Various sources are reporting to EverestNews.com that 5 Pakistani porters have
died while trekking to K2 Base camp. The porters reportedly drowned in a
stream in the Shigar Valley near K2 base camp. The porters were pulled under
by strong currents in the stream after the storms of late. Their bodies have
not been found. All the expedition climbers are fine.
The local name of K2 is Chogori,
which in Balti language means the king of mountains. This name is little known
outside of Pakistan. It is, therefore, desirable that - K2 be used.
variously been described as the "awesome", "killer" and "savage" mountain.
This is because of it's massiveness in size and the numerous unsuccessful
attempts made on it by various expeditions, including many American
expeditions, who have made quite a few unsuccessful attempts.
K2 is a
rocky mountain up to 6000 meters, beyond which it becomes an ocean of snow.
The K2 peak is situated on the Pak-China border in the mighty Karakoram range.
The traditional route to its base camp goes from Skardu, which is linked with
Islamabad by a good road. From Skardu the route goes via Shigar-Dassu-Askole
up to Concordia over the Baltoro glacier. The exact height of the peak is
8,611 meters/28,251 ft.
It was in
1856, when the British were enforcing their control over India, provoking the
1857-War-of-lndependence, that a young Lieutenant of the Royal Engineers, T.G.
Montgomerie, was quietly busy in surveying the mountains of Kashmir. During
this survey he saw, in the far distance, a tall and conspicuous mountain in
the direction of the Karakorams and immediately named it K1 ('K' stands for
Karakorams). Later on, it turned out to be the beautiful mountain of Hushe
valley in Khaplu area of Baltistan, called Masherbrum by locals. He also saw
another tall and dominating summit behind K1 and named it K2, which turned out
to be "Chogori". The name K2, however, still stands.
Montgomerie was a good surveyor. He was the person who planned and organized
the survey of Kashmir. He was also an unofficial political adviser to Gulab
Singh, the then Maharaja of Kashmir. After Gulab Singh's death in 1857,
Montgomerie continued his survey work as he carried the same influence with
Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the successor of Gulab Singh. Montgomerie trained many
locals in surveying. His students did good reconnaissance work in remote
areas forbidden to foreigners because of local suspicions. A famous but
unfortunate student of his was Muhammad Hameed.
Captain Henry Haversham Godwin-Austen, of the Survey of India, went to the
Baltistan area and surveyed the famous Shigar and Saltoro valleys. This
greatly contributed to the knowledge of the area. He was an officer in the
24th Foot Battalion, later the South Wales Borderers, and had also served in
the Second Anglo- Burmese War in 1852. Earlier, he had joined Montgomerie at a
survey station in Kashmir in 1857. He also surveyed the Kajnag range in
southern Kashmir and was the first to put Gulmarg on the map. In 1858-59, he
surveyed eastern Kashmir including Jammu. In 1861, he started from Skardu and
entered Braldu valley from Skoro-La (5,043m). He then climbed and surveyed the
Chogo-lungma, Kero Lungma, Biafo and Panmah glaciers. It was from Kero Lungma
that Godwin-Austen climbed the Nushik pass (4,990m/1 6,371 ft) and is
stated to have entered the 53-km-long Hispar glacier. He was perhaps the first
European to reach it. He, however, did not survey it. He was considered as one
of the greatest mountaineers of the day, had great power of endurance and was
immensely brave. It is a myth that the K2 peak, which was erroneously called
Godwin-Austen peak, was discovered by him. It is, however, a fact that he
explored the gateway to K2 (the Baltoro glacier), along with famous glaciers
including Godwin-Austen glacier. This was indeed his outstanding contribution
to the geography of the area.
famous explorer of the area was Francis Younghusband (later knighted), a noted
soldier and thrill-seeker. Showing his courage and tenacity in 1887, he
crossed the Gobi desert from Peking and entered India by crossing Mustagh
pass. It was during this journey that he saw K2. In this way he was the first
European to cross Mustagh pass. He was also the first European to set eyes on
K2 from the northern side. His guide on this inward journey was a former
resident of Askole village, situated at the start of Baltoro glacier, who had
been living on the other side of the mountain for a very long time. When he
entered the village of Askole with his guide, Younghusband was extended due
courtesies. His guide was, however, looked down upon because he had shown a
foreigner the possible route of invasion. Subsequently in 1903-4, Sir Francis
Younghusband became the head of the famous mission to Tibet.
probably for the first time in 1902 that an organized expedition of Oscar J.L.
Eckenstein traveled to K-2 from Baltoro glacier. The expedition was without
any guide. Its aim was to explore approaches to the mountain and possibly have
a try on the peak. It was, however, harsh weather which prevented it from
attempting the peak. The party, however collected useful information about
the upper Godwin-Austen glacier which was used as a stepping stone by
expeditions in later years. Two members of the expedition - one a Swiss by the
name of Dr. Jules Jacot Guillarmot and the other an Austrian by the name of
Dr. V. Wesseley - succeeded in reaching 6523 meters (21,400ft) on the
north-eastern ridge of K-2. The party also ascended Skyang La (6150 meters) to
ascertain climbing possibilities of Skyang Kangri peak (7544 meters).
Eckenstein was the first mountaineer who applied the principles of engineering
to mountaineering and its equipment in Pakistan.
