

It’s also one of the steepest mountains in the world and has a consistent pyramid shape on all sides. It stands over 3,000 meters (9,840 feet) above the glacial valley below with the north side being the steepest, rising 3,200 meters (10,500 feet) in just over 3,000 meters (9,800 feet) of distance.

facts about K2
The pyramid-shaped mountain / Maria Ly / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en

4. It’s far from being the most prominent mountain in the world

Regardless of its height, it’s not the most prominent mountain in the world, mainly because it’s surrounded by other high peaks. The Karakoram Range alone features 4 of the 14 peaks in the world above 8,000 meters (26,000 feet). These are referred to as “Eight-thousanders.”

The mountain is ranked 22nd by topographic prominence and apart from Mount Everest (which doesn’t have a higher parent mountain), none of the mountains in this region rank in the top 15.

There’s even a mountain pass following the “Kora La” on the border of China and Nepal that connects K2 and Mount Everest. This path doesn’t go below an elevation of 4,594 meters (15,072 feet).

view from K2
View from K2 / Syed Hasan Shabbar / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en

5. It was called the highest mountain in the world in the 1980s

One of the most remarkable facts about K2 is that in the year 1986, a survey erroneously concluded that it was the highest mountain in the world. This expedition was led by George Wallerstein, an American astronomer, who used a satellite to make his measurements. This fascinating news obviously quickly spread all around the world.

The wrong numbers were corrected the following year in October 1987 when an Italian expedition came back with the right measurement of both mountains. The damage was done, however, as many publications already featured the wrong numbers!

K2 Pakistani side
The huge mountain / Svy123 / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en

6. The mountain consists of metamorphic rocks

The mountains in the area around K2 consist of metamorphic rocks which are referred to as “K2 Gneiss.” This conclusion was made when rock samples were examined that date back to about 115 to 120 million years ago.

The original protolith rock was transformed into the current K2 Gneiss after the collision of the Indian and Asian tectonic plates. The original rocks got buried up to a depth of 20 kilometers (12 miles), transformed and partially remelted, and were finally uplifted to form the Karakoram mountain range.

K2 metamorphic rocks
Rocks near the mountain / Mamaev Andrei / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en

7. The first attempt to climb K2 happened in the year 1902

The mountain and its surroundings were first explored in the 1850s, resulting in the mountain briefly being called the “Henry Godwin-Austen Mountain” after one of the initial British explorers.

No serious attempts to actually climb this beast of a mountain were made until the year 1902. One of the men attempting to conquer the mountain claimed that it took 14 days just to reach the foot because of the lack of transportation methods.

This attempt ended in a failure as the 6 men only reached a height of 6,525 meters (21,407 feet) with none of them being injured.

K2 fun facts
Sun on the mountain / Maria Ly / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en

8. An Italian Duke didn’t believe the mountain could be climbed

One of the most remarkable expeditions was made in the year 1909 when Prince Luigi Amedeo, Duke of the Abruzzi, was able to reach a height of 6,250 meters (20,510 feet) from the southeast end of the mountain.

The path taken by the Italian Duke and his team is now known as the “Abruzzi Spur” or “Abruzzi Ridge” and is the standard route to ascend K2, taken by about 75% of climbers.

Because of the numerous obstacles and bad weather conditions, the Duke claimed that the mountain would never be climbed, something that eventually turned out to be false, even though it would take nearly 5 decades more before it actually happened.

K2 in 1909
Picture taken during the Italian Expedition of 1909 / Wiki Commons

9. The 8,000-meter level was reached for the first time in 1938

The First American Karakoram expedition was led by American mountaineer Charles Houston in the year 1938 and was another serious attempt to reach the summit of K2. This expedition thoroughly investigated the various routes to reach the summit and determined that the Abruzzi Spur was indeed the most suitable.

Houston and his team were also the first to reach the elevation of 8,000 meters (26,000 feet), shortly before being forced down because of a lack of supplies and bad weather.

It was clear from then on that the possibility to reach the summit was pretty realistic!

K2 in Pakistan
The mountain from Pakistan side / Wiki Commons

10. The summit was reached in 1954 after multiple serious tragedies

Another American Expedition was launched in the year 1939 and the team led by Fritz Wiessner came within 200 meters (660 feet) of the summit. Wiessner decided to descend, though, together with his sherpa, Pasang Dawa Lama. It ended in disaster, however, because Dudley Wolfe, Pasang Kikuli, Pasang Kitar, and Pintso, disappeared on the mountain, never to be seen again.

The year before the first successful attempt, another American expedition led by Charles Houston in 1953 also saw casualties when a couple of members didn’t make it down after reaching a height of 7,800 meters (25,590 feet).

The first successful ascent to the summit of K2 happened on July 31, 1954, when Italian climbers Lino Lacedelli and Achille Compagnoni reached the summit of one of the most dangerous mountains in the world!

clouds on K2
Clouds on the mountain / Source

11. There are several routes to reach the summit, all equally dangerous

While the Abruzzi Spur is the most popular route to reach the summit, it’s not the only way up. Regardless of what route a climber takes, every path to the summit is extremely dangerous.

  • There’s a lack of oxygen because of the extreme height, with only 1/3 compared to at sea level.
  • The weather conditions are extremely rough and storms can last for several days.
  • All routes feature technical passages which only experienced climbers can conquer.

The east side of the mountain is virtually impossible to climb because of the instability of the snow and numerous dangerous ice formation. The north side has been attempted but nobody has reached the summit from there as well.

All popular routes are located on the Pakistani side of the mountain.

K2 routes
The multiple routes / Source

12. The first winter ascent happened in January 2021

It’s fairly uncommon for the mountain to be climbed during the winter months, let alone for somebody to reach the summit. That’s hy it asn’t until January 16, 2021, that somebody actually reached the summit.

And not just a single climber, an international expedition made the climb and 10 Nepalese climbers actually reached the summit together!

One of the most famous climbers in the world, a man named Nirmal Purja who has reached the summit of all “Eight-Thousanders,” managed to do so without the use of additional oxygen. A truly remarkable achievement at temperatures of -40° Celsius (-40°F).

Unfortunately, Spanish team member Sergi Mingote died during a fall and 3 others have been declared dead after they went missing during the same expedition.

That’s why the mountain has been described as “a savage mountain that tries to kill you!”

summit of K2
Summit of K2 / Adha65 / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en