Ballpark Estimate: $15,000 to $30,000 (not including gear and clothing)
In 1856, while surveying the peaks of the Karakorum Range in northwest Pakistan, Thomas Montgomerie spotted two gigantic, towering mountains and named them K1 (Karakorum 1) and K2. Most mountains are eventually given “real names” – after the original surveyor, a nearby location, a geographical feature, or a religious symbol. K1 eventually became Masherbrum. Later on, K3 was named Broad Peak, for its massively broad base. But K2 isn’t visible from any town or village and, although known locally as Choghori, it has retained its original surveying name. At 28,251 feet (8611m) K2 is the world’s 2nd highest mountain and is so difficult and dangerous to climb that it has earned the nickname “the Savage Mountain.”
K2 has a well-earned reputation for extreme and horrible weather. Weather prediction on Everest is high-tech and reliable – a lifesaving tool available to the many climbers who crowd its slopes each season. K2, on the other hand, experiences intense and unpredictable storms, high winds, blizzards, and then avalanche danger once the storm clears. There are ten routes on K2 and even the most well-known of them, the Abruzzi Spur, requires a much higher degree of technical expertise than Everest. The mountain is bitterly cold, incredibly remote, and lonely. There is no party atmosphere at Base Camp, and if you get in trouble, it is unlikely that another team will be available to help you.
Since it was first climbed in 1954, 281 climbers have stood on the summit. Tragically, 59 have died, mostly on descent. A remarkable season in 2007 saw 130 climbers from 16 expeditions attempt K2. Of those, 29 climbers (from eight expeditions) reached the top, while two climbers died.
Gear and Clothing
Those who attempt K2 are seasoned, experienced, high-altitude climbers who have probably summitted of other 8,000-meter peaks. Many who try to climb K2 have already climbed Everest, and are actually searching for a greater challenge. Gear needed for K2 is similar to that of an Everest expedition. (See What It Costs For Expedition Gear and Clothing)
Be sure your routine vaccinations are up to date. Check with your doctor and take along anti-malaria drugs. Consider vaccinations for hepatitis A and B, typhoid, rabies, Japanese encephalitis, and polio (there is a form of wild polio in Pakistan and adjacent countries).
Passports and Visas: $165+
You will need an up-to-date passport to apply for your tourist visa ($120) plus a $45 service fee.
When to Go
The best time to climb K2 is from early June to August. The expedition takes around 65 days; extra if you plan to climb neighboring Broad Peak (8047m) to get acclimatized. Allow 72 days to climb both peaks.
Some trips originate in Nepal, so you would fly into Kathmandu (see What It Costs to Climb Mt. Everest) but most trips start when you get off the plane in Islamabad, Pakistan. It will take around 24 hours to fly from the U.S. to Islamabad.
- $2,460 to $5,225 – Round trip from New York City (LGA) to Islamabad (ISB)
- $2,365 to $7,985 – Round trip from Chicago (ORD) to Islamabad (ISB)
- $2,445 to $7,240 – Round trip from Los Angeles (LAX) to Islamabad (ISB)
No Guides on K2, Just Team Leaders
There are no Everest-type “guided trips” on K2 – it is far too difficult and dangerous for anyone but the most skilled and qualified climbers. Also, unlike Everest and other 8,000-meter peaks, few people have gotten to the summit of K2. Consequently, for K2, there are “team leaders” who handle the logistics of the climb. They assemble the team, make executive and administrative decisions, arrange for permits, personnel, flights, hotels, base camp gear, etc. Once at base camp, they are often the final word when it comes to climbing decisions and strategy.
Ascending the peak must be a team effort, with each member of the team in top condition and able to handle any and all situations that may arise. Team members go with the understanding that only the climbers in the best shape, and with the highest probability of summiting will try for the top. More important, climbers don’t have a “responsible parent” to look after their needs or make sure of their safety. Climbers must be experienced enough to handle these responsibilities themselves.
- $11,500 to $17,000 – ascend K2 as member of a team, under the guidance of a team leader
- $15,000 to $20,000 – ascend Broad Peak and K2 combined, under the guidance of a team leader Teams often use Broad Peak (8047m) as a training climb to help them acclimatize to the altitude before attempting K2
The following are some of the things the above fees must cover:
- Government royalty fees
- Helicopter rescue deposit
- Pakistani Army Liason Officer
- 200-300 Pakistani porters
- Pakistani high altitude porters (HAPs)
- Tips and Gratuities