Number of Climbers on K2 Soars

Yesterday, we wrote that the alpinists on K2 are enjoying a little solitude before the arrival of commercial expeditions. The solitude will not last much longer. According to Pakistan’s newspapers, hundreds of visitors are heading up the Baltoro.

So far, Pakistan authorities have registered 175 permits to climb K2, Dawn reported, and the number may increase. Still, it’s only a fraction of the 1,700 total permits for peaks 6,500m or higher.

Figures on K2 rose gradually until the turn of the century and then skyrocketed in the 2020s. According to blogger Alan Arnette, 2018 was a record year with 62 summits. The final surge came in 2022, after the COVID hiatus. By then, Nepalese expedition outfitters had exported their business model, encouraging clients to bag the 14 8,000’ers as quickly as possible. In 2021, there were about 60 summits. In 2022, Pakistan issued 207 permits for K2. That year, on July 22 alone, about 150 climbers trudged up the fixed ropes to the top.

a line of climbers fixed to a rope traverse a snow ramp under a gigantic serac.

The line of climbers on K2’s serac traverse and the Bottleneck, with stricken Mohammad Hassan (in black pants and a dark yellow top) lying on the snow among them. Photo: Lakpa T. Sherpa


Last year featured a similar number of summits on a very busy summit day at the end of the season after a long period of bad weather. Unfortunately, we also saw local porter Muhammad Hassan slowly dying at the Bottleneck, while the line of climbers passed him by. Hassan was the only casualty on the mountain that year. Of the 112 total summits, most took place on July 27, with a handful more the following day.

Booming business

After several years with frozen royalty fees, the permit to climb K2 has increased to $12,000 for a team of seven and $3,000 more for each additional member since 2023. That’s still cheap compared to Everest, which is $11,000 per person and will rise next year. But whether on K2 or Everest, the price increase has not stopped wealthy clients, who are willing to pay whatever the going rate is for a fully catered, guided experience.

After Hassan’s death last year, and the subsequent investigation, there were talks about potential measures or restrictions. However, the new season has already begun, and no change can be seen. Money from expeditions is an essential source of income for the local tourism industry. For local porters and guides, it may be life-changing.

On the bright side, despite so many people and so many summits (largely thanks to fixed ropes, abundant oxygen, and sherpa support), the summit-to-death rate has decreased. According to recent statistics, the most dangerous 8,000m peak is now the less popular Nanga Parbat, also in Pakistan.

Most K2 teams should reach either K2 or Broad Peak Base Camp this week. Meanwhile, the mountain is quiet. Only one person so far has ventured beyond Camp 2. Benjamin Vedrines climbed alone, sometimes holding onto old ropes from last year, until 7,300m at the top of the Black Pyramid. He then paraglided back down to Base Camp.

This was his second acclimatization trip on K2, which he will try to climb without oxygen and in a single, one-day speed push.

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides graduated university in journalism and specializes in high-altitude mountaineering and expedition news. She has been writing about climbing and mountaineering, adventure and outdoor sports for 20+ years.

Prior to that, Angela Benavides spent time at/worked at a number of local and international media. She is also experienced in outdoor-sport consultancy for sponsoring corporations, press manager and communication executive, and a published author.