Routes Up to K2’s Summit

The climbing routes up to K2’s Summit encompass six major lines. The Abruzzi Spur is the most popular.


Image Credit: Kogo Wiki | License

Before heading there, know the K2 routes. K2 is undeniably the King of Mountains; climbing it is a dream aspired to by only the toughest, wildest and fittest of mountaineers. It’s always been hailed as the toughest climb, and Mount Everest is often referred to as a walk in the park in comparison.

Over the decades, many have died attempting to summit this grand peak. In the process, K2 has amassed one of the largest portfolios of mountaineering disasters in history. The 2008 K2 Disaster is a prime example of its dangers, and there were many tragedies before it.

First ascended by Achille Compagnoni on 31 July 1954, the mountain has since sprouted various routes across its faces that lead to the top.

Whether or not you’re crazy enough to attempt it, you’re not getting anywhere without a roadmap. Mountaineers usually take one of these ten pre-determined routes to the peak of K2.

K2 Routes to Explore

The Abruzzi Spur Route on K2 (F)

The Abruzzi Spur is K2’s go-to route, with 75% of climbers tackling this pass that is located on the Pakistan side of the mountain. This route gets its name from Prince Luigi Amedeo, Duke of the Abruzzi who first attempted to traverse it in 1909.

The Abruzzi Spur passes along some of the mountain’s most technical climbs, “House’s Chimney” and “The Black Pyramid.” It also sees climbers up the “Bottleneck,” which is located just to the left of dangerous seracs. It was in this location that, in 2008, a series of accidents lead to the deaths of 11 climbers.

The North Ridge Route on K2

The North Ridge can be called the most dangerous route to the summit of K2. At most, two teams can dare the attempt at a time. This route is accessed via the Chinese side of the mountain, passing some of the most technical areas of the mountain.

The Northeast Ridge Route on K2

This route finishes on the uppermost part of the Abruzzi route – the route was first climbed by an American team of four climbers in 1978

The West Ridge Route on K2 (A)

The West Ridge Route of K2 begins further away at Base Camp and on the Negrotto Glacier; it was first climbed in 1981. the technical aspects of this climb include traversing an unpredictable landscape of rocks and snowfields and setting fixed ropes through the West Face.

The Southwest Pillar (Magic Line) Route on K2 (C)

The Southwest Pillar Route is a technically challenging route considered to be the second most demanding. It was first climbed in 1986 by a Polish-Slovak expedition. The only other known successful attempt to climb this route was accomplished by Jordi Corominas of Spain in 2004.

Legendary mountaineer Reinhold Messner reportedly viewed this route and called it “suicidal” in 1979 and chose to ascend via the Abruzzi Spur instead. It is accessed via the Pakistan side and features some of the mountain’s steepest sections full of icy rock.

The South Face (Polish Line, Central Rib) Route on K2 (D)

The Southe Face Route of K2 is the most dangerous and demanding of all. It was first climbed in 1986 by Jerzy Kukucka and Tadeusz Piotrowski, who was killed on the descent. Entrance to this route is via the Pakistan side, and it starts off the first part of the Southwest Pillar before deviating into a highly exposed, snowy cliff area.

This route proceeds through a gully, “The Hockey Stick,” and rises through another completely exposed cliff-face. From here, climbers are met with more exposed terrain before it meets up with the Abruzzi Spur 1,000 feet before the summit. The route is very avalanche prone, which is partly why no one has ever attempted another summit via this route.

The Northwest Face Route on K2

The Northwest Face Route of K2 was first ascended in 1990 by a Japanese team. Access to this route is via the Chinese side and begins at K2 Glacier where it then climbs the Northwest Ridge before it turns through the rugged, rocky and snowy terrain of the Northwest Face all the way to the summit.

The Northwest Ridge Route on K2

The Northwest Ridge Route of K2 was first ascended in 1991 and it finishes on the North Ridge.

South-Southeast Spur (Cesen Route) (E)

The South-Southeast Spur Route was first ascended in 1994 by a Spanish-Basque team. Access to this route is via the Pakistan side of the mountain, and it is considered to be the safest way to the summit because it avoids Black Pyramid, the first big obstacle on the Abruzzi Spur. It connects with the Abruzzi Spur about two-thirds of the way up the mountain.

After various failed attempts on the Abruzzi Spur, Fredrik Sträng attempted to summit K2 via the Cesen Route in 2017. He did not succeed.

The West Face (B)

The West Face Route of K2 is a technically challenging route. It was first ascended in 2007 by a Russian team and is almost entirely comprised of rock crevasses and snow-capped couloirs.

K2 will always be one of the most challenging mountains in the world. To date, it has never been successfully summited during a winter season, despite various attempts.

In the Winter of 2020, Apricot Tours organized an expedition led by Mingma G. and John Snorri in another attempt to try for the summit.

19 responses to “Routes Up to K2’s Summit

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