A team of climbers from Nepal have become the first mountaineers to successfully complete a winter attempt on the summit of K2, the world’s second-tallest peak.
The group of Sherpas had paused at a point 70 metres short of the 8611-metre peak to wait for each other before climbing into the world’s history books together at 4.56pm.
Nirmal Purja and nine others were named as those who reached the top.
“We stepped onto the summit together whilst singing our Nepalese national anthem,” he wrote on his blog.
“We are proud to have been a part of history for humankind and to show that collaboration, teamwork and a positive mental attitude can push limits to what we feel might be possible.”
Located on the Pakistan-China border, K2 is the only mountain over 8000 metres that had not been summitted in the winter.
The Nepali group’s success was marred by the death on the mountain of renowned Spanish climber Sergio Mingote, who fell down a crevasse as he attempted to make his way down to Base Camp, secretary of the Alpine Club of Pakistan Karrar Haidri told Reuters.
About 49 climbers in several teams are on K2 making attempts on the summit, weather permitting.
“Dismayed by the news of the accident that has ended the life of a magnificent athlete,” Spain’s Minister of Health Salvador Illa wrote on Twitter, describing Mr Mingote as “a personal friend”.
Mr Mingote, 49, had climbed seven mountains over 8000 metres without supplemental oxygen in less than two years.
First climbed in 1954 by Italian Achille Compagnoni, K2 is notorious for its steep slopes and high winds, and in winter its surface becomes slick ice.
Of the 367 people that had completed its ascent by 2018, 86 had died.
Mr Purja described having to face “hurricane-force wind[s]” of up to 120km/h.
The Pakistani military is regularly called in to rescue climbers using helicopters, but the weather often makes that difficult.
The previous highest altitude achieved on K2 in winter was 7750 metres by Denis Urubko and Marcin Kaczkan, set nearly two decades ago.
The coronavirus pandemic had meant restrictions on travel severely impacted the traditional summer mountaineering season in the Karakoram range and Pakistan in particular, which is home to five of the world’s 14 peaks over 8000 metres.