K2: Photos, Details, and Reactions to an Epic Climb

With all 10 summiters back in Base Camp recovering from what Nirmal Purja describes as “an overwhelming journey” and “one of the hardest pushes ever”, a few further details and some summit pics are slowly trickling out.

Purja has been the first to hint at an exciting story behind the scenes: “The decision to hit the summit was a tough one…there had been close calls where team members nearly turned around due to the extreme cold,” he wrote.

Purja added two pictures, including one on the summit, where he appears without an oxygen mask. No details yet about whether he or any of his partners went up without O2 or not.

Night falls as Mingma David poses at -40 on the summit of K2. Photo: Mingma David


News is also expected from Mingma G, whose factual, precise reports during the climb helped keep audiences “virtually” informed about this epic journey. Mingma originally launched the expedition on a shoestring budget, with only two Sherpa partners, to prove that K2 could be climbed in winter — and his vision proved correct. He deserves to share in the applause that his companions are already enjoying.

Climbers from all the world, from winter experts such as the Russians and Simone Moro, to living legends such as Messner, to aficionados from all walks of life, have congratulated the team. Of course, the debate around the use of oxygen will continue, since most no-O2 advocates point out that even if any of the climbers reached the top and descended without O2, they were supported by a strong team that did.

Nevertheless, as Simone Moro says, “One can always evolve, and there is always room for better styles and ethics.” In other words, for those yearning for a winter climb of K2 that is completely free of supplementary O2, the challenge awaits.

What is clear is that this has been a team effort, where every participant gave his all to achieve the goal and give Nepal a long-overdue page in the history of major mountaineering firsts. And none of it would have been possible without the organizational skills of expedition leader Chhang Dawa Sherpa, who managed the team, equipment, supplies, and tactics to execute a totally serviced international expedition to K2 in the dead of winter.

Apart from a historic first, this expedition could also prove a game-changer for commercial expeditions. The first footprints in the snow may now decorate the summit of winter K2, but many hungry climbers remain in Base Camp with ambitions to share the triumph. We still have 40 more days of action to go.

Nirmal Purja, well-frosted from breathing at -40, and without an O2 mask, descends K2. Photo: Nirmal Purja