Everest may be on every mountaineer’s bucket list, but true mountaineers know the prize lies on the summit of K2, or Karakoram 2, the savage mountain, the brutal mountain, the “King of Mountains.” At just 800 ft. shorter than Everest, K2 is the world’s second highest mountain; and while Everest is the tallest, it does not compare in any measure to the brutality that is an expedition on K2.
By measure of ratio, the death count on K2 is much higher than that of Everest, with well-documented mountaineering disasters in 1986, 1995 and the most recent in 2008; the 2008 disaster has been known as the most controversial of all. For every 100 mountaineers that attempt a summit on K2, 29 will die. Only 306 climbers have succeeded, 80+ have perished. Compared to Everest’s 5600+ summits and around 300 deaths, K2’s reputation, which is all but impossible to describe in words, is accurately captured by something as simple as numbers.
K2 was dubbed “Karakoram 2” in 1856 by T.G. Montgomerie, the name stuck.