In 1909, a
big Italian expedition under the leadership of resolute Luigi Amadeo Giuseppe
(Duke of Abruzzi) the grandson of King Victor Emmanuel II of Italy,
reconnoitred K2. Its members produced a very good account of the expedition
with photographs and accurate maps of Baltoro area. The Duke, however,
rejected the southern and western ridges of the mountain for a climb. His
party attempted the peak from the south-east ridge-which later came to be
known as Abruzzi ridge - but could not proceed beyond 5560 meters because of
problems with porters. The party, however, carried out a thorough
reconnaissance of K2 from south to north-east. Vittono Sella, a photographer
and a climber, accompanied the Duke on this expedition. Sella pass, near
Godwin-Austen glacier, is named after him.
British mountaineers, Harold William Tilman and Eric Earle Shipton, explored
and surveyed the north face of K2 and its subsidiary glaciers in 1937.
Actually they were on a survey mission to Shaksgam valley when they also
visited the Trango and Sarpo Laggo glaciers. They also explored and surveyed
the famous Skamri glacier. Tilman was a famous explorer, mountaineer, sailor
and writer. He also distinguished himself as a planter in Kenya.
the other hand, was one of the significant explorers of the present century.
He was Tilman's companion on most of the expeditions. Shipton was also
Consul-General of India in Kashgar in 1940-42 and then in 1946-48.
the American Alpine Club sponsored a reconnaissance party for a visit to K2
area. The party reached a height of 7925 meters after setting up eight camps.
When compared with the heights climbed by previous expeditions, this seems to
be a considerable advancement. Famous American mountaineers like Dr. Charles
Houston and Robert Bates were in this party. Six Sherpas from Nepal were also
on this expedition as porters etc. After a proper reconnaissance of the routes
leading to K-2, the party rejected the north-west and north-east routes.
Instead, it selected the south-east ridge (Abruzzi ridge). It was the shortage
of food supplies that forced Houston and Petzoldt to return to lower
altitudes. In the opinion of the party it was through this ridge that K2 peak
could be climbed, which eventually proved correct.
The next year saw another
American expedition on K2. It was led by Fritz Hermann Ernst Wiessner, a
German-American chemist and mountaineer. The expedition, along with nine
Sherpas, made very good progress on the already-identified south-east ridge.
Two members and five Sherpas set up Camp VIII at about 7711 meters and left
one member by the name of Dudley Wolfe in this camp as he had fallen sick.
Wiessner, along with one Sherpa, went up to approximately 8382 meters. On
their way back they found that Wolfe was short of food. They, therefore,
hurriedly brought him down to camp VII and made him stay there. They then
descended in search of food and aid but found all camps abandoned until they
reached camp II. Immediately three Sherpas were sent to rescue Wolfe. They,
however, did not return. In this way, Wolfe and the Sherpas died on the K2.
What a tragic but heroic death.
Another American attempt on
K2 was made in 1953. The expedition leader was Dr. Charles Houston, who had
also led the 1938 American expedition on this peak. Dr. Houston, a doctor and
professor, is noted for his contribution to research on the effects of high
altitude on human body and diseases originating from such effects. One
Pakistani, late Colonel M. Ataullah, Vice President, Karakoram Club of
Pakistan, accompanied the party. This time the party took porters from Hunza
instead of Sherpas from Nepal. As against the previous expeditions, which
entered Baltistan from Srinagar (in the Indian occupied Kashmir) through a
very long route, the party flew into Skardu and then adopted the traditional
route to K2 over Baltoro glacier.
was at Camp VIII, at about 7772 meters that the party was hit by a blizzard
which lasted many days. On the 7th of August one member, Arthur Gilkey,
developed thrombophlebitis. In view of his serious condition it was decided to
start descent in spite of bad weather. At the end of the day, the party was
involved in a "fall on a steep slope as a result of a slip and tangling of
ropes". Luckily nobody was seriously injured. Subsequently all members
assembled at the nearby camp VII. Gilkey was secured on the snow slope with
two ice axes until a party could be mustered to bring him across the slope to
the camp. However, when three members of the party returned to Gilkey, they
found that he had been swept away by an avalanche. It took rest of the party
five hard days to reach the base camp. On reaching there, the party
immediately started for Skardu because one of the members, George Bell, had
very bad frost-bitten feet. In spite of their very best efforts, the Americans
could not climb K2 from the south-east ridge.
In 1954, an
Italian expedition came to Pakistan to try its luck on K2. It consisted of
twelve climbers and four scientists and was led by veteran mountaineer,
Professor Ardito Desio, who had come to these mountains with Italian
expeditions before the World War II. Colonel M. Ataullah and Arshad Munir
accompanied the expedition from Karakoram Club of Pakistan. Captain (later Lt.
General) G.S. Butt was the liaison officer.
weather hindered the progress of the party for a pretty long time. As soon as
the weather cleared, the party made very good progress and set up camp II. It
was at this camp that one of its members, Mario Puchoz, a 36-year old guide,
died of pneumonia on the 21st June. It Is believed that he had contracted high
altitude pulmonary oedema (water on the lungs) which was not well known at the
time and does not respond to antibiotics.
established six more camps on the south-east ridge. Camp IX was a bivouac. On
the 31st of July, Lino Lacedelli and Achille Compagnoni started from the
bivouac. They continued their assault and reached the summit at six in the
evening. After staying for a while they started descending and reached Camp
VIII round about eleven at night. In this way the saga of K2 ended.
has now been climbed from almost all ridges.
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