Mt K2, with its 8,611 m (28,251 feet) height, is just 200 feet shorter than the tallest mountain in the World (Everest). Also known as the second tallest peak in the World, the peak lies on the border of Pakistan and China. It is part of the Karakoram Range, which particularly lies between Baltistan, the border of Taxkorgan Tajik Autonomous County of Xinjiang, and Gilgit–The Baltistan region of Pakistan.
This peak between the borders of Pakistan and China is the holy grail of mountaineering for almost all high-altitude mountaineers. K2 is known to be the second-highest mountain in the World after Everest, but surprisingly, the peak is far more dangerous than Everest for mountaineers to reach the top.
This being said, only over 300 people have reached the K2 summit, whereas, in Everest, the summit has crossed over 6,098 till now. Likewise, among those over 300 people, 91 have died till now, making the death rate of K2 about 25 percent. This death rate of K2 is far more higher than the Everest death rate, which is around 1 %.
We will discuss more in this article below and try to give you an answer to your question How many people have died on K2? So keep reading.
The World’s Deadliest Mountain: K2
Still holding the record for the second-highest peak in the World, the peak is more reputed to be more hazardous than Nepal’s Everest, and the numbers don’t lie.
K2 has jagged cliffs. Also, the campsite of the K2 peak sits at a place that is more dangerous than that of Everest’s campsite as the K2 Campsite hangs off cliff sides. The condition on Mt K2 is unforgiving, causing frequent avalanches. Therefore, do not try to summit alone, as teamwork is more necessary for your K2 Summit success.
K2 is tall and extends 28,251 ft. into the clouds, and if you want to reach its peak, the most common route is Abruzzi Spur. This route is far better than others and preferred by almost 75% of hikers. During your expedition, you must pass the other four campsites. This expedition is a game of patience, subject to the whims of the elements, as favorable weather conditions here are almost equal to zero.
Avalanches in Mt K2 are most common here, along with the challenging route to pass through. Besides avalanches, mountaineers may also have to face cornices collapse and 100 km/h wind, making their ascend more dangerous.
By the Numbers: K2’s Fatality Rate
Mt K2 is the second tallest mountain and the second most dangerous mountain to climb. Many mountaineers have died on K2, especially when descending the Mountain. This being said, 27 % of climbers have lost their lives while returning down the peak. This descent death rate is three times higher than the descent death rate of Everest.
Moreover, only a few climbers have reached the top of Mt K2. If twenty climbers have submitted to the mountain, then one out of every twenty mountaineers has died due to accident, illness, or exposure.
The Peak is also known as the Godwin-Austen and is 28,251 feet tall. With its height difference, the Peak is also different from Everest due to its unpredictable and rigid topography and climate.
Currently, Mt. K2 has a record total 91 number of deaths till now. Most of the deaths have occurred in the death zone of the peak, which lies around 26,000 feet at the bottleneck. As the name suggests, the death zone is where most deaths usually occur due to harsh environmental conditions. The human body’s cells die in this zone due to oxygen deprivation.
Comparing the deaths with Everest, historically, for every 100 mountaineers who have reached Everest’s top four have died. But the death number is different when it comes to K2 as for 100 mountaineers who have reached the K2 top, 29 are said to lose their lives. Only about 306 people have reached the Peak of K2, which is smaller than Everest holding the most successful climbs of 5,600.
One of the challenges of climbing K2 is navigation is its steep ridges with almost no flattened edges. Climbers do not have to face this challenge on Everest as there is at least a clear route.
The 2008 K2 Disaster: One of Deadliest Days in K2 History
Summiting a mountain is an achievement, and if the Peak is mountain K2, it’s not uncommon to feel pride. However, the feeling of success is deceiving, and its true nature becomes apparent repeatedly when lives are tragically lost with every expedition. The 2008 K2 disaster is one example that marks one of the deadliest days in K2 history.
The 2008 K2 disaster claimed the lives of 11 mountaineers on 1 August 2008. They were all international climbers on their K2 expedition with their other three members who got seriously injured. These deaths occurred from Friday to Saturday descent, making these deaths one of the most fatalities in K2 mountaineering.
