In the winter of 1987 to 1988, 13 Polish climbers, seven Canadians, and four Britons attempted to make the first winter summit of K2, the world’s second-highest mountain. The 28,251-foot peak is steeper, more technical, and deadlier than Everest, earning it the nickname “The Savage Mountain.” The team quickly established the low camps, but progress stalled as the climbers went higher. The expedition had only ten days of good weather during the effort. After three months, they canceled the entire outing. Over the next three decades, five more winter expeditions—made up of some of the hardiest mountaineers in the world—similarly failed. The mountain was too cold, there was too much wind and snow, and it was just too difficult and dangerous to get to the top. After every other 8,000-meter peak had been climbed in winter, K2 sat alone, one of the last big prizes in mountaineering.
Until now. At 5 P.M. local time on Saturday, January 16, a team of ten Sherpas and Nepalis stood on K2’s summit, located on the border between Pakistan and China. While most first summits have a name attached to the feat—like Sir Edmund Hillary on Everest—this group credited the team, rather than an individual, with the first ascent. They sang the Nepali national anthem on the summit in celebration.