K2 just had its busiest climbing season ever

Hong Kong and Islamabad (CNN) — The world’s second-highest mountain, K2 in Pakistan, welcomed a record number of climbers this year amid a post-pandemic surge in summit fever.

About 207 permits have been issued to climb K2, said Sajid Hussain, a tourism official in Gilgit Baltistan, the region bordering China that is home to the Karakoram Mountains, a range containing all five of Pakistan’s peaks above 8,000 meters (26,000 feet).

K2which reaches 8,611 meters above sea level, is considered by many climbers to be more technically challenging than Everest.

But July’s mild weather, usually the best time of year to climb the peak, plus the relative ease of travel compared to previous years and the country’s stable political situation are believed to have contributed to the record number of ascents.

Another factor was pent-up demand, which grew during the pandemic. With some of the world’s highest peaks off-limits or difficult to access due to Covid-related border closures, many climbers have spent the past two years saving money and preparing to return to the mountains.

While K2 is physically more difficult to climb, it is significantly cheaper than Everest.

Permits to climb the world’s highest mountain cost $11,000 per person, and would-be climbers must also factor in travel to and from Nepal, clothing, equipment, food and hired guides and Sherpas.

Meanwhile, a permit to climb K2 – which often covers the other four nearby “eight-thousander” peaks – can be had for $7,200 for a group of seven.

The number of permits is not the only record set this year.

Mirza Ali, founder of a Pakistan-based mountaineering company Expeditions in the Karakorumtells CNN that a record 20 women have climbed K2 so far this summer.
Among this group are Samina Baig, the first Pakistani woman to climb to the top, and Jen Drummondthe American in her quest to become the first woman to climb all seven Second Summits,” the second-highest mountains on each continent.

K2 was the last mountain Drummond had to climb to set his all-time record.

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