Triumph and tragedy.
Winter K2 has been conquered, but a veteran climber is dead.
Former British commando Nirmal “Nims” Purja announced on his Facebook that, “The impossible is made possible.”
“History made for mankind, history made for Nepal!”
At 17:00 local time, Purja and a team of Sherpas, including Mingma G and Sona Sherpa of the Seven Summit Treks team (SST), waited 10 meters below the summit, until a group was formed.
The group of 10 then stepped onto the summit together while singing the Nepalese National Anthem.
“We are proud to have been a part of history for humankind and to show that collaboration, teamwork and a positive mental attitude can push limits to what we feel might be possible.”
Added Mingma G, on his Facebook: “Finally we did it. We made the history in (the) mountaineering field.”
On top of that news, came the devastating news that veteran Catalan climber Sergi Mingote has died in a fall.
According to media reports, Mingote died from injuries sustained in a 600-meter fall somewhere below Camp 1.
Alex Gavan, Tamara Lunger, Magdalena Gorzkowska and Oswaldo Oliveira reportedly tried to help him and asked for medical assistance, said SST leader Dawa Sherpa.
A medical team was sent from Base Camp, but nothing could be done to save the 49-year-old climber, who was greatly revered by his peers.
Calling him a “great sportsman,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, wrote on Twitter:
“Sad death of Sergi Mingote on K2. He wanted to keep on making history by being part of the first expedition to climb this mountain in winter and a tragic accident ended his life.”
The expert Catalan had climbed seven 8000ers without supplementary oxygen at a mind-boggling speed — Broad Peak, K2 and Manaslu in 2018, Lhotse, Nanga Parbat, Gasherbrum II and Dhaulagiri in 2019, as well as Everest from Tibet in 2001 and from Nepal in 2003.
Russian-Polish mountaineer, Denis Urubko posted this tribute, on Facebook:
“Sergi Mingote … always ready to rescue other people, to support friends … a real athlete, (and) magnificent leader … charismatic artist, strong sportsman … thank you for your smile, friend … into my heart forever …”
Purja also released a statement on Facebook, after reaching Base Camp.
“It has been an overwhelming journey. We feel grateful to be a part of history for humankind but equally very deeply saddened to hear that we have lost a friend @sergimingote, a member of another team. We extend our profound sympathies to Sergi’s family, colleagues and friends. Rest in peace my brother!”
K2 is 8,611 metres high, which puts it about 200 metres less than Everest, but it’s considered a far more technical and dangerous.
Of the 14 8,000-metre peaks, it was the only one yet to be climbed in winter, with or without supplementary oxygen.
According to an SST report, the Sherpa team has descended safely to Base Camp, after spending a night at Camp 3.
K2 was first climbed 66 years ago by Achille Compagnoni and Lino Lacedelli; there had been six previous attempts in winter on the mountain, none of them successful, The Guardian reported.
In the world of high altitude climbing, so long dominated by western climbers and expeditions who have relied on Sherpas to assist them, the ascent – and by such a large team – marks an extraordinary achievement for Nepalese mountaineering.
Alan Arnette, who has long chronicled Himlalayan ascents, put the climb into a historical perspective in the US climbing magazine Rock and Ice.
“That this latest holy grail of mountaineering should fall to a Sherpa and Nepali team is a clarion sign that the scales of high-altitude mountaineering are shifting.
“Ever since Maurice Herzog and Louis Lachenal made the first ascent of Annapurna in 1950, becoming the first humans to stand astride the summit of an 8,000-meter peak, climbing the world’s 14 highest mountains has been an imperialist and colonialist enterprise.
“The Sherpa have been the backbone of that enterprise – portering supplies, tending camp, fixing ropes – but reaped none of the glory or benefits.”
Compared to the more than 4,000 people that have climbed Mount Everest, only 350 people had stood on K2’s peak as of 2018 since it was first topped in 1954.
And while few have summited K2, at least 77 people have died attempting the climb.
The summiting team members included: 1. Nimsdai Purja 2. Mingma David Sherpa (Team Nimsdai)3. Mingma Tenzi Sherpa (Team Nimsdai) 4. Geljen Sherpa (Team Nimsdai) 5. Pem Chiri Sherpa (Team Nimsdai) 6. Dawa Temba Sherpa (Team Nimsdai) 7. Mingma G 8. Dawa Tenjin Sherpa (Team Mingma G) 9. Kilu Pemba Sherpa (Team Mingma G) and 10. Sona Sherpa (SST).
— with files from AFP and Gripped.com, The Guardian, AlanArnette.com, Rock and Ice, PlanetMountain.com, CNN