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K2 just had its busiest climbing season ever

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Hong Kong and Islamabad (CNN) — The world’s second highest mountain, K2 in Pakistan, has seen record numbers of climbers this year amid post-pandemic fever.

Some 207 permits have been issued for climbing K2, says Sajjid Hussain, head of tourism in Gilgit Baltistan, the border region of China home to the Karakoram Mountains, a range containing Pakistan’s five peaks at more than 8,000 meters (26,000 feet).

K2, which rises to 8,611 meters above sea level, is considered by many climbers to be technically more difficult than Everest.

But the temperate weather in July, usually the best time of year to reach the summit, along with the relative ease of travel compared to previous years and a stable political situation in the country, are said to have contributed to the record number of climbs.

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

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

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

Meanwhile, a K2 climbing permit – which often covers the other four “eight thousand” peaks nearby – can be obtained for $7,200 for a group of seven.

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

Mirza Ali, founder of Pakistan-based mountaineering company Karakorum Expeditions, told CNN a record 20 women have summited K2 so far this summer.
Among that group are Samina Baig, the first Pakistani woman to reach the summit, and Jenn Drummond, the American striving to become the first woman to climb the Second Seven Peaks, the second highest mountains on any continent.

K2 was the last mountain Drummond had to climb to set his historic record.