by ASHOK SILWAL
‘Summit was reached on Saturday 19th January at 1 pm.’ And the whole world, mountaineer or not, was stunned, incredulous, admiring, speechless in front of this annoncement: the conquest by an entirely Nepalese team of the K2 top in winter ascent, a real great epoch-marking feat !
Now, to be able to fully enjoy this ‘story’, let me give you some toponymy, historical and geographical informations about this ‘killer mountain’ as some are calling it.
It is the world’s second-highest mountain : 8611 meters, after Mount Everest, 8848,86 meters (and it is significant that this great feat on K2, with real teamwork, was accomplished in the centenary year of the first Everest expedition.)
K2. Why this name ? It is an abbreviation for Karakorum and second highest peak on earth precisely. It has some other names: Godwin-Austen, Chogori or Dapsang. The name K2 was assigned to the mountain by Colonel Thomas George Montgomerie, a member of the group led by the English geographer Henry Haversham Godwikn-Austen who made the first surveys in 1856.
The Karakorum is a mountain range located northwest of the Himalayan range. For about 450 km, this range marks the border between Pakistan and China. It is connected towards ovest with Hindu-Kush range (Afghanistan).
The 14 peaks that exceed 8000 meters above the sea level are all located in central-southern Asia. Many of these mountains have marked the history of modern high altitude mountaineering, starting with the unforgettable conquest of Mount Everest, reaching the summit on 29 th May 1953 the new- Zealander Sir Edmund Hillary and the mythical Nepali Sherpa Tenzing Norgay.
During the 20th century, ‘Himalayism’ is characterized by the approach to the mountains in large group, through the use of porters setting up intermediate camps, in contrast to Alpinism, faster and lighter. I don’t want (and besides, I would not be able to) to go into technical descriptions here. It is not my role.
I just would like to remember, the name of Reinhold Messner, for example, who climbed all the 8000m peaks, ending his feat in 1986.
The first ascent of the K2 was by the Italians Achille Compagnoni and Lino Lacedelli on 31 th July 1951.
The story of this mountains is staked out of great and incredible hits and successes and same tragedies too : who broke records and who lost their fingers and toes for the cold and even their life.
And before arriving to the Nepalese exploit of these days, I would like to remember some interesting and suggestive numbers :
- 299 climbers have reached the top (but not any in winter !)
- 77 died
- 8611 meters K2 altitude above the sea level
- minus 65 degrees celsius winter temperature around the top.
There would be many impressive numbers but now I want to go to this amazing story ending (but never ending !) with the resounding success on last 19 th January.
There were 10 in the team everyone deserves to have their name here:
Migma David Sherpa
Mingma Tensing Sherpa
Pema Chili Sherpa
Dawa Tenzing Sherpa
And the name of the expedition leader is missing from the list but not from the exploit, the legendary climber, Nirmal Purja (NIMS) who has already sent a world record in the field of mountaineering, climbing all tops 14 mountains on the world within six months ( world record 2019).
THESE 10 NEPALI CLIMBERS SUCCESSFULLY, ALL TOGETHER, CONQUERED THE SUMMIT OF K2 IN WINTER.
And here are the photos that have been around the whole world, that have kept everyone’s eyes glued to the screens in laptops, smartphones, TV, tablets… on all social media.
These brave and heroic men, in their colorful outfits and equipments, their smiling-laughing joyful mouthes, with their hands raised in victory, proud of the sun and the moon in the flag flying above their heads in red white and blue, singing the Nepal’s National anthem at the summit …’Oh, Great Nepal !’ Chills of shivering emotions.
And I don’t want to linger here on the cold suffered, on the various difficulties, on the blown away equipments, on the adverse conditions in prohibitive temperatures and speed of the wind and inclement weather, on the ascent schedule delayed.
My personal experience as trekker at an obviously incomparably level (!) taught me, for example, that the cold is terrible and ‘paralyses’ you. I learnt in my trips in Everest and Langtang regions of Nepal and Kailash region of Tibet, that mountain requires courage, physical and mental strength and training and a cool head. It requires will but not obstinacy. It gives very strong emotions but knows also how to make you afraid.
The mountain requires respect and I was thinking looking at these pictures: they had all these skills and more, they respected the mountain and K2 rewarded them with the happiness of success, first of all about theirselves and only they know the unforgettable emotions they experienced, for us too.
So, I would like now to focus on the ethical and ‘political’ aspects of this exploit, its symbolic meaning would dare to say, what Nirmal Purja explained delivering his speech in front of Prime Minister and that each of us draws from this glorious feat.
FIrst of all, this team spreads the glory of Nepal all over the world. ‘We are poor- said Purja- but we are rich from our heart.’
And the Sherpas have shown they are capable of everything: ‘We are here to celebrate our Nepali people.’ They said all together ‘to show that we too are capable of carrying out memorable feats’. Healthy national pride !
Also Messner in his written congratulations says: ‘The team has given great demonstration of the skills acquired by the Nepali. Nepali climbers had accompanied up to the peaks a lot of foreign mountaineers. Now they are autonomous and protagonists. And the desire to bring the Nepali flag on the top prevailed over everything. Now Nepali are perfectly capable to fully take over the mountaineering on their mountains.’
And another meaningful feature is that ‘all together’: joining their legs and their strengths, the climbers went and picked a piece of History, conquering the last 8000 m peak available in winter.
They gave a powerful symbolic message of ‘Unity makes strength’: a lesson that is valid for the whole Humanity, a lesson of positivity that teaches that together we win, divided we fall, not just on the K2 winter ascent.
THANK YOU ALL OF YOU FOR THESE AWESOME PICTURES IN OUR EYES AND HEARTS, ELEVATING THE GLORY OF NEPAL AND OFFERING TO THE WORLD THIS GREAT LESSON OF TOGETHERNESS.