Moreover, all deaths did not occur simultaneously, so some unique details about their deaths remain uncertain. There were many problems from the start, like bad planning, poor condition, and lack of connections which threatened the climbers’ lives. But the main problem after was reported to be an ice avalanche that occurred at Bottleneck (the death zone). The ice avalanche destroyed the lives of many climbers at the spot.
Among 11 climbers, two died before the avalanche when they ascended to the top. All 11 dead climbers were internationals from Ireland, Nepal, Serbia, Korea, Pakistan, and Norway.
Why Is The K2 Bottleneck Dangerous?
Mt K2 bottleneck lies on the route favored by almost 75 percent of mountaineers, known as the Abruzzi Spur or Southeast Spur Route. It is 26,900 feet high, which is just 400 meters low from the summit of the K2 peak.
The bottleneck is characterized by its thin couloir. This thin couloir is a narrow gully with a steep gradient. It is overhung along the edge east of the peak. Bottleneck can’t be avoided if you want to reach the top of Mt K2 as all main routes must cross this place, also known as the Death Zone of the mountain.
Passing bottleneck isn’t easy, and you must first make a steep (50 to 60-degree) pass that is exposed to seracs (ice ridge) for almost 100 meters (330 feet). This pass will be more complicated than it sounds due to its high altitude.
What makes K2’s bottleneck more deadly is its rugged ridges to pass and its high location, which further decreases the climbers’ pace, eventually leading to a longer exposure time in the Death Zone. K2’s bottlenecks, high elevation, and treacherous slopes make it clear why this place is known as the Death Zone of the mountain.
While putting all your effort into crossing the bottleneck, you are more exposed to the risk of falling from the ice. And this fall can happen anytime, whether day or night or if the weather conditions are favorable or unfavorable here. This death zone also has the risk of avalanches, making your expedition more dangerous.
Till now, 91 climbers have been reported dead in the K2 expedition. But the bottleneck of K2 peak has witnessed one of the most tragic mountaineering catastrophes, where a huge ice chunk broke and claimed the lives of 11 international climbers in 2008.
Why is K2 More Deadly, Than Everest?
Mt K2 is known as the siren of the Himalayas, and its high death rate might be one of the reasons for its unique name. Very few people summit K2. That said, for every 20 climbers who embark on an Everest expedition, only one goes on the Mt K2 expedition.
The peak also holds a reputation to be one of the most dangerous peaks, with a fatality rate of 25%. This rate is higher than Everest’s rate, which is only 6.5%.
Here are some reasons why Mt K2 is more deadly than Everest.
Lack of Sherpa Support
Sherpas are your indispensable friend who knows mountains like the back of their hand. Sherpa is there for you at every step during your Everest expedition, as Everest lies in Nepal. But compared to Everest, there is a lack of sherpa support in the K2 mountain, which makes Mt K2 more deadly.
We all know The weather on th top of the mountains, which is about 8000m tall, is always unpredicted. But some peaks have been known to have the most unpredictable weather though.
K2 lies far north of Everest, making death around K2 more unpredictable than Everest. And the unpredictable weather increases the chance of Avalanches, making the K2 expeditions more deadly.
Remoteness and Uncertainty
K2 is a lonely mountain compared to Everest, with no well-established routes and the development of Tourtsis infrastructure. So if you are stuck during your expedition, rescuers will find it difficult to get you down safely as the peak lies in a remote area with no much-developed tourist infrastructure.
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Mt Everest is a great accomplishment for any mountaineer, but its popularity has recently diminished as it becomes more accessible with the development of tourist infrastructure. Now people are searching for a more challenging feat requiring more technical climb than Everest, which may be why the K2 peak expedition is even more popular nowadays. But its popularity has also increased the number of fatalities numbering 91 deaths till now.
Mountain K2 holds all the power to determine your success in choosing whether or not to grant it to the mountaineers. Therefore, reaching the summit, especially a dangerous peak like K2, is an illusion.