8/23/11 - Austrian mountaineer Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner has summited K2 today by the rarely climbed north ridge, a classy finish to her quest to be the first woman to climb all 14 of the world's 8,000-meter peaks without supplemental oxygen. Kaltenbrunner summited in early evening, Pakistan time, closely followed by her companions Vassiliy Pivtsov, Darek Zaluski, and Maxut Zhumayev. The summit was reached after 6 pm, and the team still faces a difficult descent to their high camp.
The four climbers bivouacked at 8,300 meters, about 1,000 vertical feet below the summit, and originally started for the top at 1:30 a.m. However, deep cold drove them back to their tent until dawn. They started again at 7:30 a.m. and were slowed by deep snow on the upper route.
Kaltenbrunner becomes the second woman to climb all 14 8,000'ers. The first was Edurne Pasaban from Spain. This was her fourth attempt on K2. She completed Everest from the north without oxygen in May 2010.
First climbed by a Japanese team in 1982, the north ridge has seen only a handful of successful ascents, the most recent by Kazakh climbers Serguey Samoilov and Denis Urubko in 2007.